Damien and Keres had three daughters.
The first daughter was born on a bright spring day. Her hair was fair and her eyes wide. A smile adorned the youthful girl’s face constantly. The oldest daughter was the wisest. She was quick to learn to crawl and speak and walk, as though she already knew how to do things. She was a small miracle in her own right. They named her Gwyneth, their first-born daughter, the one who would secure the familial line for the throne.
The second daughter was born in the early morning, when the lazy sun was lapping over the green summer fields. Her hair was a few shades darker than her older sister’s, but still resembled a sun-kissed stalk of wheat ready for harvest. She too was cheerful and worthy of excitement. She stared wondrously at the world around her, curious to know its workings even from a young age. They named this daughter Isadora, who would marry a nobleman from a neighbouring kingdom to strengthen an alliance.
Their third daughter came into the world on a bitter winter night in an endless crying fit. She did this until she was old enough to talk, which she learned to do much later than her sisters. Unlike her the older girls, she had inky black hair, a constant pout on her lips, and a passion for getting into mischief. From the moment she was born, she caused nothing but trouble wherever she would go. They named this last daughter Rheia, to be wed to the son of a troubling enemy prince to secure the safety of their kingdom.
The three sisters were inseparable. They would play, eat, dress, and venture together. Rheia influenced her older sisters greatly. As the sisters grew older, she urged them to seek excitement, to disobey the rules their parents had set. Together, they would frolic in the workers fields, wander through the city near the palace, and flirt with strange boys they would never see again.
Eventually, Gwyneth grew of age to be engaged. At 18 years old, she dressed in her finest gown with the help of her sisters, no longer allowed to play. Isadora adorned her in jewels and gold, eager to make her the envy of every other woman at the ball. The less enthusiastic Rheia twisted her sister’s hair tight atop her head.
Gwyneth winced as Rheia tugged hard at her ends. “Rei, not so hard.”
“Sorry,” Rheia muttered, rolling her eyes but loosening her grip on her sister’s sunbeam of hair.
“Oh,” Isadora sighed, clasping her hands as she took a step back to admire her older sister. “You look absolutely gorgeous. Prince Kaius will fall in love with you instantly.”
Gwyneth smiled, glimpsing herself in the mirror. She looked amazing. Her hair was pulled out of her face, though small tendrils strategically curled around her face. Her cheeks were slightly flushed with rouge. Her sea-blue eyes framed by long, thick black lashes. The dress framed her body gorgeously. The pink fabric clung to her hips and breasts, flowing out at the bottom to give the illusion of longer legs. She looked like a woman.
“Oh, please,” Rheia scoffed, putting the last pin in place and stepping back from her work. “If Kaius falls in love just with your looks, go marry someone else.”
“Rei,” Isadora gasped, eyes wide.
“I’m just saying.” Rheia shrugged, feeling her sisters’ gazes looming on her as she turned her back to them, setting the extra pins on the vanity, hiding her smirk. “That farm boy seemed to fancy you.”
Gwyneth laughed, jutting her chin as she admired herself once again. “That farm boy isn’t a prince.”
Rheia sighed, knowing she would not get through to her sister. Her parents had been forcing the prospects of marriage on them since they were children. They told them how wonderful their husbands would be. They would be kind and noble and righteous. They would have beautiful children and help protect their home kingdom. They would maintain the alliances that seemed to crumble with time.
Gwyneth spun before the mirror, entranced by her blush pink gown. Small gems had been embroidered throughout, making it glitter in the light. She turned to Rheia, a small frown adorning her plump lips.
“What’s wrong,” she asked, taking slow steps toward her sister who was busying herself with tidying the vanity. Isadora approached as well, curious to see why her sister was so bitter.
Rheia heaved a sigh, shaking her head at her sister’s prying. She turned to her sisters, smoothing the skirts of her emerald gown and holding her head high. “What would I have to worry about; we’re going to a ball.”
Her voice was thin and full of contempt. Her green eyes were growing teary as she looked upon her eldest sister, so beautiful in her gown. Her lips turned downward as she drew in a deep breath through her pointed nose, trying to get ahold of her emotions. It wasn’t ladylike to show too much emotion, especially the negative ones.
Isadora opened her mouth to speak, but quickly shut it, knowing that Gwyneth would find the right words to say.
“Look,” Gwyneth began, grabbing Rheia’s hand and pulling her to the soft, plush couch near the balcony. She gestured to Isadora to join them and took both of their hands in hers. “I know this is difficult for you both. We’ve always been together. We’ve shared a room for many years. We’ve played and adventured and... Well, it’s time for it to end.”
“I just don’t understand why you need to go for so long.” Rheia’s voice was ambivalent as she tugged on the loose ends of her hair, watching as it jumped back into a perfect ringlet. “We haven’t been apart for more than a day in our whole lives. You’ll be gone for two months at least.”
“We need to do a tour of the other kingdoms,” Gwyneth explained, turning to her youngest sister. She was repeating something she had said before, but felt no anger toward her sister. She was just as troubled with leaving them behind as they were about her going. “We need to show them that the marriage is legitimate. And you know I’ll be back.”
Isadora leaned forward, looking past Gwyneth to Rheia. “I’ll still be here, Rheia.”
The youngest slumped back into the couch, crossing her arms. “Until next year when you’re old enough to be wed.”
“And you’ll be married the year after that,” Gwyneth reminded, smiling softly at Rheia. “Speaking of, on this tour I’ll probably have a sneak peek at your fiancés.”
Isadora sat up, eyebrows raised. “Will you really?”
Gwyneth smiled, nodding enthusiastically. She saw Rheia sit up slightly, curiosity beaming in her eyes. Although she wasn’t as enveloped in the prospect of true love with her fiancé, she was curious to know what kind of brute her parents were sending her off with.
“The minute I get back, you should both expect a full report.” Gwyneth fluffed out her skirt in satisfaction, knowing she had taken her sister’s minds off of her departure for a small moment.
“Oh,” Isadora swooned, sighing as she pulled up a fictitious image of her fiancé in her head. “I hope he’s as dreamy as I imagine him to be.”
“I’m sure your fiancé will be just fine, Iz,” Rheia pointed out, knowing her parents wouldn’t marry off their two favourite daughters to imbeciles. ”My fiancé is from Verenth.”
The sisters all made a face. The Verenthians were known for brutality and being hard-headed. When they were younger, during their geography and history studies of the allied kingdoms, they imagined them to be ugly and barbaric. This prejudice remained and haunted Rheia’s thoughts of her marriage.
The sisters began laughing and mocking the Verenthian stereotypes, amusing each other until their maid came to fetch them for the ball.