what's a fire and how does it - what's the word? - burn
so i have this disney playlist i listen to usually when i’m driving and i was blasting poor unfortunate souls this morning and i was thinking
what if ariel didn’t sign the scroll?
because she’s about to, okay, and she looks at the paper. the parchment made of seaweed, the ones that’s specially treated to survive underwater. and she thinks of her cave of treasures, her books that remain perfectly preserved underwater. “no thank you,” she says slowly, becoming keenly aware of air of this place, of the not-people she’d seen who hadn’t been able to pay the price for sea witch’s bargain. “i – no. thank you. but no.”
ursula tries to convince her otherwise, but ariel runs. she goes back to her cave, destroyed as it was by her father’s anger, and thinks.
she’s the daughter of triton. her books never got wet, though she lives in the ocean. she feels a pull inside her, to the land, to somewhere else, but what if – what if –
what if she doesn’t need the sea witch or her father to perform magic for her? what if she has her own?
ursula had wanted her voice because that’s how she performed her magic. singing in this cave had given it powers and protection, and when she saved her prince from the sea – she sang then too, to keep him safe, to guide him back to life and away from death.
so she has magic. she only needs to figure out how to use it.
so that’s what ariel does now. she’s quiet and keeps to herself, and her father and sisters think that it’s because she’s upset with her father, that she’s busy licking her wounds. she’s moved on from that. she has no trident, and is uninterested with fueling her magic with the souls of the damned like ursula has. so she needs to figure something else out.
she does what she’s not supposed to do, and goes where she’s not supposed to go, slipping past the guards and patrols to the one place in the sea that is forbidden to all of them.
the crevice in the earth where what remains of her grandmother lives.
ariel goes to amphitrite, and the sea goddess is so much bigger than ariel, the size of great whale as she curls at the bottom of the sea floor, too old and too tired to do anything more than sleep. “granddaughter,” the great being croaks, opening an eye as blue and as unfathomable as the sea, “you look like me.”
“they say i look like my mother,” she says, and to herself adds: that’s why father can barely stand to look at me.
“you have more of me in you than your mother,” she says, and she shifts and pulls her mass of red hair over her shoulder. “more of me in you than your father does, even.”
“i have magic,” she says, pulling her bravery to the fore as she swims closer to her grandmother, “i want you to teach me how to use it.” amphitrite pushes herself up, and it’s the first time she’s moved in a millennia, and ariel notices for the first time that her grandmother isn’t a mermaid – she has legs.
she has legs.
“you have power,” amphitrite corrects fiercely, “and i will teach you to wield it.”
and so she does. ariel spends her nights by her grandmother, learning to harness the power of the sea that runs in her veins, and sleeps her days away while her sisters and flounder and sebastian grow more and more concerned, but she refuses to tell them why. she refuses to be stopped.
but her heart still aches. she fell in love with her prince, and she wants him still. so she swims to the edge, goes to the beach where his castle resides in the dead of night when her lessons with her grandmother are complete, and sings
. she’s careful not to let any magic leak through, only her voice. she does not want to enchant him. she wants him to love her as she is. so she sings, her voice clear and powerful and cutting through the air. she hopes he can hear it.
then one day a figure walks to the beach, and it’s him, her prince. “hello?” he calls out, “are you out there? are you – please, it was you that saved me, wasn’t it? won’t you come out and let me see you?”
so she does, waves her tail at him until he catches sight of her and takes hesitant, disbelieving steps closer.
“you’re a mermaid,” he says, eyes wide, “i thought i saw – but it couldn’t be.”
“i am, and it can,” she says, heart beating wildly in her chest. he’s just as handsome as she remembered, and she wants him just as much. “my name is ariel.”
“ariel,” he repeats, and pulls off his boots and goes wading into the water, watching her to see if she flinches away from him. she doesn’t, and his strides grow bolder. “my name is eric.”
“eric,” she whispers, and when he’s close enough he touches her, trailing fingers across the bare skin of her shoulder and tangling them in her hair.
when he kisses her, she feels powerful enough to undo the world.
so there’s that now, spending her nights with her grandmother and her prince, and she knows how to make her own legs now, could walk onto land and be made a queen among the two legged men.
but she’s a princess here first, and before she can do that she needs to take care of something.
the rotten sea witch with her rotten sea magic won’t be allowed to torment her people any longer.
she tells her grandmother, and amphitrite smiles and says, “an excellent decision, child. i’ve enjoyed our time together, but i think it’s time for me to sleep once more. i’ve taught you everything i can.”
and tears prick ariel’s eyes, but she holds them back. she knew that it couldn’t be forever, that her grandmother can’t die but no longer desires to live and this is the in-between.
“you’ll be an amazing queen,” amphitrite murmurs, and closes her eyes for a millennia more.
this isn’t something to be done in the dead of night, although it would be easier to do it then.
she will make a spectacle of it, she will remind the sea that her people are not to be trifled with.
once upon a time they feared a blue eyed, red haired sea queen with the power to destroy them all. it’s time for them to do so again.
so she drives ursula to the center of the city. her sisters cower and people hide, and her father comes rushing forward to save her.
“you’ve committed great crimes against my people,” she says, not flinching as lightning gathers in the sea witch’s hands, “so now shall a great crime be committed against you.”
“foolish girl,” the sea witch snarls.
triton is yelling. he won’t get there in time.
he doesn’t have to.
she doesn’t need to sing anymore. instead she lifts her hands and pulls ursula apart without ever touching her, not only renders flesh from bone but also sets free the souls she’s been hoarding, reverses the magic done to those who’d fallen into the sea witch’s trap.
they all stare at her, her people, her father, and her sisters. she looks to triton and says, “i’m not a little girl anymore.”
he opens his mouth, closes it again, then says, “i can see that.”
all at once everyone’s perceptions are turned sideways about their youngest princess. she commands a power that even her father doesn’t have access to, she’s not depressed and dreamy – she’s powerful young woman who knows exactly what she’s doing.
so she does what she wanted to do, she gives herself legs and steps onto the sand and launches herself into eric’s arms. she becomes his bride, and the rumors run rampant of what she is, of where she came from, but they can’t prove anything and so they rule.
they live long, happy lives. ariel is his consort, his advisor, his wife, his tactician, and his best friend. all those years reading drowned books have certainly paid off. she ages herself along with her husband, bears his children and then teaches them they ways of her – their – people.
her husband dies, and she disappears, like the stories of selkie women that everyone whispers around her. their children give their father a sea burial, and vow to see him again one day. what they know and none of their subjects do is this – their father’s body isn’t in that casket.
she returns to her ocean, her legs form into her glittering green tail, and she goes home. she uses her terribly powerful magic, and brings her husband with her. she went from princess ariel of the sea to queen ariel of the land, and now she’s back again.
she’s not quite a teenager, but neither is she the old woman she pretended to be on land. she’s returned her and her husband to the prime of their life, and as she gained legs to be with him, he now gives his up to be with her.
eric becomes a merman, and a prince by virtue of being ariel’s husband.
she returns to her family and her world without missing a beat, and they all welcome her as if she never left, treat her husband with kindness and respect.
because they all know.
it doesn’t matter that she’s the youngest. when, far in the future, triton’s reign ends –
ariel’s reign will begin.