"I don’t want you going down to the stables anymore," Isaac’s mother said, standing in his doorway. "It isn’t safe for you, out every morning riding that monster."
"He’s not a monster. Flame would never hurt me." Isaac turned away from her, hoping that she’d let the subject drop.
"It’s not proper for a young man of your station, and that’s final." She slammed the door as she left, and Isaac winced. He pulled a book off of his shelf and stared at a faded map for a long time before he fell asleep.
The next morning, Isaac packed a bag and crept out of the house and down to the stable. The eastern sky was gray, but the grooms were already hard at work. He exchanged nods with them, just like he did every morning.
He ducked into Flame’s stall. "Morning, buddy."
Flame wrapped his long, scaly neck around Isaac’s torso and rested his head on the boy’s shoulder. His breath was hot and dry in Isaac’s ear. The stall smelled like hot wood and sulfur.
Isaac ran his fingers along the dragon’s scaly side. "Let’s get out of this place."
Flame huffed and squeezed Isaac.
"My mother told me not to come and ride you anymore, but I’m not going to listen. We’re going to run away. I heard that there’s a place in the east where humans and dragons live as equals. You won’t have to live in a stable anymore. It’ll be great."
Flame’s tongue flicked out, and Isaac laughed. "Of course I packed plenty of treats for you." He pulled a sugar cube out of his pocket. He tossed it into Flame’s eager, open jaws and the dragon crunched it happily.
Isaac threw his saddle on Flame’s back and Flame leapt into the air. The wind swept over them as they flew into the sunrise. They swooped and whirled in loops and corkscrews. Isaac laughed with the pure joy of movement.
Flying had been his first taste of freedom, and he wasn’t giving it up. He tossed Flame another sugar cube, and didn’t look back.