Pierce Carey didn’t care about magic. He had to pay attention to what was real. Dragons were real, mud dragons especially. They came when you least expected them–when everything was feeling really happy and peaceful…
Boom! That’s when the mud dragons liked to strike.
Their roar was enough to defeat even the strongest, bravest knight–unless that knight had protection.
Pierce was looking for protection.
Maybe, protection came from the water goddess.
Sometimes, at the end of the day, the water goddess came to offer blessings of peacefulness and beauty.
But water goddesses don’t stick around. They go downstairs to make scrambled eggs for supper, and then before you know it, Mom calls, “Dinner time! Put away your games, wash your hands, and come down to the table!”
Usually, you don’t see mud dragons at the dining table. Mud dragons don’t eat eggs. They only eat boys.
Mud dragons hardly every showed up at homework time. Maybe, homework was one of the talismans.
But schoolwork was definitely not a talisman. School was full of mud dragons. Fire dragons, too, and also stinky-marking-pen dragons.
It helped when a young knight had a virtuous and valiant sister–even if she lived in a different house with the sunset goddess and the popcorn dragon.
“I’ve got plenty of use for magic,” said the valiant sister. “What else makes life feel sparkly-filled?”
Pierce was not so sure.
“It’s not magic that defeats the dragons!” Pierce insisted. “Magic is not real! You gotta do real stuff to keep the dragons away. Homework. Clean your room. And even then, the dragons come.”
“I haven’t yet seen a dragon,” said Mikaela. “Now I believe they’re real, because you say so. I’m just saying that I never seen one.”
“Not once?” asked Pierce.
“Not once,” Mikaela replied.
“Not even when your stepdad disappears?” asked Pierce.
Mikaela was thoughtful for a while.
“I’ve seen witches,” she said at last. “But usually the witches just look at me sideways. I haven’t yet had a run-in with one.”
“And what would you do if you did have a run-in?” Pierce asked.
“I would be really brave and strong,” she said. “I’d remember how brave you are when the dragons come, and then I would be like that. Or I might just leave the house and go outside for a while. That’s what I usually do.”
Pierce took out his homework. He liked the way it felt here, at his sister’s house. At that exact moment, he could tell from the feelings that there weren’t any witches or any dragons around, just his sister, his sister’s mom, and the cozy feeling of being in a nice home.
Later, the sunset goddess floated down and sat beside him on the couch.
“Hey!” said Pierce. “This must be Shangri La!”
“No,” said Mikaela’s mom. “This is Willow Creek.”
While they were talking, Mikaela’s stepdad joined them.
“Is that Solomon?” Pierce whispered to his sister’s mom. “He looks a little dragonish.”
Mikaela’s mom laughed.
“Are you feeling tense, Sol?” she asked. “I think it’s about time for Pierce to head home for supper.”
It was getting dark by the time Pierce arrived home, and his mom and dad were nowhere to be seen. But Mom had left a bowl of cereal on the table for him with a note that said:
We’ve just gone out for an evening walk on the bluffs. We’ll be back soon, Sweet Pea! Enjoy your snack, and I’ll make a full supper when we get back.
We love you, Little P!
–Mom and Dad
When they got home, they carried the scent of fog and ocean with them.
“Pierce!” said Pierce’s dad. “You’re home! Did you have a good day?”
And at that very moment, there were no dragons anywhere to be seen.