A/N: OMG, you guys! I can't believe I'm writing this! I never write fusion AU! And I can't believe I've already written this much! I've been fighting with writer's block for almost a year, even when I had the plot written out in detail. Anyone following Foothold knows I've turned to drawing instead. I always got hung up on the words. And now this comes spilling out of me!
This story is a result of me reading a DP/Little Mermaid fusion someone started, but only did a couple chapters of. It's been floating around in my head for a few weeks now, and then suddenly last night, BAM!, all of this hit me. Which characters I'm putting in which roles though are very different. That author had Danny in Eric's role and Sam in Ariel's, which I'm switching, as well as others. You'll see. :D
This chapter's a little long, but I hope you like it. I'm twisting this so much! (Cackles.)
Disclaimer: I do not own Danny Phantom or The Little Mermaid. Just my very strange mind, which decided to come up with this.
Chapter One: A Fine Day for Sailing
On the deck of the Triton, Lady Madeline stood at the railing of the quarter deck, the wheel creaking under the heavy, calloused hands of the helmsman behind her as the ship bobbed and sank beneath her feet, the wind whipping her skirt around her ankles. From her position, she looked out over the ocean, her eyes following the white wake they left behind them as they cut through the water. Overhead, seagulls followed the ship, cawing with dissonant cries as they swooped and swerved through fading mist that burned a drab gold in the late morning sun. Here and there, the sunlight streamed through breaks in the clouds, falling onto the surface of the ocean where it lay like trembling flakes of silver, and Madeline quickly closed her eyes, pushing back the rush of homesickness that swelled in her breast at the sight, so like the shimmering of a Threshold shining just beneath the surface.
Normally Madeline avoided the ocean like a plague. Even her room back at the castle faced away from the sea. When she dined in the hall, with its great windows looking out across the open horizon, she walked in with her head down and sat with her back to it. She couldn't bear the sight. Many thought it was from fear of the ocean, because of how she had been found eighteen years before.
Eighteen years almost to the day. By this same ship.
The Triton had been sailing with a company of the ship's crew dressed in their finest uniforms, the royal family, and much of the court. The decks had been swathed in white chiffon embroidered with gold and lace and purple silk, the color of Amity Kingdom's royal family. The ship had been out for the newborn princess's baptism. It was something that should have taken place in the royal cathedral; but there was a faction within the city that had been threatening the king's life, and so the ceremony had taken place out on open waters, with no public announcement.
The infant girl had just been blessed by the priest, and held up to be presented to the court when a sailor from the nest above had cried, "Man overboard!" Everyone had risen to their feet in confusion. There had been no cry, no splash. Who had fallen? they had asked each other in confusion.
But it was not a sailor nor a member of the court who the lookout had spotted in the water. It had been her, floating unconscious and half drowned. They had feared her already dead, but sent out a sailor on a lifeboat as the court members and royal family watched on from the rails. When the sailor had reached her, he had pulled her naked body into the boat (scandalizing most of the court – she remembered the whispers that had gone on for weeks), only to cry up to them, "She's breathing!" He had quickly rowed back, and the lifeboat had been hoisted back on board where they had wrapped her in silk pulled off the impromptu altar, and quickly turned the ship back for land.
Or so she had been told. She hadn't woken up for days. And didn't speak for weeks after.
She let them think it was fear that kept her away from the water. It was better than the truth: that she was the queen of a people they feared as much as death itself. The queen of the dead, exiled to life.
No, she had no fear of the ocean. Sometimes she still longed to walk into its depths until her breath failed her and the water finally took her. Sometimes she thought it might be the only way home. There had even been nights, especially those first few years, when in the darkest hour she had walked to the shore and stood with the waves rushing over her feet, the ocean pulling the sand out from beneath her as it receded, as if enticing her to come into its cold embrace. Only her uncertainty that it would work, the idea of dying and never getting home at all, would make her eventually turn around and go back to land.
