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Things to Know Before You Mount Your Dragon

Madeline Barnicle received a PhD in mathematics from UCLA. She now lives in Maryland.
Many young adventurers treasure their first flight on a dragon as a rite of passage. However, it is important to remember that flying is a privilege rather than a right. Dragons are not mere tools like swords or even wands; they are powerful magical creatures who have lives of their own, and can be very dangerous, especially to an untrained youth. Here is some wisdom to recall as you take to the air:
Unless you have reached your six-and-tenth naming day, you should not expect to be granted custody of a dragon. In extraordinary circumstances (suddenly orphaned, prophecy foretells it), petition the monarch for an exception.
Just because dragons can breathe fire does not mean they ought to do so at all hours. During daylight, your dragon should only occasionally be exhaling smoke. If your dragon breathes fire during the day, that is usually a sign that you are directing it too aggressively, and you should take a break. However, if your dragon does not breathe fire at night, it may be invisible to passing beasts. Consider traveling with a signal phoenix to indicate your position.
Runestones in the earth are there for your guidance. It is important to know the difference between runes guiding you straight ahead, marking unicorn habitats where dragons are not permitted entrance, and warning you of changing magical conditions. Although carved with the finest axes, runes may become obscured in inclement weather. It is important to direct your dragon slowly, and be alert for changing conditions on the ground.
A jug of ale is often a well-earned refreshment after a long day of adventuring. However, if you have been carousing, your dragon will become ill-tempered and restless. You could be strangled by the leash, or your dragon could begin clawing at your brothers-in-arms on the ground. Never fly a dragon if you have been at the bottle. Seek refuge in an inn or an encampment, and let your dragon rest.
If you are under an enchantment, be it to heal your wounds or increase your strength, the residual magic aura may distract your dragon and cause it to behave unpredictably. Make sure you consult with the sorcerer who has enchanted you before attempting to fly your dragon.
A well-fed dragon should not prey on other animals. However, if your dragon is ill or irritable, it may interrupt its flight to eat wild deer or hounds. If you find yourself in such a situation, do not leave the scene. Look for a nearby vassal or ranger, who may ask you to pay restitution to the local feudal lord. If you are unable to provide restitution, your dragon may be confiscated. For this reason, it is highly advisable to join a guild for mutual aid and protection.
Your dragon's leash may wear with repeated use. It is good practice to have it inspected by a blacksmith once every full moon.
You should make sure to feed your dragon fresh crystals before it becomes fatigued from starvation. When journeying in unfamiliar areas, consult with runestones to find the location of spellcaves.
Never touch dragon droppings, whether yours or someone else's. Crystal dust in the atmosphere may pose a catastrophic risk to accelerating the rise of evil overlords, but this is a small price to pay for dominion of the skies.
When flying in winter weather, do not rely on frozen lakes or rivers to support your dragon. If your dragon alights on a lake, abandon it and trust it to reconvene with you later. Remember, you can replace a dragon, but you can't replace your life. Unless you know a good necromancer.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020


I grew up in Minnesota, where there really is a "plucky young farmhand" loophole on the books. I now live in Maryland, which requires everyone applying for a learner's permit, whether they're 15 or 29, to take the exact same version of a classroom course that features plenty of appeals to emotion and assumes its audience's frontal lobes are still developing. Sometimes, one size does not fit all.

- Madeline Barnicle
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