At age thirteen, Micah hated his life.  Ever since he got his father’s approval and moved into the castle three years ago, all he did was train, eat and sleep.  He never got to see his mother, his father, his brothers, his sisters or any other kids his age.   His life consisted only of sword training, exercising and reading about sword training, Dragon Hunting or the laws of Zandador.

He wanted more adventure.  More excitement.  And more attention from his father.  But Omri was an elusive, powerful man.  Micah was only able to catch glimpses of him now and then.  When he did see him, Micah noted how he walked, how he talked and how the people around him catered to his every demand.  Someday he was going to be just like his Dad.

Today, though, he wanted to escape the confines of the castle.  He was supposed to return to the training room after dinner.  Instead, he walked right past the room, down the stairs and snuck out one of the back doors of the castle.

He breathed in the evening air, took a stroll through the woods, climbed a few trees and tossed some rocks into the lake.  He really should come outside more often.  This was much more fun than spending his life in that damp, dark, windowless training room.

The sound of a twig snapping behind him caused him to turn around.  A dragon stood ten feet away, and his colorful scales indicated he was a hungry Dusk Stalker in search of food.  Micah gulped.  This was why he wasn’t supposed to exit the castle through the back.  He had walked right into the feeding grounds of his father’s four dragons.

“You must be Eli,” Micah said, trying to sound calm and confident.  He found himself fascinated by the ten-foot high, wingless, beautiful creature.  The dragon stood his ground while Micah took a step closer.  “My father is your master, so you aren’t allowed to eat me.”

The dragon nodded as though he understood, and Micah walked even closer.  He was only an arms-length away now and noticed the dragon had a collar with spikes protruding into his scales wrapped around the base of his neck. 

“Why do you have this on?  That must make eating painful.  Bend down and I’ll take it off for you.”

Eli complied with Micah’s instructions.  Micah unlatched the heavy collar and freed it from the dragon’s neck.  As soon as he took it off, Eli nudged Micah’s shoulder as if to say thanks and sprinted away.

“What do you think you are doing?”  Omri’s booming voice startled Micah, and he dropped the collar, cutting his leg with one of the spikes in the process.

“I was helping the dragon.  He looked sad and hurt.”

“You are never to help the dragons, especially that one.  They deserve no mercy and are to be treated like the slaves they are.  If you cannot understand that, you will never be a Dragon Hunter.”

“No mercy.  I understand now, sir.”

“I don’t think you do, but you will.”

Omri was right.  After spending the next six months in the dungeon wearing a collar like the one he took off of Eli, Micah understood the meaning of no mercy.  And he vowed to never again treat any dragon as anything other than a mindless slave.