Because she was not an old soul. She had not come into the ghost zone as a woman who had died with unfinished business. Those who had were those with souls too twisted by regret, obsession, anger, or grief to pass on – ghosts like Skulker, Nocturn, and Walker, whose obsessions had formed the very shape and appearance of their souls. No, they were of a different type. But she, like her husband, like her daughter and son, had been the soul of an infant who had died at birth or shortly after, and, unfinished by any experience of life, did not pass on but was instead reborn and grew up in the Ghost Zone.
She hadn't known in those first years whether her exile to a human form and banishment to the world of the living, her longing for her family and for home, was enough to constitute unfinished business. So many humans died wanting a loved one, longing for some place or time in their past, but they did not become ghosts. In thinking about the ones who had, Madeline thought that to pass into the Ghost Zone, one would have to be so obsessed that one's soul was too deformed to pass over whatever Threshold lay between life and the hereon. Skulker, the Box Ghost, Ember – all the ghosts she could think of who had died after infanthood, they were… insane. Even in her worst moments of grief, that was something Madeline knew she was not. And even if she were to allow herself to become so, just so she could pass into the Ghost Zone, how could she return to her family then, so twisted and deformed that she might never comprehend she had ever regained them at all?
And so she had never gone through with it. It had been years since she had stood at the edge of the ocean, contemplating death. Because now, some eighteen years later, she was even more certain that it wouldn't work. Not because she didn't still long for her family just as strongly, but because now there were things that held her to the world of the living too. One thing. One little girl.
Who is not so little anymore, she thought, with a completely different heartache.
A meaty hand laid itself on her arm, and Madeline opened her eyes and glanced up in surprise to find the captain looking down at her in concern. "Are you alright, m'Lady?" he asked. His voice was gruff from years of yelling orders over the wind, but warm. "You look a might queasy."
She smiled at him, weakly, but enough to be convincing. "Yes, thank you, captain" she assured him. "I'm fine."
"If m'Lady has need of it, my cabin is at your disposal. There are books there, and," he whispered conspiratorially and winked, "a bit of rum stashed in the bottom drawer. It might help…" he hesitated uncertainly, obviously trying to be sensitive, "if the sea is too much for you."
Madeline smiled genuinely this time, touched by the man's concern. "Thank you, but I think it's passed. I'll be alright now."
"As y'like, m'Lady," the captain said, and, bowing a little, stepped back and turned to walk down the stairs to the main deck.
Madeline looked down to the main deck below. The level was swarming with sailors about their duties, the wooden floor thrumming with their footsteps as they ran between stations to keep up with the healthy northeast wind. Others were scaling the tall masts that disappeared into the mists, their knees hooked around the ladder rungs as they grabbed ropes and leaned back, trying to pull taught the sails that billowed and snapped in the wind.
Running amongst them, taking orders and tying down the boons like the lowest deckman, was Princess Samantha, and by the look of exhilaration on her face she was loving every minute of it.
When the sailors had first found Madeline, there had been nothing to inform them of her identity. Without clothing, she could have been royalty or a peasant for all they knew, and they were inclined to assume the latter. After she had awoken, she had told them nothing, immediately realizing that they would kill her, if they didn't think her insane. But it became apparent to everyone attending her that a peasant she was not: her bearing, even in her grief, bespoke of experienced authority and her mannerisms were too refined not to be some level of nobility. She had been presented to the queen, who had come to the same conclusion, and although Madeline had remained silent, the queen had made her a lady-in-waiting. Madeline had been too grief-stricken to care that she had now been made a servant to a woman of her own station, and after she had begun to emerge from her grief, what she had been in her former life didn't seem to matter. For all intents and purposes, who she once had been didn't exist anymore. It couldn't.
Things went on like this for weeks, until one day Madeline had gone to the queen's chambers as directed, only to find the queen not yet there. The infant princess, however, was, having just woken from her nap and squalling. Madeline had been furious – the first thing she had felt besides grief in more than an month – that Samantha's nursemaid was nowhere in sight, and had rushed to the little girl, gathering her in her arms and murmuring to her. The baby had fallen silent almost immediately, gazing up at her with startling lavender eyes, and Madeline had sat rocking her, aching for her own daughter, only two, and her own infant son, only a few months older than the girl she held now.
