The Beauty in All Things

There’s beauty in all things.

I remembered those words as I stared into the eyes of the woman at my feet, opulent jades bearing out a soul in its most desperate moment. She wasn’t the most comely woman by any means; her stringy hair and blanched skin did her no favors, though in truth her stark complexion could be attributed to fear. After all, who wasn’t afraid of death?

I found myself entranced by those eyes. No matter what flaws or imperfections could be found in this woman, there was no denying she wielded beauty. And I was to vanquish that beauty and bleed the life from those emeralds bearing into my spirit, revealing the sanguinary, murderous rotter I was.

But we all have our duties, to realm and king and country. Who am I to disrepute the crown? No, I could not. Not even for her. Tightening a gloved hand around the black hilt of my glistening sword—an executioner’s weapon—I poised to strike. She closed eyes tight, the last sheen of hope disappearing beneath lids of dismay as he bowed her head. I raised blade to sky, a marriage adulterated and profane, the sun’s light gleaming off steel . . . and faltered.

Stepping back, the sword fell from my hand as though too weighty and ponderous to hold. I dropped to my knees, as the woman was, tears wetting my cold, grey eyes. “Forgive me.” It was nothing more than a whisper, a quiescent plea borne of grief and guilt.

The lady was stronger than I. “In this realm of wickedness and villainy,” she said, placing a warm, angelic hand on my cheek, “we all do what we must.”

“And our characters are written by our actions. Mine is written with a blade, I fear.”

“But the blood that stains said blade is not on your hands.”

Would that were true! She was truly an angel, sent from the heavens to placate the hearts of curs like me. From this close I could smell her hair, a sweetness I had never known, nor would ever know. I touched the soft strands as though they were my own. Her eyes, at once despondent, irradiated hope yet again, and I smiled.

Grabbing her head, I pulled her in close. It would be a kiss for this woman, for that is what angels deserve. And as for the blade? She would receive that, too. A quick thrust, a twist of the knife, and I felt the air escape her lungs as she balked. Inquisitive eyes searched the dark recesses of mine—for truth, for understanding, for culpability? I could not say.

I slid the knife deeper into her stomach, lamenting the pain I saw wrenching her. So stunned she was, she could not even cry out . . . but I had offered her that final grain of hope, a quondam, fleeting moment of solace in a world embittered and tarnished.

There’s beauty in all things. And I had given her the most beautiful thing of all.

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