She doesn't know what happened. Ariel gets but a moment's warning before the ocean goes wrong. A bright flash of light and then the water is swirling with a current that is strange, unfamiliar, and so very, very strong. She tries to swim against it, sees her sisters reaching for her, but there's nothing she, or they, can do.
She's dragged into it, yanked out of their reach, and all she can do is watch as they grow ever distant. She's never felt like this before, helpless in the water that has cradled her all her days, and she blames that for not recognizing the feeling of magic that's invaded her realm. This is not the magic of the ocean. This is nothing is nothing like Ursula's sorcery. This is cold, clammy, pushing at her until she chokes out a cry for help. She is Triton's daughter, a princess of the sea, and she will not die like this.
Something passes by her, big and dark in the depths, nearly striking her as it goes. The current twists and turns, flipping her until she can see that it's a ship, spiraling down into the whirlpool of light.
A second before it disappears into the heart of it, a second before she's sucked in after it, she sees a man at the wheel. He stares up at her in shock and then everything whites out.
She faints. It's probably better this way.
When she awakens later, she does so to the feeling of stone beneath her skin. She shivers and realizes that there is cool air about her. Not water.
She snaps to awareness at the thought. She is on land. The stone beneath her is dry and she cannot hear the sound of the ocean's song.
She has never left the water before. Not for more than a few moments at a time. As fascinated as she is by the ships and the people that sail upon them, curious to know what it would be like to walk on land, this feels sickeningly wrong.
Voices draw her laughter. Raucous. Noisy. Men laughing. Someone says "Neverland" and Ariel scrambles up, needing to flee.
She's stumbled a few steps before she realizes that she's done so on feet. She looks down at them and realizes her nakedness. The voices fade and the footsteps stop. There is a long silence before someone speaks, gentle, to ask, "My lady, are you quite well?"
Ariel looks up to find the man from the ship staring back. He looks at her, recognition creeping into his eyes and stealing whatever else he might have said. She hugs her arms to herself, shaking in the cold night air, and stares at him in stunned silence.
She should speak. She should say something, but she cannot. Not until she sees the guilt in his gaze. It's his responsibility that she is here. He is the one who introduced the strange, cloying magic to her father's realm. Some distant part of her imagines that Triton will kill him for this.
"What have you done to me?" she breathes, not daring to speak more than a whisper. "What have you done?"