Little Mermaid fanfic
Summary: When Urchin discovers his best friend Ariel has gone onto land, he makes a deal with the Sea Witch to follow her. Ariel has three days to win the Prince's love, and Urchin means to help her do it. But it isn't long before he begins to wonder if the Prince is really the right one for Ariel, or maybe if he himself is. But what chance does a pauper stand against a prince? A what-if version of The Little Mermaid: the classic story told from Urchin's point of view, except he gets way more involved than he planned!
Adventure/Romance, ArielxUrchin, rated E for everyone.
My name is Urchin, and I can tell you that living under the sea isn't all that bad, at least not as bad as my best friend Ariel always made it out to be. Ariel had this idea that everything was better up on land; she imagined people spending their time dancing and having fun or just lying around in the sun, as if they didn't have any cares in the world. She said there were so many wonderful things up there that how could a person every feel sad or lonely? I wasn't so sure about that. I wasn't brought up in the royal palace like Ariel was; I grew up in the grimiest trenches of the ocean floor, full of all sorts of shady characters, and I didn't think anyplace could really be as nice and pleasant and carefree as Ariel said the world above was. People were people wherever you go, whether they were humans or merpeople or fish or slimy monsters, and sometimes they could be nice but most of the time they'd rather you weren't around so they didn't have to deal with you. That's how I saw it. But this story isn't really about me; it's about Ariel.
Ariel and I were always getting into the craziest adventures: playing pranks on her sisters, befriending wild sea creatures, exploring caves and finding treasure, and just generally getting into trouble in exactly the places where her father King Triton didn't want us to be. She was a princess, after all, and it wasn't exactly proper for her to be hanging out with a pauper like me though admittedly the crazy adventures and all the trouble we got into were always her idea.
See, I met Ariel about three years before, when I saved her from the gang of crooks I had fallen in with. They had kidnapped her and held her for ransom, but I went against my gang and set her free. Then her father the King offered to adopt me and take me into the palace. I thanked him but definitely declined. I was too used to freedom to be stuck in the palace, having to act proper and do what the adults told me, having to get up and go to bed when they said and even go to school. And maybe there was something else that bothered me about the idea: maybe I didn't want to be Ariel's brother. Maybe I wanted to be something else.
Anyway I knew that kind of life wasn't for me, so I stayed in my little cave where I lived by myself and was happy just to drop in on the palace every now and then. I was always welcome as a friend of the princess, and though King Triton tolerated having me around it was pretty obvious the only person in the palace really happy to see me was Ariel. I liked it better when she came to visit me instead, and then we could do what we like and go where we like, as long as she got back to the palace before she was missed. I wondered what that was like: being missed by someone. The only person I ever missed was Ariel, when she was too busy with school or music lessons or palace business to come visit me.
But I was busy with my own kind of business: I had to find work and do odd jobs to support myself. When I couldn't get any money I had to steal. I'm not proud of it, but you'll find you'll do a whole lot you never imagined yourself doing if you get hungry enough. I fell in with crooks and villains again, and spent more and more time down in the deep slimy trenches on the seafloor where all the shady business takes place. I was young and a fast swimmer, so they had use for me. While my best friend Ariel was playing games and sitting at banquets in the palace, I was breaking in through windows and stealing loot for other people. As we grew older we found we didn't have much in common to talk about.
But that didn't mean we weren't still friends. Ariel showed me her secret grotto: a cave full of strange and mysterious objects she had gathered from shipwrecks. There were hard shiny things that sparkled in the light, and paintings of strange things we had never seen before. There were whole chests full of clothes, huge ridiculous things that Ariel said humans wear on their bodies. Merpeople don't wear much; I don't think I've ever worn anything on my body, and I imagined it must be pretty uncomfortable to wear such heavy things. There was a little box with a human man and woman on it; Ariel told me they were dancing, and when she twisted the little knob, music came out of the box. A lot of the stuff I had helped her gather when we went exploring. The human objects didn't mean anything to me, but they did to Ariel, and that was enough for me.
"Would you run away to the human world," I asked her, "if you could?"
"Yes," she answered, "Just to see it."
"What if it isn't as nice as you imagine it?"
