She already knows it’s me when I knock on her door, even before she answers. Only I come here. No one else dares.
No one else is so stupid.
“This is the last time, I promise,” I tell her, already pleading, hoping she’ll let me in. She hasn’t, once or twice. Last time she threatened to bar her door.
But she only looks at me sadly, with her big, owlish eyes and her moony spectacles. “If I believed that, I wouldn’t be so worried about you,” she says at last. But she lets me in, and that’s all that matters. Her owl is perched on the back of her chair, and a mouse squeaks in her pocket, but I have gotten used to the oddities in her home. She’s a witch, the village people say, and they may not be far wrong. She’s odd enough to be a witch.
But I don’t care, because this witch’s cottage is the only place north of the sea that I can find books. The libraries in town have manuscripts of course, more than even she has, but they won’t let a woman pass their doors. They’d burn me first. So I come here.
Scrolls are scattered across her table, parchment and books stacked on the floor, on her chairs, on the desk in the corner. Her lamps are already glowing, as if she knew I was coming today, and she nods sadly at me when I give her a beseeching look. “Go ahead. But remember what you’re risking for those words, small one. It may come back to haunt you.”
But every word in this room is worth the risk I’m taking. I stopped caring about the punishments for reading a long time ago. The words are worth them.