~Chapter Four~

Adrian awoke to the gentle warmth of the flickering flames. He opened his eyes to see the millions of constellations above him and the moon shining bright. He sat up quickly to look around, but almost had to go back down from the splitting pain in his head. "Whoa, easy now don't move too quickly." said a gentle voice from the other side of the fire. Adrian turned his head slowly and looked towards the voice, but he couldn't see anything through the flames and smoke of the fire. "Who's there?" he asked trying to keep control of his voice so that whoever it was wouldn't know that he still felt out of sorts.

The voice laughed and Adrian watched as a figure came around the fire to him. As the figure walked it became clearer and clearer until Adrian realized that it was actually the boy that had saved him earlier. "Hello there Stranger." The boy said kneeling down beside him. Adrian was stunned and actually quite afraid. He had never seen anything like this boy and there was quite a bit about him that Adrian hadn't noticed before. For instance the boy's whole body was a pale blue color that contrasted with his dark blue hair; he also had large golden eyes and a pair of silver horns sprouting up from the top of his head.

"Uh hi." Adrian replied trying to figure out if he would be able to fight back if he was attacked. "My name is Arlen. What's yours?" Arlen said with a large smile on his face and a slight laugh to his voice. Adrian just stared at him and wouldn't answer, but Arlen just kept staring at him with his unblinking reptilian like eyes. After a while Arlen laughed, "Don't worry. I'm not going to eat you or anything. It has been a long time since anyone knew came into the forest." Adrian stared, "Other people have come to the forest?" he asked.

A worried look spread over Arlen's face. "You're not here on banishment are you?" the boy asked.

"No, I was sent on a mission. What do you mean banishment? People don't get banished and if they did they wouldn't be sent here." Adrian replied with a huff.

The boy looked slightly offended, "What's wrong with here?" he asked showing the sharp fangs that lined his mouth.

"Uh nothing. Forget it. My name is Adrian by the way."

"Adrian? Crowfoot?" the boy asked his eyes perking up and the scowl disappearing from his face.

Adrian's mouth dropped a little. "How do you know my name?" he asked trying to figure out if he had met this boy before, but he knew he hadn't. The boy opened his mouth to answer, but then shut it quickly. "Who are you? And how do you know me?" asked defensively as he rose to his feet. The boy rose with him and raised both hands as a sign of surrender. "My name is Arlen the Blue. I am a Stray from the Hinterland. I knew your dad; he talked about you a lot. Well, you and your brother, Seth, right?" Arlen responded keeping both hands raised at eye level.

Adrian just stood there with his fists clenched. How could this boy have known his dad? His dad died years ago in battle and his brother hadn't lasted much long afterwards. If Arlen had known his dad he could only have been a small child or even an infant, so how could he possibly remember? "How old are you?" Adrian asked sternly, it was the first question that he could get out. Arlen laughed in his deep raspy way, "Much older than you think I am. Let's leave it at I was you're age when the High Lord Obilex's grandfather was born." Once again Adrian's mouth dropped open; if that was true that made this boy who looked so young more than 300 years old.

The two of them just stood and stared at each other; the one in complete shock and the other calm and waiting. Adrian slowly sat back down upon the blankets that he had been laying under. "So let me get this straight. You are an over 300 year old, dragon stray, who knew my father, and doesn't want to kill me?" Adrian asked watching as the Arlen dropped back to his eye level. "Yes, to all of the above." Arlen responded with a smile, "In fact, I would quite like to be your friend. Who knows maybe I can help you on this mission of yours. For now though you should eat, you took a rather nasty fall earlier." With that Arlen jumped to his feet and went back to the other side of the huge fire.

In the past twenty minutes he had gleaned a lot of information that contradicted almost everything he thought about strays. He had always been told that they were monsters and cruel, but this Arlen character was so kind and seemed to just want to have fun. However, the idea of banishment seemed to plague his thoughts; he had never heard of such a thing happening in Luapa or the surrounding cities of Nicopolis. Eventually Adrian decided that staying near to Arlen might prove beneficial to him. It was clear that he knew the forest very well, and he maybe he could even get more information from him.