"Or," Ariel replied playfully, "what if it's so amazingly nice that I stay there forever and never come back?"
"Well that would be even worse," I replied, matching her playful tone, "because then I would be left all alone and never see you again."
"Don't be silly! I would take you with me!" she said happily. Then she wound up her music box and we stopped talking to listen to it.
She was fascinated by the humans, though the closest she ever got to them was their sunken ships full of strange objects that didn't seem to have any use to me. But she always saw them differently; she could tell me what each strange object was used for, and mused over who used it last and what they were like and what happened to them, and that way she made it clear to me how that weird little object that I would have taken as trash was really something very special. It turns out she did the same for me. When everybody else saw me as worthless, Ariel saw different. She listened to what I had to say, as if what I thought was important. That was what was so great about Ariel: everything was worth something to her, and she would fight for it even if no one else would. So even if I had my doubts about her fantastical human world, I never said any of that to her; I just listened to her talk about the world above, with its dancing and music and cities and ships, and imagined how nice it could be if only the world was the way she imagined it.
I never saw her so happy as when she was in her grotto, listening to her strange little music box, spinning in circles in time to the music, her long red hair streaming around her. The shiny objects lining the cave cast little lights that danced around her. She was smiling so sweetly and humming along - I can still see that image in my head so clearly, because it was then I realized how beautiful she was. I was sitting on a rock and I caught a glimpse of my own blond-headed reflection in a shiny little mirror, and I realized how much we had both grown since we had met three years ago. We were thirteen years old when we met, and though we were about the same age, I had been smaller and scrawnier than her, probably because I was half-starved and living in a cave. But I had grown bigger than her since then, and wasn't that scrawny awkward little boy I used to be. And she herself had always been a pretty girl, but now pretty had turned into beautiful. I started feeling something I hadn't ever felt before, and it alarmed me a little, so I pushed it down quickly and tried never to think of it again. She was a princess after all, and I was lucky just to be able to call her my friend. I hoped we could be friends forever.
We had had adventures before, but what was about to come was so much bigger, so much different than any of that, that it turned all those "adventures" into children's games. What was coming would change everything. This is where Ariel's story really begins.
The day it began was the day of the big concert, in which Ariel and her sisters would all be singing, and to which everyone in the kingdom was invited. Usually I wouldn't go to that sort of thing, but I went to see Ariel. Her sisters all sang great, but when the time came for Ariel to pop out of a giant clam and sing her solo, the clam opened dramatically and everyone gasped. The music grinded to a stop. Ariel wasn't there. Of course she wasn't there, I thought. Why would she show up to something lame like this when she could be off having one of her adventures? And then I couldn't help it: I started laughing hysterically. Everyone else in the audience was mortified, and staring in horror, and I just laughed and laughed and laughed until my sides hurt. Frankly I was glad she ditched the concert, because she was still the Ariel I had always known, and I for one could depend on her to not be there.
So I swam off still smiling to see if I could find her, and get the whole story out of her. I figured she would be off exploring the new shipwreck I had told her about yesterday; I had run across it the other day while out on a scouting job for one of the thief lords I worked for, and though it didn't really interest me, I knew Ariel would just die to go see it. But before I could go meet up with her, one of said thief lords caught me and called me over, a huge lobster with one good eye and a nasty claw. He had me out doing jobs for him all afternoon, and I didn't find Ariel until the evening. I couldn't find her in the palace, so I figured she was in her grotto.
Only me, her, and Flounder knew about the grotto, and how to get in the secret entrance. I pushed aside the boulder and swum through the narrow crack, into the little tunnel that lead to the cave. I could hear her up ahead talking to her little fish friend Flounder, and I smiled and thought I would jump out and scare her. But then I heard her start singing, and I stopped. I hid myself behind a rock pillar, in the shadows, and I saw her floating there in front of me. She didn't notice me; she was looking upwards, up into the beam of light flowing down through the little skylight at the top of the cave, and her red hair in long ribbons around her. The light sparkled off the scales of her tail. She was singing the most beautiful song, and I couldn't help but just hide behind my rock and listen. She sung about how she wanted to leave behind the sea and go up on land; she wanted to dance and run and stroll down streets, and lie basking in the sun. She wanted to be among the humans and see all their wonderful things; she said she wanted to be "part of their world."
