Disclaimer: The Princess and the Goblin, all characters, places, and related terms belong to George MacDonald.
Author's Note: Written for the "1sentence" challenge at LJ. This is bookverse, cartoonverse, and AU. It has been a long time since I wrote anything for this fandom, so I apologize in advance for any out-of-characterness. Feedback is appreciated!
Between a Miner and a Princess
As a ring is slipped onto her finger, next to the one from her great-great-grandmother, pools of brown and green meet.
While news of his deeds has spread throughout the realm, in his eyes faithful, kind, brave Irene is the true hero.
"They can't stand singing," Curdie's words rush back to her; yet terror stills her tongue.
She knows Lootie means well, but she dislikes being kept up inside when she wants to be outside…and to try to see the little miner again.
He helps carry his mother through the swift running waters, unaware of the concerned child watching farther up the mountain.
Amidst the thundering storm, raging floodwaters, and debris and goblins rushing over the fall, he feels strangely peaceful with her standing before him, safe.
Caught between despair and hope, the boy seems to sprout wings as he bounds up the mountain, following the princess's thread.
The girl is chilly from the damp mines and water; yet she grows cold in spirit and heart when he does not believe what she tells him about her great-great-grandmother.
For reasons she cannot fathom, she blushes the first time he calls her "Irene."
His head is gently propped up; a cool liquid touches his dry lips, and his eyes open to find her beside him.
She counts the chimes; "In eight hours we shall see Curdie and his parents," she whispers to Turnip.
A lass stares boldly, smiles coquettishly, and tilts her head in invitation before slowly walking off; the teenager returns his attention to listening to Irene's story, troubled.
Gazing up the mountain, she muses on the miner boy; gazing down the mountain, he thinks of the little princess.
In the privacy of her bedchamber sixteen-year-old Irene quietly sings a song which frightened away goblins long ago.
At first the boy does not understand as he gazes at the torn cloth in the kitten's mouth – until he takes it and recognizes it…
Curdie holds his jacket over her to shield her from the sudden downpour and receives a look full of thanks.
"I'll be back – and that's a promise!" and she smiles.
While slumbering, they know no raised eyebrows, disapproving looks, or protocols that try to break this unique bond between them.
The flame from his lantern bathes the girl in shadows and light, making her now-dry eyes shine brightly, and he wonders if he shall ever see her again.
When the boy looks back on everything that happened, he admires more the faith of the little princess and muses if he will ever believe as she does.
In the almost sacred hush their eyes reveal what has long been in their hearts.
Returning to the place of her childhood, she lets her gaze wander up to the mountain, wondering if it has changed at all as she has…
Lightly he traces the scar on the back of her hand, and warmth fills her stomach.
She clings to the rock desperately, fearful the strong torrent will pull her away; yet it is because of her fear for him that she reaches out and brings her fist down hard on the Goblin Prince's soft foot.
None, except perhaps his parents, know that while Curdie seems to share the others' interest in the rumors of princes seeking Princess Irene's hand, the tidings tie his stomach into hard knots.
Wrapped in black she comes to where he rests – his small body so pale and so cold; "Here is your kiss, dear Curdie," she whispers against his lifeless lips, tears falling.
While playing tag once, she falls and hurts her knee, and he carries her home in his arms.
The events of her eighth year grow blurry: eyes dim, face fades, and was it curls or long straight hair the boy had?
He and his mother move around the clearing in a spirited dance, tracked by Irene, whose eyes grow wistful.
The girl throws her arms around Curdie's neck and the boy returns the embrace, marveling at how light and warm she is, before Lootie snatches the princess away.
Summer passes on with the boy growing more diligent in his endeavors to serve the girl who means so much to him, and whose forgiveness he longs to seek.
Goodbye, Curdie," she says sadly; "Good night, Irene," he speaks while his hazel eyes promise I will come again, and she goes inside less downcast.
It is when the girl writes in the dirt or tells about her latest lessons that the boy feels an un-crossable ocean separates them.
"Goodbye, Princess" and something inside her sinks at being called so.
He burns and tosses restlessly, a name escaping his quivering lips again and again: Irene.
"What a funny name! Curdie!" she laughs a laugh of delight, not spite, and the boy finds himself smiling down at her.
He leaves her up in the (empty) room, not wanting her to realize how hurt he is by her silly game; he had thought more of her.
Heads tilted up towards the silvery moon, hands barely touching, she wishes they could remain like this always.
Her friends giggle and whisper about who is the handsomest, while Lootie advises which would make a most suitable match; yet Irene is not quite sure what to make of these noble men dressed in rich robes with smooth hands and flattering tongues.
"Is it my Irene?" the words are a threadbare whisper, answered just as quietly by "Aye."
Fall, winter, spring…he looks down the mountain, waiting still.
She happily starts rushing to the castle when the realization she does not know who has helped her brings her up short, and she calls after him before he has vanished into the night, and softly repeats, "Curdie."
The boy's fear as he rushes through the castle, desperately asking every person he passes, overwhelms him as there is no sign of the princess.
He is tired and his throat is sore from singing in the dark cavern when a faint voice calls his name, and he rises to his feet, discouragement losing its hold on him.
"See, Curdie! The thread did lead us back!" she says happily and holds up the thread; the boy gently lays his hands over hers but can feel no such thread and shakes his head, smiling faintly.
Slowly her arms fold around him and he buries his face in her hair, unconsciously drawing her closer.
With a parting look at the farm ruins and the mountain they ride away from their childhood homes, the future open and wide before them.
He closes his eyes as Irene leans towards him and is surprised when he feels her quickly kiss his cheek instead of his mouth as he expected…hoped.
Looking up at the young miner before her – so tall, old, different, with the same hazel eyes she remembers – her heart she had locked safely away leaps with joy.
Her breathing slowly steadying, she watches with tired, bright eyes as Curdie comes to her side (his own breath now calmer) and gently brushes the hair from her damp brow with a wondrously tender look; "It is a boy," he says and her joyous smile remains when his lips touch hers.