This is a work of fiction and is not to be sold in any way shape or form. It is simply for my amusement and the challenge of writing these characters in a strange and dangerous world. All the characters are owned by Disney and I do not claim ownership of any of them. Please let me know what you think in the comments below! Without further ado, welcome to The Kingdom.)
Ariel sat staring into the flickering fire in front of her, which had been built into the ground to keep the members of the camp warm. All around her, animals which walked on two legs hustled by, each attending to some duty or another. She’d been with the small band of merry men and women for two days now, and while they had been kind to her; tended her wounds, fed her, given condolences; she felt extremely out of place. Worse yet, she felt like a burden. She’d told them she was on her way to the Kingdom, and they’d readily agreed to take her as far as the cliffs which led to the city, since it was on their way, but she felt as though they all looked down on her. She was weak and pitiful. She couldn’t even save her own friend. She hugged her knees tightly, the cold chilling her to the bone despite the flames.
“Some tea, love?” asked Marian, a fox and Robin’s wife. She wore a long gown and had a kind smile. She’d watched over Ariel since her arrival and had been at her side from the moment that Little John had stitched up her cuts from the chase in the jungle, to now.
“Thank you,” said Ariel, taking the cup and sipping from it. The warm liquid danced on her tongue and filled her with heat. She looked across the camp at Robin who was shooting arrows blindfold at a target, and hitting every one. “How did he get so good?”
“He’s been at it for many years,” said Marian. “Of course, he had to be good to survive.”
“I wish I’d learned to shoot a bow or wield a sword,” said Ariel. “I might not feel so useless now.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” said Marian, placing a hand on Ariel’s shoulder. “Robin’s a fine teacher. He’s already got me hitting the target. Of course, I had to keep my eyes open.” She winked.
“I doubt I could learn,” said Ariel. “This world is so foreign to me. You see, I was once a mermaid.”
“Wait,” said Marian, laughing uncomfortably. “You’re THE Ariel? The mermaid who came to shore to be with Prince Eric?”
“That’s me,” said Ariel. “A lot of good it did me. Eric is gone and I’m stuck out here.”
“You bested the dark sea witch, Ursula,” said Marian. “Surely you must believe you have some strength within you.”
“I don’t know what version of the truth you’ve heard,” started Ariel. “But it certainly wasn’t the right one. I was at the bottom of a whirlpool, hoping I wouldn’t die when Ursula was killed. Eric stabbed her with his ship. That was what ended her, not me. I was as useless then as I am now.”
“Hey,” said Marian, grabbing Ariel’s arm. “You are not useless. No one is useless.” She stood up with a look of determination in her eyes. “Come on.”
“Where are we-” started Ariel but she was cut off.
“I said come on,” stated Marian once more. Ariel stood and followed Marian as she marched over to Robin and Little John, a large bear in a green tunic, who were laughing hysterically as Robin shot apples off of Little John’s head.
“Marian my love,” Robin greeted. “What can I do for you ladies?”
“Teach the girl,” said Marian.
“Excuse me?” asked Robin, clearly not expecting this demand.
“Teach her,” said Marian. “Show her how to shoot a bow, swing a sword. All of it.”
“Marian, love,” started Robin. “I can’t just-“
“The day you brought me into this camp from the palace, you told me that I was no longer a maiden, I was a fighter,” said Marian. “Well this girl is a fighter, she just doesn’t know it yet. Now you two can play ‘Who’s got the smallest brain?’ or you can do something good and give this girl a fighting chance should those panthers ever show up again.” Marian raised an eyebrow. “Or is saving damsels what gets your knickers tight?”
“I-she-wh-” Robin was speechless.
“Wonderful,” snapped Marian, who had decided the conversation was over. “Her training starts tomorrow.” She turned and grabbed Ariel, marching her away from the confused men. “Lesson one,” said Marian to Ariel. “You are stronger than any man because you are smarter than them. They wield a sword, but you wield your mind and it is far sharper.”
Ariel nodded, even though she didn’t quite believe all of it. The next day, she put on a pair of tweed pants and a grey shirt and met Robin early enough in the morning that a grey mist still covered the land.
He taught her to hold a bow, which took more than a few tries. He chastised her for closing her eyes when firing as that was more of a parlor trick than an actual good way to hit your target. He taught her to pull the string back, but she found it to be quite a challenge. When she couldn’t pull it back all the way, he forced her to do pullups at a nearby tree. He told her this would help her arm strength.
