Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a young lady. She was very beautiful, with long dark hair that fell down her back in a silky curtain and a smile that lit up her pretty face, and was very kind to everyone she met, even the woodland creatures who frolicked in the forest behind her family’s home; in every way, she was everything her parents could ever hope for in a daughter. She had grown up intelligent and wise and gentle, and, one day, had fallen in love with the prince of the land, and was now betrothed to him, destined to one day be his bride, and queen of all the land.
But this story is not about this young lady, or it would end right here. No, this story is about her younger sister, a girl so very different in so many ways. And her story is much, much longer.
“Ugh,” said Darcy, trying to tie the bodice of her gown while simultaneously attempting to keep her generous cleavage from falling out of her chemise. “Life is so unfair. I mean, look at you, Jane. You’re perfect.”
Jane really was perfect. She was wearing a beautiful gown in a deep wine shade that brought out the golden glints in her dark hair and lovely, large dark eyes. Her hair, as befitted a betrothed young lady, was braided and coiled at the crown of her head, and a ribbon, matching her gown, had been woven through the braid. She looked like a princess, which was fitting, as she would actually become one in a few months, when she married her beloved Prince Thor.
“Oh, Darcy,” Jane replied, gliding up to her and taking the bodice ties out of Darcy’s hands. “You are beautiful and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
“Oh, please,” Darcy snorted, tugging at the neckline of her gown. “It’s as though when Mother was pregnant with you, the gods looked down and said, ‘Let us give this child every gift we can,’ and so you got beauty and smarts and grace and all the things girls are supposed to have. And then when she got pregnant with me, the gods said, ‘Oops. Now what?’ and dug around for something until they found a vial of Tit Juice gathering dust on the back shelf.”
“Really, Darcy,” Jane reproved as she finished lacing up the bodice and stepped back. “You are so vulgar.”
“It’s the truth, though,” said Darcy, sitting down at her vanity to apply a touch of stain to her lips. “What have I got to offer a man other than my gift from the gods? I mean, if we were in a fairytale, you’d be talking to the deer and the rabbits that wander in from the forest, not just feeding them and tending to their injuries. You talk like a lady, about art and music and the sort of things ladies are supposed to like. You even cry like a princess, all silent sadness and teardrops glistening like jewels on your rosy cheek. On the other hand, I’d rather talk about horses and military strategy and fencing; art and needlework bore me to tears, and I’d rather make up the songs than sit there, quietly listening to the minstrels sing them. When I cry, my face gets all red and splotchy, and I make these horrible noises, like that time the rooster got his foot stuck in a root. There’s no way anybody would mistake me for fairytale princess material.”
“Ah,” said Jane, picking up the hairbrush and running it through Darcy’s hair, “but in these tales, is it not the younger sister who often has the adventures and marries the handsome prince in the end? And she usually acts in a shockingly unladylike manner at one point or another. Tramping through the forests unprotected, and speaking impertinently to her elders, and so forth. Which is quite like you.”
“But the older sister is usually a bit—a horrible person,” Darcy amended, after catching Jane’s (ladylike) glare in the mirror.
“Well, you shall have to write you own tale,” said Jane, smiling, as she gently untangled a snarl in Darcy’s thick, dark, curls. “Perhaps one where the older sister wishes her younger as much happiness as she has found.”
“I can never be as happy as you, Jane,” said Darcy, reaching a hand up to give her sister’s arm an affectionate squeeze. “No man will ever have me, vulgar creature that I am. I will be perfectly content to be maiden Aunt Darcy to the little princes and princesses. Prince Loki and I can be unmarried together.”
Jane pursed her lips. “Prince Loki is a man, and therefore, has every right to join the Order of Mages and remain unwed,” she said. “You, on the other hand, do not have that freedom.” She finished running the brush through Darcy’s hair, leaving it loose, as was custom for an unattached maiden. “There. At least you look demure.”
“Appearances are deceiving,” Darcy replied, grinning, as she put on her shoes. The two sisters went down to the dining hall, where their mother and father were already eating their breakfast.
“Ah! Good morning, my daughters,” said their father, standing to greet them. “You both look quite lovely this morning.”
“Thank you, Father,” replied Jane, giving her father a kiss on the cheek. “Good morning, Mother.” She walked over to where her mother sat, and bent to kiss her cheek as well, then took the seat next to the older woman.
“Morning, Papa,” said Darcy, throwing her arms around her father’s neck. He chuckled and hugged her back.
“Darcy!” her mother called sharply. “You will wrinkle your gown! And you know Prince Thor is due for a visit today!”
“Sorry, Mother,” Darcy replied, sighing, as she pulled away. “But we all know he’s not here to see me, anyway.” Her father gave her a small commiserating smile, and led Darcy over to the breakfast table. She took the seat across from Jane, and dug into her food, managing not to grumble when her mother scolded her for putting her elbows on the table again.