Micah stood in front of the double wooden doors of the throne room.  His freshly shaved head barely reached the dragon-shaped handles, and for the first time in his ten years of life, he felt nervous.  Uncertain.  Scared.

His father, the great King Omri, occupied the room on the other side of those doors.  They would meet for the first time today, and Omri would determine if Micah would begin his training as a Dragon Hunter or be relegated to a life of servitude in the castle.

Seven of his twelve older brothers had passed Omri’s inspection on their tenth birthdays; only nine of his twenty-two older sisters made the cut. 

“Enter!”  The booming voice from behind the doors caused Micah to jump.  That was his father.  His father was talking to him!

Micah shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.  He had no reason to worry.  His mother had assured him he was smarter, stronger and just plain better than any of his other siblings from any of Omri’s other wives. 

“You can do this, Micah.”  His mother bent down and looked him in the eyes.  “You can impress the King, begin your training and become the best Dragon Hunter the Land of Zandador has ever seen.  Now go.”

Micah gulped, nodded and opened the doors.  His crisp new blue shirt and sleek black pants swished as he walked across the marble floors toward the stage at the other end of the massive room.  Life-sized statues of the four types of Dragon Stalkers—minus the tips of their tails–occupied each corner. 

The tails of the real dragons Omri had hunted were bronzed and displayed on a pillar in front of each dragon.  A statue of Omri holding four dragon tails in one hand and a sword in the other stood between the Midnight and Dawn Stalkers on the left side of the room.

Micah smiled in amazement.  Someday he would be able to cut off a dragon’s tail, too.

“Stop gawking and get up here.”

Micah turned his attention to the man who spoke at the other end of the room.  The powerful man in red wore a jeweled crown and sat on a golden throne on a stage in front of a wall of windows.  With the way the sun glimmered off the jewels, the man—his father—looked as if he glowed.

“Yes, sir.”  Micah picked up his pace and bowed when he reached the steps to the stage.  “Honored to meet you, Father.”

“Don’t call me your father yet.  I haven’t decided if I want to claim you as my son.”

Micah flinched at Omri’s harsh words but made himself stand as he could, stick his chin in the air and say, “You will.”

“Hmm.  I’m not so sure.”  Omri got up, walked down the steps and circled Micah.  “You’re cocky.  I don’t like that.  You’re skinny and weak.  I don’t like that.   And you’re ugly.  I don’t like that.  Call me King, not your Father.  Get out of my throne room.”

Omri waved him away and walked back up to his throne.  When he sat down, he looked at Micah.  “Why are you still here?  Get out of my sight!”

Micah hung his head and began his retreat.  Skinny?  Weak?  Ugly?  He might be a little on the skinny side, but he was just a child.  He was supposed to be skinny.  Being skinny didn’t make him weak.  Or ugly.  How dare Omri call him ugly!  Micah was the best-looking person he knew.

His anger grew with every step, and then he caught a glimpse of the statue of Omri.  “Weak?  You think I’m weak?  I’ll show you how weak I am!”  He charged the statue, ripped the steel sword out of the stone hand and sliced off what was left of the Midnight Stalker’s stone tail. 

And that was the moment he became King Omri’s favorite son. f