That was how the queen and her ladies had found her when they finally entered, her quiet words to Samantha the first they had ever heard her speak, and smiling softly even as tears ran down her cheeks.
There was no doubt that Samantha had become Madeline's lifeline after that. Samantha couldn't replace the children she had left behind, but the love she had for the baby girl on her own was it's own comfort. And it was obvious that Madeline was Samantha's favorite caretaker. As soon as the princess had been weaned of her wet nurse, Madeline had been made her nanny – technically a step down in rank, but it had made everyone happy. As Madeline had come to accept that she would be in this land for the foreseeable future, she had begun to educate herself, reading every book she could get her hands on about the history of this realm and the kingdom of Amity, asking the court scribes and advisors for advice when she needed it (though it wasn't often – politics really were the same wherever you went). And so it was that by the time Samantha was ready for schooling, it was noted that the Lady Madeline had an uncanny understanding of politics, and was made Samantha's governor as well as instructor in comportment, in addition to the time the girl would spent being taught by the kings advisors.
And while Queen Pamela and King Jeremy had been busy with running the kingdom, she had become the closest thing the girl knew to a real mother, too.
But I won't be her mother much longer, Madeline thought sadly. It was the princess's eighteenth birthday. Though the formal celebrations wouldn't be till later in the week, Samantha had come of age, and her parents were eager arrange a marriage for her and to make an alliance.
Madeline could understand, truly. If she had never been exiled, she supposed she would be doing the same for her daughter and son. She didn't think that the king and queen loved Samantha less than she did herself; but having lost her own children, she couldn't understand how they could be so blasé about something that would take her away from them – and from Madeline – forever.
And while she didn't think they would ever purposely put her in a marriage that would make her miserable, Madeline doubted that they knew enough about their daughter to put her in a marriage that would make her happy.
But she had no input on the matter. The time in which Madeline had any influence on the young woman's life whatsoever was quickly coming to a close. Rumors – which she had strictly kept from Samantha – said that a match had already been agreed upon, and would be announced at her birthday celebration.
So Lady Madeline had arranged this day especially for her, for her last week of true freedom. The few times she had been required to accompany the royal family on their sailings, she had noticed the girl's rapture. She had always managed to slip away from Madeline and her parents, and would run to the prow, relishing as the wind ripped her hair from its careful arrangements. She would watch the sailors at their work with fascination, pestering them with questions when she could, and her eyes would follow the men that climbed the masts with an expression between awe and envy. When Madeline had accompanied them again only a few months prior, Samantha had been reserved and quiet, as was appropriate, but Madeline had seen her eyes watching the sailors' every move, could see the girl itching beneath her cool façade to run the decks, and Madeline had guessed that her fascination had not waned.
Watching Samantha now, she knew she was right. A sheen of sweat shone across the girl's forehead despite the still-cool morning, tendrils of ebony hair spilled over her shoulders from where they escaped their pinnings, and the sleeves of the old purple blouse she'd dawned for the day were shoved up almost indecently past her elbows. Her black skirt had already caught on a nail and ripped, and her black corset was covered in dust and dirt; but the girl seemed not to notice. She was laughing, and when the captain said something to tease her, she replied smartly back.
That was why Madeline was so worried about the rumors of a marriage having been already arranged. Samantha rode her horse like this, practiced her archery like this, fenced with her trainer like this, even studied politics and war like this – not submissively like a princess, simply for the sake of appearance, but as a prince would, with the intensity of someone who would be expected to lead men into battle. And she embraced what most humans found dark, what they shoved away into the deepest recesses of their minds: death itself. Not in the way that Madeline longed to embrace it, but as a companion, a friend almost, who raced her, challenging her to be her best before the immortal spirit caught up. Others looked upon death as a final disease to be avoided; Samantha looked upon death as she would one of her father's advisors. It was something that bound Madeline's heart to the girl fiercely.
