Once in the days of dragons there lived a boy named Nonny.
Like many boys of that time, Nonny wished more than anything else to fight dragons. Every day after his chores, he took his wooden sword deep into the forest and hacked the heads off imaginary dragons.
Finally, Nonny said good‑bye to his parents and walked until he came to the King’s court. He bowed before the King and said, “Sire, please make me a knight, so I can fight dragons!”
“Fine with me!” said the King. “Rise, Sir Nonny.” He gave a big yawn.
Nonny rose, shivering with excitement.
From then on, Nonny spent all his time with the other knights of the court. They told him all about their battles with dragons. The stories sounded like bragging, but Nonny didn’t mind, because he loved to hear them.
Nonny was given a gray horse and a real sword and a lance and armor that covered him from head to foot. The armor was so heavy, he could hardly move, and it pinched him in all sorts of places. Also, it made him hot and sweaty, and it clanked so loudly that his ears hurt. But Nonny didn’t mind any of it, because he knew you need armor to fight dragons.
The knights taught Nonny how to use his sword and lance, and soon he was joining in their tournaments. He wasn’t sure what the tournaments were good for, but the other knights seemed to enjoy parading in their armor and knocking each other off horses.
One day, the King called his knights together.
“Good news, knights!” said the King. “A new dragon has arrived in our kingdom. I have chosen Sir Pompas to fight it.”
“Thank you, sire!” said Sir Pompas, all puffed up with pride.
The next day, Sir Pompas rode off to the mountain where the dragon had been spotted. With him rode his pages, the other knights, their pages, all the King’s courtiers, their families and servants, the King’s family and servants, and the King. No one wanted to miss the excitement. Of course, Nonny went too, riding his gray horse and wearing his new armor.
They reached the foot of the mountain. Everyone cheered as Sir Pompas rode his horse up the mountain path. When he reached the mouth of the dragon’s cave, he turned and waved once more, then disappeared into the cave.
They heard the terrible roar of the dragon.
Then nothing more.
After a while, the King said, “I believe we have lost a knight. Who will be the next to try?”
The knights looked at one another. Finally, Sir Bombas said, “I’ll go, sire.”
The King yawned and said, “Good for you, Sir Bombas.”
Everyone cheered as Sir Bombas rode up the mountain path. When he reached the mouth of the cave, he turned and waved once more, then disappeared into the cave.
They heard the terrible roar of the dragon.
Then nothing more.
“That’s too bad,” said the King. “Oh, well! Who wishes to go next?”
The knights looked at one another. Not one said a word.
When Nonny saw that none of the other knights wished to go, he swallowed hard. “I’ll go, sire.”
The King gave a tremendous yawn and said, “Good boy! But, while you fight the dragon, I will return home. It’s no fun to lose knights. Good‑bye, Nonny!” The King yawned so hard he almost fell off his horse.
“Good‑bye, sire!” called Nonny, as the King, the King’s family and servants, the King’s courtiers, their families and servants, the other knights, and their pages, all headed home.
Nonny rode up the mountain path. When he reached the mouth of the cave, he turned and looked down the mountain, but there was no one to wave to.
Nonny shivered with fear. But he said to himself, “Someone has to fight the dragon. And, if I don’t do it, I don’t know who will.”
He lifted his lance, gave a yell, spurred his horse into the cave—and pulled it to a dead halt.
There before him loomed the dragon. It was ten times taller than Nonny. Its scales were platinum, and thick as table‑tops. Magenta flame, tinged with white, licked from its mouth and nostrils. It glared at Nonny with green glowing eyes.
“I’m ready,” snarled the dragon.
Nonny gave another yell and spurred his horse. Straight at the dragon’s belly rode Nonny, and straight on the dragon’s belly struck his lance. But even the dragon’s belly was covered by the thick scales, and Nonny’s lance snapped in two.
The dragon’s laugh echoed through the cave.
Nonny dropped the broken lance and drew his sword. He spurred his horse again and circled the dragon. CLANG! CLANG! sounded his sword on the dragon’s scales as he rode round and round.
But it was no use. Nonny’s sword only bounced off uselessly.
Suddenly, the dragon swung its paw at Nonny. It knocked him off his horse and clear across the cave.
Nonny’s armor clattered as he landed on his back. He lay there holding his sword, too stunned to move.
He heard the terrible roar of the dragon. He watched the dragon open its mouth. He saw the white-tinged magenta flame shoot out at him.
Nonny closed his eyes and waited to be cooked to a crisp.
But it didn’t happen. In a few moments, Nonny felt a cool breeze blowing over him. He opened his eyes.
His sword was gone. His armor was gone, too. He was naked, but the magical fire had not hurt him.
The dragon was stretched out lazily on the cave floor. Nonny got up and walked over to it.
“Why didn’t you destroy me?” asked Nonny.
“Oh, I wouldn’t do that,” said the dragon, grinning. “I just like to play a little. Life would be so boring without a good fight, now and then.”
“But you destroyed Sir Pompas and Sir Bombas!” said Nonny.
“No, I didn’t!” said the dragon. “They both snuck out the back way. I guess they were ashamed about losing their armor.”
Nonny thought about that. “I’m not ashamed,” he said. “I did my best. Anyway, I never really liked that armor.”
“Good for you!” said the dragon. “Still, you might need something to wear home. Take a look over at that treasure I’ve been guarding.” The dragon swung its head toward a dark corner of the cave.
Nonny walked over to a nook in the cave wall. There hung a long golden robe that shone even in the dim light. Next to it, a huge leather-bound book rested on a jeweled podium.
He slipped on the robe, and it fit perfectly. Then he opened the book. The writing looked strange, but Nonny thought he might be able to figure out the words. He decided to take it along and try.
He got back onto his horse and rode to the mouth of the cave. “Thanks for everything,” he called to the dragon, who waved its tail lazily and gave a tremendous yawn.
Never again did Nonny wear armor or carry weapons. He didn’t need to, for the book from the dragon’s cave taught him many other ways to deal with dragons. In time, he became known as the greatest dragon-fighter of all.
As for Sir Pompas and Sir Bombas, no one ever heard from them again. Maybe they’re still hiding.