Disclaimer: The Princess and the Goblin, all characters, places, and related terms belong to George MacDonald.

Secret Kingdom

The guards Father had to escort me do not follow me as I slowly walk through the crumbling ruins, giving me some privacy for which I'm grateful.

I walk aimlessly, attempting unsuccessfully to remember where certain rooms were. Only one part of the old farm-castle seems to still be intact. It is the tallest tower, where my great-great grandmother lived. No one has been able to give me any word about her. I've heard the miners tell some strange tales about a weird old woman, but it cannot be my great-great grandmother they speak of. I circle the structure slowly; there is no way to enter it.

I have not seen my great-great grandmother since I was here, when there were the terrible goblins and dear Curdie. Often I wish I could see her again. But I have dreamed of her sometimes.

A wind blows, causing small stones to skip across the ground. Dust swirls about, blinding me for a moment.

I kneel among what's left of my childhood home. As I gaze around, long-ago memories rise from the past. I picture Lootie dancing with me 'round the nursery. I recall the warmth and protection my covers gave me when I fell asleep. I recollect staring out the nursery window, watching for Papa's return. I hear his deep voice as he read to me in front of the fire. I remember eyes the color of hazel and brown curls.

Slowly I brush my hand over the dirt and stones covering the ground. This is my kingdom, one I have dreamed of for a long time.

I pick up one stone black as coal, yet parts of it crumble, revealing a glimpse of purple underneath. I peer at it more closely.

"It is amethyst."

I look up see a tall youth standing a little ways from me. A miner.

"Amethyst," I repeat, glancing at the stone then back to him.

He comes nearer and crouches before me. Our eyes meet.

"Aye." I listen to him carefully. "It is a gemstone buried in the rock in the mountain. One must pick away all the rock to reach it; it is hard and long work. This amethyst is mostly hidden still. But once the rock is removed, it shall be treasured and used well. One must have a good eye to find it among the other rocks, to recognize its beauty hidden within," he explains.

I study the rock-encrusted amethyst thoughtfully. The youth has been speaking about a gemstone, yet it reminds me of something that has been troubling me since my birthday. One must be able to see the beauty within. Never have I heard such words spoken by the rich nobles and princes who have passed through my father's court.

I offer the stone to the youth. He takes it, and when I start to pull my hand away, his fingers close over mine. The stone rests within our clasp. I watch the wind dance through his long brown curls for a moment before I look into his eyes once more. I am silent for a moment as we gaze at each other. His eyes are like soft silvery pools, shining with kindness, respect, and...

"You are Curdie," I say, a weight lifting from my chest.

"And you are the Princess Irene," his voice is soft. He lifts my hand and tenderly kisses it. "My Irene," the words are a bare whisper. And I smile.

"My Curdie." Now all is as it should be. We are together in our secret kingdom.