Samantha was around her parents rarely enough that she managed to remain demur with them, as was expected of her, and Madeline feared that the image the princess put forth for them was the girl they thought they were getting ready to marry off, not this passionate, fiery young woman who could be more than the leader they had always hoped for in the son they had never been able to conceive.
Madeline's mind flitted, and she wondered what kind of man her own son had become. In their kingdom, his coming of age wouldn't be on his birthday, but rather when he had finished his basic education under his father's advisors. There would be a ceremony to recognize his accomplishment, and to present him to all as the crown prince, indicating that he was ready to begin taking on duties in the ruling of the kingdom – an apprenticeship of sorts as his education continued. That ceremony must be taking place soon. Or perhaps, she thought with a pang of remorse, it's already happened. And her own daughter must certainly be married by now…
That was assuming her family still held form at all. She had never been able to warn them of the warlock's intentions…
Madeline shook her head, banishing the thought. There was nothing she could do, no way to know what had transpired since she'd been sent from the Ghost Zone, and it was no use letting herself sink into dark 'what ifs.' Besides, this was to be Samantha's day, and she would remain cheerful for her, if for no other reason.
Madeline gathered her blue skirts in her hand and pulled her black shawl around her as she lightly descended the stairs, making her way to where the captain was showing Samantha how to tie a special knot for the rigging. "Aye, girl!" he was saying as she approached. "This may be poor weather to some, but it's the perfect weather for sailing! A fine wind and a following sea. The Ghost King must be in a friendly-type mood."
Madeline felt as if her stomach had dropped through the very deck, and she was almost pitched forward with the next lurch of the ship.
"The Ghost King?" Samantha asked in rapt fascination.
"Why, ruler of the dead, girl! Thought every good sailor knew about him!" The captain teased, grinning. "There are entrances to his realm, Thresholds they're called, hidden all throughout these waters, and he controls the oceans to keep 'em concealed, either stilling the winds so no ships can sail, or bringing down storms to destroy ships before they find them. There's even some Thresholds near the surface, and when a ship don't come back, it's because the Ghost King took 'em! Saw it myself once, when I was just a deckman, well before you were born."
Recovering herself, Madeline wasn't sure whether to be irritated or laugh. We only brought a storm down once, when King Jeremy had sent a fleet right toward one of the surface Thresholds! Yes, they lost a ship when it fell into the Ghost Zone, but we certainly didn't take it, and we steered the rest to safety! But here was a sailor's legend, blaming them for every still day or drop of rain or captain who couldn't read a map.
"The Ghost King," she huffed, feigning repugnance as she came up to them. "Sam, don't pay attention to this nautical nonsense."
"But it ain't nonsense!" chimed in an elderly sailor sitting on a barrel with a broom in his gnarled hand. "It's the truth! I saw it with my own two eyes I did, that ship that went down. Went down in a whirlpool of green light, it did. I'm tellin' ya, down in the depths of the ocean they live!"
"Tell me more," Samantha said, entranced. The elderly man smartly held out his broom to her. "Young arms for an old tale," he bribed. The princess grabbed the broom and started sweeping where he pointed. "I was a lad yet, only been sailin' for 'bout four years then…" the old man started. Madeline rolled her eyes and walked away. She knew from experience that once Samantha had set her mind on something, nothing would dissuade her. And what could it hurt? They were only sailors' stories after all, full of impossibilities, fancy, and contradictions. By the end of them, she was more likely to be convinced that the Ghost Zone didn't exist at all. So much the better. Let the old man talk.
But Madeline didn't want to be where she could hear it.
A/N: If you're confused, Maddie is in Grimsby's role. But imagine that Grimsby is instead a woman who is also Ariel's missing mother, who was also turned human. Still confused? PM me.
And I promise there will be a lot less back story next time. I essentially set it up here. I know it was long, but if I didn't put it here things were going to start out confusing and get worse really fast.
I love reviews! Please tell me what you think. :D