Once upon a time there was a knight named Sir Woozy. He lived in a very remote part of the kingdom where there were many beautiful trees and lakes and mountains but not a single dragon, monster, or evil wizard to be found. Sir Woozy was thankful for his strong castle and his lovely surroundings, but he was bored. Knights like to put on their armor and go out to fight. The only time Sir Woozy ever saw his armor was when he was polishing it, and it didn’t need polishing very often because it was never used enough to get dirty. Sir Woozy was so bored that he started poking around his castle, examining all the dungeons, peeking into every attic, and opening any locked chests that he came across. That was how he found the horn.
The horn was inside an old wooden chest. It was big and heavy, so that Sir Woozy almost couldn’t lift it. But he slowly put it up to his lips and made one short blast. Instead of a bright trumpet sound, the horn made a loud roar, exactly like the roar of a dragon. Sir Woozy blew the horn several times. It sounded so real! He almost wanted to rush out and put on his armor to fight the dragon. But of course, there wasn’t any dragon.
Then Sir Woozy had the best idea! He didn’t have any real dragons to fight, but he could still pretend. It would be better than sitting around his old castle all day doing nothing. So Sir Woozy headed up into the mountains and found a very deep, very dark cave. He knew it was just the sort of cave a dragon would want to live in. He went home and put on his armor and buckled on his sword and shield. Then he loaded the great horn onto his faithful horse. He rode up into the mountains, gathering firewood as he went. When he arrived at the cave, he went deep inside and built up a great big fire with lots of smoke. The cave got so dark and smokey and had such mysterious fiery light in the corners that Sir Woozy was just a little bit afraid. Then he blew the big horn. ROOOAAAARRRR! The dragon roar echoed off the walls of the cave. Sir Woozy drew his sword. He may have only been fighting smoke and shadows, but he was having a great time! When he was good and tired, he let the fire die out and went home to rest.
After that first day, Sir Woozy often went to his cave to fight his pretend dragon. He liked pretending. It was almost as fun as fighting for real. Things went on like this for several weeks, until at one morning, just as Sir Woozy was mounting his horse to head to the cave again, some of the leaders from the nearby village came to his castle gate. They told Sir Woozy that a terrible dragon had taken up residence in the mountains nearby. No one had seen it yet, but the villagers had all heard its roars and see smoke rising up from the mountain. Everyone in the village was terrified and no one wanted to go out after dark any more.
At first, Sir Woozy was very excited. After all his practicing, he was going to get to fight a real dragon. He lifted his sword and told the men to show him where the dragon lived. They led him to the foot of the mountain and then pointed up in the direction of the dragon’s lair. Sir Woozy’s heart sank. They were pointed toward his cave. There was no dragon after all. It was just his horn and his smoke that had terrified the villagers. He began to be very embarrassed. He didn’t want to admit to the men that the dragon was just him playing a pretend game. Knights weren’t really supposed to play imaginary games like that. So instead, he just nodded at them and rode up the mountain.
On the way to the cave, Sir Woozy did some hard thinking. He knew that he had to stop fighting his pretend dragon since it was causing so much fear for the villagers. But he also thought that he would rather not admit that there had never been a dragon. He decided that he could pretend to kill the dragon. Then no one would ever have to know what he had been doing.
So one more time, Sir Woozy lit the fires. One more time, he sounded the horn. One more time, he drew his sword and attacked the dragon. But this time, he clashed his sword loudly against his shield. He yelled. And finally he blew one last blast on the horn and threw a stone loudly against the cave wall. The imaginary dragon was dead.
Sir Woozy rode down the mountain with his head held high. In the village, everyone came out of their houses and cheered. They offered him food and wine. That night there was a huge party to celebrate Sir Woozy’s triumph over the dragon. Sir Woozy couldn’t help feeling proud even though he knew he was a fake.
Everything would have been fine if the king hadn’t decided to visit. As it was, not only the king, but the queen and a whole crowd of lords and ladies and knights arrived at Sir Woozy’s castle just a few days after his supposed battle with the dragon. Of course, the leaders of the village told the king all about how Sir Woozy had fought and killed the dangerous dragon. And of course, the king was very impressed and wanted to find a way to honor Sir Woozy. Sir Woozy felt so ashamed. He knew he should tell the king the truth, but he also knew that the other knights would laugh at him. So he said nothing while the king planned an elaborate ceremony to present Sir Woozy with a medal of bravery. But every time he thought about it, his heart felt a little heavier and his stomach twisted a little tighter.
Finally the day of ceremony came. Sir Woozy stood in front of the king and queen with all the lords and ladies and knights looking on. The king made Sir Woozy kneel. Sir Woozy felt a little sick. The royal page brought out the medal of bravery, resting on a pillow. Sir Woozy had to shut his eyes to keep from fainting. The queen took the medal on its ribbon and prepared to place it around Sir Woozy’s neck. Sir Woozy looked up into her kind blue eyes. He couldn’t do it.
“No,” said Sir Woozy. “I don’t deserve this.”
Everyone gasped, then stared as Sir Woozy told the true story of the imaginary dragon. When he was done, no one said a word. Some of the knights looked angry. Others looked like they would laugh. The king looked confused. But the queen still looked kind. She leaned over and whispered something in the kings ear. He nodded. Then the king took the medal of bravery and placed it around Sir Woozy’s neck.
“Sir Woozy,” said the queen. “It took more bravery for you to tell us the truth than it would have taken to fight ten dragons. You do deserve this medal.”
Everyone clapped and cheered.
“And now,” said the king. “Let’s ride. We need to find this knight some real dragons to fight.”