The duke and the contessa were forbidden to love each other. At least, that is what they believed. It would have been socially inappropriate to express any such feelings. Yet everyone at the court knew that they loved each other. It could be seen in every glance, every gesture, every word they spoke to one another (and many words they spoke to others), though they never admitted what they thought would be indiscretion. By most courtiers, including all the women (with one unimportant exception), felt that their relationship was terribly romantic and many hoped desperately that somehow the situation would result in a union of the two plaintive lovers, but by the same token no one would tell them about the plainly obvious love because that would ruin the utter romance of the situation, and everything should be romantic, even at the cost of happiness. For romance is beautiful, and beauty is more important than pleasure.
But then came the day of their falling out. The duke by some small forgetfulness or faux pas had somehow offended the contessa and hurt her pride. Or perhaps it was the contessa who had slighted the duke; no one can be sure about these things. Either way, they both turned cold shoulders to each other that day, and the relationship only grew more sour. At one point the duke surely felt that he would like to make it up to the contessa, but as they could no more declare their love now than previously, and thus there was no way for him to show that he was sorry. The contessa grew angrier and angrier, and even when the duke was not the subject of conversation or when he wasn’t near, one could feel her burning anger. Meanwhile the duke simply grew more and more morose; his visits to court became less and less frequent. The contessa felt slighted at this as a new insult, and the effects of her wrath in the duke’s deportment: he stopped showing as much care in his grooming, he spoke barely ever. This development was very sad to observe. But it was that tragedy was beautiful, so no one said anything to correct the situation.
Eventually, the contessa could no longer stand the sight of the duke, and commanded her army to attack his territory. The war was bloody, eventually involving most of the other courtiers as they had to either defend their own lands from the armies or joined one or the other side, depending on which side they found to be more beautiful. In the end, most of the realm was destroyed, the crops burned, the citizens murdered, and the animals driven away. Only the courtiers themselves remained. But even the ruin was beautiful, so no one complained of the results.
The contessa still hated the duke, but she lacked the power to kill him. The duke, on the other hand, still refused to directly harm his beloved contessa, even though his army had been much larger and more capable, and he was still physically capable of ending her life. And so we did what we had always done, and continued to hold court, although there was nothing left to rule. And that is when the angel came. We called him an angel because he was beautiful, and we didn’t know what else he was. He came from the sky, right through the roof of the castle, and stood before all of us. He proclaimed in a deep but melodic voice that he had witnessed the strife in our land, and that he now knew what he had always suspected. Now that he knew who they were, he would take the contessa and the duke with him.
For the god and goddess of beauty cannot be suffered to remain with mere mortals.