Cursed by Beauty
It felt rather warm. Which was certainly welcome on a cold, snowy night like that one. Warm on his left hand. It was warm and it was wet as it seeped and it trickled between his tense, pale fingers which tightly gripped the black, ebony handle. His left arm was incredibly strong as he pressed the weapon ever deeper. His right arm was employed with the task of stifling. He had reached ’round and with a thick, leather glove had clasped the mouth and nose completely shut, and with his right elbow to the corresponding shoulder he used his entire right arm to pull the body firmly against his own.
He leaned his head gently forward. He could feel his victim’s body writhing with extreme pain and convulsing with violent shock. As he leaned, the fringe of his black, hooded cowl brushed his victim’s ear and a slender, golden chain from which hung a small, golden ring dangled down and rested on the victim’s left shoulder. His soft lips could just be seen as he softly whispered.
His victim instantly fell motionless in his powerful grasp. Slight puffs of frosty breath curled toward the night sky from the victim’s bleeding mouth as he relaxed his firm grip. He held him there for a brief moment, ensuring the curse had ran its full course. Suddenly, with lightning speed, god-like dexterity, and impeccable coordination, he slid his right leg around the left side and in front of his victim’s ankles while he simultaneously slammed the open palm of his right hand into the center of his victim’s upper back. The opposing momentums of his right hand and right leg instantly jolted his victim’s body forward and completely parallel with the ground, and as his open palm continued to press firmly into the victim’s back, he found his hand penetrating the very body of his victim. The slightest beat of a moment later, before the body even had time to begin it’s dreadful descent to the snowy street, the victim burst into a cloud of tiny, weightless, frozen shards which blew around him as he gracefully sheathed his blackened dagger and walked away.
The alley he had been in was very dark and poorly maintained. Mounds of snow made it difficult to access the main street, but as he trudged through the knee-deep powder, he eventually came to the end which opened up into the center of town. Pale moonlight illuminated the square with a brilliant aura as the beams refracted and reflected off of the piles of snow. It was a clear sky that night, yet so much snow had accumulated on the rooftops that with each breeze furious little flurries of powder would float down toward the square in cyclonic little dances of winter.
The town had every appearance of being asleep and utterly unconscious of a dark, magical assassin roaming it’s frostbitten streets. The city officials had taken great pains to ensure the public safety of its posh and perfect citizens, but somehow tonight, not a breath could be heard, not the vaguest of shadows moved save that stealthy shadow cast by the cloak of the silhouetted villain. From deep within his hooded cowl, if one was watching, one could see the deep set, cobalt eyes that darted madly as he calmly scanned the square.
Satisfied, he turned to disappear when all of a sudden he heard something faintly. He stopped, his back to the moonlit-square. Surely he hadn’t missed anything. And yet, there it was again, the faintest, subtle, feminine laugh. He quickly spun ’round and raised his palms, poised for battle, however, the square was vacant. He did, however, spy the lower fringe of a red, velvet cape disappear around the corner of a brick building a great distance across the square through the dustings of white snow. He bolted into a dead run as he charged across the square. Clods of snow flew up behind and around him as he moved with tremendous speed. His hot breath puffed into small clouds of steam as they drifted up on the frozen air. In a few very short moments he had cleared the square and drew his dagger as he rounded the same corner.
Nothing. He found himself on the very edge of town. He wasn’t quite sure how he had traveled so far, yet surely as he examined the building he noted it was the very same corner he had seen some figure disappear behind. He looked out over a frozen wasteland on this edge of town. Hills all clad in their snowy garb gave no indication of life. The brilliant moon cast no shadows that might be created from someone fleeing. He scanned the ground around him for footprints in the snow, and, to his surprise, he found a set. His surprise was hardly from the discovery of the prints, rather, he was almost alarmed to find there were only two solitary prints. No signs of someone running, or walking for that matter, just a right foot and a left foot side by singular side. From the size of the prints, he deduced that the owner was indeed a woman, and from their distance apart, one of average physical build. Upon closer inspection, a familiar, metallic flicker caught his eye. Between the prints, with perfect symmetry, a small hole was in the snow.