By the end of the day, she was exhausted. She made her way back to camp, fully ready to give in and give up, yet something stopped her. She turned to see Robin and Little John laughing as Robin pretended to be her as she did a pullup. Rage bubbled up inside of her. If he was going to treat her like she was worthless, then she was going to prove him wrong. She had a hearty dinner and went to bed, ready for whatever challenge the next day would bring.
When she awoke, her whole body screamed in agony. Every muscle felt as though it might burst into flames at any moment. Even so, she forced herself up, drank a hot cup of tea and then went to meet Robin.
“What’ll it be today?” she asked the fox, who seemed surprised to see her. She’d tied her flowing red hair up tight behind her head, giving her a fierce look.
“Oh, well I-” Robing had most certainly expected her to quit after the first day, but some people were stubborn. He straightened his tunic and smiled. “Today, we duel.”
Throughout the day, they fought using wooden swords. Robin took every chance he got to jab at her, make her feel the pain of a real sword fight. If this didn’t make her stop, he didn’t know what would. By the end of the day, she was covered in bruises and red marks where the wood had scraped her skin. She limped back to camp and struggled to even raise the food she was given to her mouth. She fell asleep before her head even landed on her pillow.
The next day, Robin waited, sitting on a large rock at the edge of the camp. Surely Ariel would not be silly enough to try again. He was ready to go get Little John and tell him of a game he’d invented where they spun around three times and then tried to shoot an arrow at a target, when he saw Ariel limping towards him. She came up slow and stopped a few feet from him.
“What’ll it be today?” she asked, pushing through the pain.
“Heh,” he chuckled. “Alright m’lady. You’ve got my attention. Let’s train.” From that day forward, he treated her as if she were an apprentice. She learned to shoot and fight while helping out around the camp. Every time they packed up the campsite and moved it, she was tasked with helping the weaker members of the group get ready and then set up in the new location. Through her wounds and perseverance she grew stronger every day. Where soft white hands had once been, rough callouses were starting to form. Her hair now stayed permanently tied behind her head and she’d even cut it shorter. Muscles were starting to show under her plain clothing. She was but a remnant of the woman she’d been when she’d met the fox.
“Do you fancy her?” asked Marian one day as she came up on Robin watching Ariel practice her sword fighting with a dummy.
“Excuse me?” asked Robin, confused.
“You spend more time with her than you’ve ever spent with me,” said Marian curtly. “I’m beginning to think I should be worried.”
Robin grinned from ear to ear. “Maid Marian. In all the world, there is no one I could even possibly care for the way I care for you. You are, and always will be, my one true love.”
Marian gave him a slick smile and handed him a hot mug. “Good answer.”
The training continued on and on until one day, while riding horses with the whole band of merry men, Robin stopped them and dismounted. They were in a seemingly endless stretch of forest. “We’re here,” said Robin, a sadness tainting his voice. He went to a nearby cluster of trees and pushed them back as light flooded into the little grove in which they’d stopped.
Ariel used her hand to shield her eyes, but then dismounted and walked forward, allowing her vision to adjust. There in the valley below was the largest city with the grandest castle she’d ever laid her eyes on. Even Atlantis would have looked small compared to it. She stared down at it for as long as her eyes would allow, but then she realized that everyone was still standing behind her. She turned. Robin’s eyes were filled with sadness, even though he smiled through them. Marian wiped a tear from her eye as she stepped forward and placed her hands on Ariel’s shoulders.
“I’d be proud to call you Princess,” she said. “You’ve come so far.”
Ariel smiled. “I wouldn’t be anything without you, someone who believed in me when I was no one.”
“You were never no one, dear,” winked Marian. “You just needed a little push to find the someone that was hiding inside.” She leaned forward and kissed Marian on the forehead. “Be well, darling.” She stepped back.
Robin stepped forward with a finely crafted bow and quiver in hand. “A gift to my apprentice, who now ascends as master,” he handed her the bow and quiver. She took them in her hands and admired them, then smiled at Robin.
“I’ll use them well,” she said.
“I’m sure you will,” he laughed. “Pretty soon you’ll be a better shot than me. If ever you are in need of the merry men, shoot an arrow of flame into the sky.” He nodded at her and tipped his hat. “We’ll be there.”
“Thank you Robin,” she said and then pulled him in for a big furry hug. She proceeded to say her farewells to all of the other members of the group and then waved them off as they headed into the forest. She turned and looked down on the city below and took a deep breath as she started down the path which winded along the cliffside. At long last, Ariel of Atlantis, daughter of King Triton, had reached the Kingdom.