I had been planning on jumping out, or at least announcing myself to her, but in the end I couldn't bring myself to do it. It would just be awkward now. Her song had made me sad for some reason. I didn't exactly understand it, but now I do. I hadn't realized how much this mysterious human world had meant to her. I thought it was just a fantasy, something to think about during boring school lessons or escape to when life got hard, but to her it was more than that. It was her hopes of how the world should be. A world where you would never be yelled at by your parents or have to spend long boring hours in school, where you weren't constantly being molded and forced into something you didn't want to be. For me, it would be a world where people wouldn't care if I was poor or an orphan or a criminal, where the adults weren't constantly trying to reform me and "mend my ways". A world where you are accepted and fit in, no matter who you are. Ariel and I were very different, but neither one of us had ever really fit in.
But the reason the song made me sad was because I realized how unhappy she was here. I wasn't exactly happy with my situation in life either, but I could deal with it, and I got by just fine. But Ariel wasn't satisfied to just deal with it. I realized she might do something drastic, like swim away from home; in fact, I was sure she would. I was sad because she wanted to be part of another world, and that meant leaving this one behind. I was part of this world. She would leave me behind, and if that thought had occurred to her, apparently it didn't bother her as much as it bothered me. Being a part of that other world meant not being a part of mine.
Just then a shadow passed overhead, and Ariel became excited because it was one of the human's ships. A real live ship, not a sunken dead one, and I knew she would chase after it just to get a glimpse. Normally I would have followed her, but I didn't feel like it now. I turned and snuck out of the grotto before she ever noticed I was there, and I made my way home alone.
I didn't have any business to take care of the next day, or rather I was avoiding it. I was swimming around, not really going anywhere, and feeling kind of down in the dumps. Then I saw Flounder swimming up Ariel's little fish friend. He's pretty young and scared of his own shadow, and not much good in a fight, but he's loyal and I'm fond of the little guy.
"Urchin," he called. "Are you busy? I could use your help."
"Sure!" I answered. "What is it?"
"It's something for Ariel," he answered. He swam off and I followed him, and he led me to a place on the sea floor where a lot of human garbage had sunk. It looked like a ship had gone down in the storm last night. Flounder led me to a huge stone statue that had landed on the sandy bottom. It was a human, a young man, carved out of stone. "I want to give this to Ariel," Flounder explained. "Can you help me get it to her grotto? As a surprise for her!"
I looked at the statue skeptically and asked, "What exactly is it?"
Flounder looked bashful, as if he was hiding something, and I finally raked it out of him. He told me the story of what had happened yesterday, and it turns out Ariel had gone up to the surface to follow the ship as I knew she would and she had seen real live humans up close. A storm had brewed up and totally destroyed the ship, but all the humans escaped into the lifeboat except one the Prince. He had fallen into the water, but Ariel had saved him and swam him to shore.
"What?" I exclaimed. I had never seen a real human before, and probably wouldn't believe they existed if Ariel and I weren't always finding their stuff. But to know Ariel had seen them herself suddenly made them much more real than before. I couldn't help but feel a little jealous of her for seeing them, and I hated myself for not following her last night. "She really saved a human?" I asked. "Did she, like, talk to him?"
"Well, he was unconscious," Flounder answered, and I breathed a sigh of relief. "Ariel jumped back into the water as soon as he came around." He darted up to the head of the stone statue. "But the human the one she saved this is a statue of him."
"Really?" I asked. "But why would she want a statue of him? I mean, it will take up a whole lot of space in her grotto, and, it looks kind of ridiculous if you ask me-"
"Because she's in love with him!" Flounder blurted, and then flinched at his mistake.
I just stared, totally bewildered. "In love?" I asked. I had never seen Ariel in love before. It didn't really seem like her. But then, I guess we were getting older. But in love with a human? To be honest, some part of me was glad it was a human and not a merman. I would have felt pretty awful if it had been another merman. I looked at the face of the stone statue and tried to imagine what he looked like in real life handsome, I guess.
