“In Europe, dragonflies have often been seen as sinister. . . . The Norwegian name for dragonflies is "Řyenstikker", which literally means eye-poker and in Portugal they are sometimes called "tira-olhos" (eye-snatcher).” (Wikipedia, as of June 29, 2012.)
Long ago, before our great-grandparents were even so much as a gleam in their parents' eyes, the last stop for itinerant tradesmen peddling their wares in a sparsely settled region along the border between _____ and ______ was the village of Gwasyneidr. The village had little to recommend it except a small, filthy inn with beds of indifferent quality and a pub to which natives of the region would repair whenever they might contrive to escape their quotidian responsibilities and, with the aid of the locally distilled spirits, obliterate the memory of life's disappointments. Tradesmen, for their part, seldom tarried in Gwasyneidr, but after purchasing from local merchants, at monopolistic prices, provisions for their return journeys, would leave as soon as the capricious weather conditions prevailing there permitted.
It happened one July in the long-ago days of which I’m speaking that a certain seller of silk scarves who had fetched up at the end of his trade route in Gwasyneidr found his departure delayed by the threat of a cyclone. The oppressively humid air had a peculiar quality, like a gigantic vacuum, the light off the surrounding hills had a weird orange tinge, and distant lightning crackled ominously. The scarf-seller – one Elidir – reluctantly agreed with the villagers’ warning that to leave the shelter, such as it was, of Gwasyneidr before the storm passed would needlessly invite calamity. But Elidir, being a young man fond of sensation and desirous of acquiring experience in the world, could not stand the thought of waiting out the cyclone in his dingy room at the inn. He decided to pass the time profitably, if he could, and so determined to set forth on sales calls within the village perimeter, where he could easily find refuge should the storm suddenly descend.
“My host,” he asked the innkeeper, “who in this place might be interested in fashionable silk scarves of the highest quality, such as I can provide at a very reasonable price for a limited time only, until this infernal cyclone passes?”
The grizzled old man polishing glasses at the bar paused, frowned, and wiped his hands on his dirty apron. “I can think of only one woman foolish enough to care for such frippery. Her name is Dragonfly.”
Elidir was intrigued. “Where might I find this Dragonfly?”
“Her cottage stands beside the pond, amid those elder trees a hundred yards or so that way,” he replied, pointing out the thickly streaked window over the sink. “If ye call on her today, we’ll send some men to collect ye tomorrow.”
“No need for that, my good fellow. If I can’t close a sale with a style-minded lady within a quarter hour, I might as well find a new line of work. And any other business I might transact with her will hardly require the help of some of your men.”
“Suit yourself, then. And who’s sir’s next of kin, in case ye fail to return?”
“Surely you jest,” said Elidir. But the innkeeper merely shook his head and resumed his glass polishing.
“These abnormal atmospheric conditions must be affecting your wits,” Elidir muttered, as he strode off toward the Dragonfly’s abode.
Within the elder grove, the air felt entirely different from that in the tense, expectant village: cool and serene, perfumed with an intoxicating scent of exotic woods and flowers. Elidir understood how a man might want to linger here, but the innkeeper was surely a fool. No woman alive could hold such power over a man determined to exert his own will.
Dragonflies danced around his head as he neared the cottage at the edge of the pond. So that’s the source of the lady’s nickname, he thought, brushing them aside and blinking. The cottage door was open, and after a couple of knocks he stepped over the threshold into the darkness within.
“Madam?” he called. “I’m told that a lady capable of appreciating the finest in fashion accessories resides here. Have I found the right place?”
A stirring at the other side of the room was the only response.
“So sorry, madam, I didn’t mean to awaken you. I’ll come back at a more convenient time. Please excuse the intrusion.”
As Elidir turned to exit, something airy brushed against his elbow. Looking down, he was startled to see a delicately beautiful young woman clad in a filmy gown, her pale, wavy hair hanging loose to the small of her back. Her unnaturally large blue eyes searched his face with curious amusement, and her long thin fingers electrified him where they touched his arm.
“No intrusion, Mr. --?”
“Elidir, my lady. I came – I came to –“
But the purpose of his visit mystifyingly eluded him at that moment. She smiled, guiding him deeper into the cottage. “May I offer you a refreshment, Elidir?” she asked him. Before he could answer, she had pressed a goblet of some sweet liquor into his hand. Before he could lift it to his lips, he found himself lying, slightly inebriated, on her bed. Before he could reach out to explore the slender, well-formed body that she, shedding her gown, revealed to him, he fell spent into unconsciousness.
It is perhaps understandable that in the aftermath of the cyclone the villagers were much occupied with putting their homes and shops back together, and it was not before several days had passed that the innkeeper recalled that the determined scarf-seller had gone to pay a call on the Dragonfly. Sighing, he summoned three of the burliest village lads to collect him, as he’d pledged.
They found his body at the edge of the pond. Like all the other commercial travelers who’d visited the Dragonfly since recorded time, his eyes had been poked out, but his lips wore an ineffable smile.