The Ariel was initially owned by Captain Auson with the help of a loan from House Bharaputra. While Auson was contracted to the Oseran Free Mercenary Fleet as a captain-owner, the ship, having spent a year on a wormhole blockade, was captured by Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, who was posing as a Betan named Miles Naismith. It became the first warship in the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet. Bel Thorne, previously Auson's second in command, became its new captain.
Thorne retained command of the Ariel after Naismith left. After Yuan Oser seized control of the fleet and changed its name back to the Oseran mercenaries, Thorne remained loyal to Naismith, and put his ship at Naismith's disposal when Naismith returned. With Naismith back in command, ownership of the Ariel was transferred to the fleet, while its value, less liens, was confirmed as Auson's share in the fleet corporation. The Ariel subsequently handled the operation that retrieved the Emperor of Barrayar, Gregor Vorbarra, from the clutches of Commander Cavilo of Randall's Rangers. Along with one of the fleet's fast couriers, the Ariel was detached from the fleet to escort Vorbarra to Vervain, with Naismith's recommendation for Vorbarra to stay with Ariel and Captain Thorne if the two ships had to separate. 
The Ariel took part in the operation that rescued Dr. Hugh Canaba, the quaddie Nicol, and Bharaputran super-soldier Taura from Jackson's Whole. Afterwards, Thorne spent some time serving elsewhere in the fleet  but eventually resumed command of the Ariel.
Years later, after a refit over Escobar, it was one of three fleet ships slated to be retired and exchanged for more modern ships. Before Thorne could be informed of the potential trade, the Ariel was commandeered by Naismith's clone Mark Pierre Vorkosigan and traveled under communications blackout to Jackson's Whole to raid a House Bharaputra cloning facility, attempting to rescue clone children who were slated for death by brain transplant. Due to the Ariel's absence, a different ship, the Jayhawk, was traded away instead. Among other results of the raid, the Ariel ultimately lost its shipmaster when Captain Thorne resigned from the fleet.
During the first mission to Jackson's Whole, Thorne's second-in-command was Ensign Murka and its jump pilot was Padget. Other personnel included Sergeant Laureen Anderson, Corporal Nout, and Trooper Sandy Hereld. Murka later served as comm officer on a drop shuttle during a mission to Dagoola IV, where he died in action. Nout and Hereld subsequently served on the Triumph during its visit to Earth.
- Triumph - for a discussion of which Dendarii Fleet ship is the fastest.
- Ariel is the name of the airy spirit that served Prospero in Shakespeare's play, The Tempest.
- A famous Ohio ship that served in the War of 1812 was the USS Ariel. The USS Ariel was a 4 gun schooner with a crew of 36; it and the USS Scorpion led Perry's squadron in the Battle of Lake Erie (1813).