"Please don't tell anyone!" Flounder gasped. "I mean, I'm sure it's just a crush, and she'll get over it. No need to tell her father-"
"Flounder," I interrupted with a grin, "Have I ever snitched to Ariel's father about anything? Now, to get this statue to her grotto, we're going to need some help. I'll go get a few friends to help move it - someone big, like a whale - and we'll have it there in an hour or two."
"Thanks, Urchin!" Flounder said. "Ariel will be so happy when she sees it. We'll tell her it's from both of us."
"Yeah," I agreed, but for some reason I hesitated. I didn't want to say it was from me. I wanted to leave before she saw it. But I tied it up with ropes from the shipwreck and also threw some sailcloth over it, and then I found a couple of orca friends of mine who owed me a favor, and we hauled the statue to her grotto pretty easily without attracting too much attention. Everyone thought we were just movers carrying something big and fancy to the palace.
Once we had the statue nicely situated in the grotto, Flounder went to go find Ariel and bring her to see it. I slipped out before they came back, but lurked behind long enough to hear Ariel's cries of joys when she saw it. I could tell from her voice it was true: she was in love with him. I couldn't believe it. My best friend in love with a human, who she hadn't even properly met, and who there was absolutely no chance of ever being with anyways. Why him of all people? I just felt confused. I swam away and left my friends behind in the grotto with the statue; I had work to go do for a certain criminal lobster. Ariel didn't like to hear about the work I did, and I didn't like to tell her. I left without talking to her because for the first time I felt I had nothing to say to her.
Later that day I was hauling a sack of loot to the gang headquarters, down in a slimy seaweed-covered trench, when I heard frantic cries behind me. It was Flounder, and he looked mortified. He was calling my name, and I dropped the sack and swam to him.
"What is it? What's wrong?" I shouted. He was babbling out words between breaths but I couldn't make them out.
"It's Ariel," he gasped at last, "she's gone."
"Gone? Gone where?"
"Land," he said.
"What?" I demanded. If she had swam away from home she wouldn't get very far; she had tried to swim away a few times and was always back to the palace before dinner time. All this meant was I would have to swim after her and bring her home.
"She made a deal with the Sea Witch," Flounder gasped, and then I felt cold chills running down me, because I realized this wasn't like all the times before. This time it was bad. "Her father was angry with her," Flounder explained, "so she swam away to the Sea Witch's lair. The Sea Witch knew what she wanted: that she wanted to go on land and be with the human Prince. So she made a deal with Ariel, and Ariel accepted."
Now I was starting to panic, because I had heard of Ursula the Sea Witch so had everyone in the kingdom - and they all feared her, even the criminals and murderers I did business with, who didn't even fear the King. "What kind of deal?" I demanded, afraid of the answer.
"Ariel traded her voice in exchange for legs," Flounder answered, and I felt my heart drop into my stomach.
"You mean she's human?" I shouted.
"Yes! She's got legs instead of a tail! She can't even breathe underwater! Me and Sebastian swam her up to the surface really fast, and the Prince found her there and took her to his castle."
"She's with the human Prince?"
"Yes, but she can't talk, because Ursula took her voice."
"Well then we have to get her," I said, "and bring her back home!"
"Urchin, she signed a contract with the Sea Witch! She can never come home."
"What did this contract say exactly?" I knew I had to help Ariel, but I was trying to figure out how.
"It's bad," Flounder said. "The contract says she has three days as a human, today being the first. If she gets the kiss of true love from the Prince before the sun sets on the third day, she can stay human forever. But if she doesn't get the kiss, she belongs to the Sea Witch."
I stared in disbelief. This was the worst thing I had heard in my entire life, and only Ariel could have got into this kind of trouble. She had gambled her entire life on getting a stupid kiss. And only three days, to make someone fall in love with her? Without a voice, on top of it all? It sounded near impossible. But if she failed, she belonged to the Sea Witch, and I didn't even think about that much because I refused to let it happen. But if she did get the kiss, she would be human forever, and I realized that either way she could never come home again. Things could never again be the same.
But that didn't matter now; what mattered was making sure the Sea Witch didn't get her. Ariel might not be able to pull this off on her own, but she could with some help. I had to help her however I could, and that meant going to the Sea Witch myself.