She was serious as she approached the counter. Her voice was soft and low. “I need to know”, she said. Then, hesitating a little, she asked if I could tell her about the dragon. Her eyes never met mine.
I know dragons, and I know people, but once in a while, they both surprise me.
She entered my shop during the winter slump, the week after all the tourists had gone, and the locals were at home preparing for the ill weather. She took a small flask from the shelf and filled it halfway with dragon tears from the spigot in the back.
Dragons don’t cry, making this a rare and expensive item. I watched her. I know every customer by name. She was new.
It was an uncommon request. No one cares about dragons. People think they know everything they need to know about dragons. Most of what they know is wrong, and when you try to tell them differently, they get angry. They stop listening. They walk away and never return.
“This one lived alone, as most do,” I told her. “The tears were extracted while he slept. He was suffering from allergies, which meant a runny nose, and tears.” I found her curiosity refreshing.
“Thank you,” she replied. “This will be put to good use,” she assured me.
I was silent. She continued, still staring somewhere behind my left ear, “Did this dragon have a hoard? He must have. How much were they able to take, seeing that he was sleeping?”
I was beginning to get nervous. Shop owners are sworn to secrecy. Was she a spy? Was this a test?
Something about the way she stared deeply into the space behind my head, and the way her eyes were puffed and pinkish around the edges, softened me.
“He had a hoard of books,” I said. I explained how unusual this was, and how unappreciated. Unrewarding for dragon hunters, except for the tears.
She straightened, seemed taller. I wouldn’t dare ask why she needed dragon tears, and it turns out I didn’t have to. She began describing her life. Her loves and her fears. And how the one item she was forbidden to truly enjoy as she wished was a good book.
I had heard of forbidden dancing, forbidden drinking, forbidden love, but I had never heard this in all my years.
But then, no one had heard of dragon tears either. Or a dragon that hoarded books. That was more odd than the tears themselves. Odd, and, to most, disappointing.
“These will be put to good use. I promise.” She smiled. It was barely a half-smile, but a smile nonetheless.