Immediately, he groped for the small, golden chain about his neck, hidden beneath his cowl. He pulled it out with his fingers, and to his utter dismay, the golden ring was missing from the chain. The old man’s ring was gone, completely gone. In a brief panic, he yanked his leather glove from his right hand and examined his ring finger. One glance and he drew back in horror. His very own ring was missing as well. His heart sank as he noticed the slender, pale impression left by his beautiful ring. He had possessed it since before he could remember. What could have happened? How could he have lost them? Who would posses the incredible means by which they might acquire them? It was impossible, and yet, they both were gone. He fell to his knees in the snow, fighting back bitter tears and frantically thrust his hands into the snow between the woman’s footprints.
He ignored the freezing burn felt by his naked hands as he drew from the snow a single golden ring with a small gem craftily set in the band. He nervously laughed as let the fewest streams of tears fall from his cobalt eyes down his clear, pale complexion. With his left hand, he pulled his cowl from his head, letting it fall back on his shoulders revealing His dark curls falling over his ears and neck. With his hands he brought the ring up to his eyes for closer inspection. It was not unlike the old man’s ring with the exception of a tiny hash mark inside the band just following the engraved inscription, “Honorable and Worthy.”
He knew at once it was not either of the rings he had lost, yet he held it, cupped in his hands, and admired it. He gingerly slipped the ring over the tip of his right ring finger and slowly pulled it down toward his hand. It was strangely warm to the touch as he slowly put it on. He closed his eyes and in his mind he saw a placid lake, unlike anything he had ever seen before; still as glass, with hardly a ripple. From deep within him, he felt a powerful heat beginning to rise. His sinews and limbs bean to gently shake from the incredible force growing within him, and he didn’t notice at the time, but the snow about him began to melt. Suddenly, the lake erupted in the center with a tremendous splash, as though someone had dropped an enormous boulder into its midst.
“It feels good, doesn’t it.”
His eyes flew open as he stood, twirling around to face whomever spoke. Not more than a few cubits distance from him stood a woman. Her golden hair fell down over her shoulders and before her, seeming to flow about her person in a mystical, magical sort of way. She wore a shimmering gown infused with ever changing colors. Blues and purples, greens and reds, morphing and mixing, created a brilliant performance of color as they reflected off of the snow around her feet. And her eyes similarly were an ever changing hue of greens and blues and blacks and hazels. The fair complexion of her features did not betray much in the way emotion, but somehow, the man deemed her kind and gentle.
“Yes. Yes, it does.”
“You are more than what you have been.” She kept her gaze fixed with his blue eyes. “You don’t know me. We have never met. Not in this dimension. But I do know you, very well. And I know you are more. And that is why I have taken these from you.” She held up her hand dropped two rings, suspending them in the air before her. His eyes grew wide and he took a step forward, reaching out toward the rings, but just as he moved his arm, the woman dropped her arm, releasing the rings, and as they fell, they burst into flame, their ashes the only part of them to reach the snow.
“I told you. You are more than what you have been. You are Honorable. You are Worthy.” The familiar words hit him like a knife. “What you have on your finger now is far better, far richer in meaning and purpose. Consider it a gift, releasing you from this wretched curse you are chained to.”
He tried to look away, but he couldn’t. He didn’t want to. To him, she was beautiful. She was unlike anything he ever knew. He didn’t think to question her claim of being from some other dimension. He thoroughly believed her. In all his years of conjuring and casting, creating and summoning, he had never witnessed an aura so capable of purely binding the senses. He had never known love, but he imagined that somehow he felt it now. Could there be more? Could he be better? Could he truly be “Honorable and Worthy?”
“Live up to the ring, and it will live up to you. Live up to the ring, and you will see me again.” The woman vanished. No sign of her remained save two new, singular footprints from where she had just stood and the golden ring on his finger.
He left that frozen spot. Soon it was buried in white snow. He began to wander in search of the woman, in hopes that he would indeed see her again. He was changed. He was convinced and determined to follow the woman’s instructions. He truly would be “Honorable and Worthy.”