Calden had calmed down later, long before she would have fallen asleep he had already seized sobbing, though would still request her to keep on with her soothing; his voice still fumbled as he asked so. In the night, there was the gentle rhythm of Astrid's breath that he had grown familiar with and the soft crackling of the magical flame, but something was missing. It's difficult to find just that one detail you've began to take for granted when it suddenly disappears and the eerie sensation of wrongness gripped at him until in the end it dawned him: the nightmare monkeys were gone?!
In the morning, he didn't hesitate or wait to inform Astrid almost as soon as she woke up. "Those monkeys. Astrid, I didn't hear a single one in the night. Usually, after you've slept they've come and kept howling from a distance but now... OOooh..." He peered around curiously from her shoulder. Also simply gawking at the trees and the strange scriptures carved onto them. He hadn't seen such things before, not exactly, but they were familiar, maybe? The village elders also used runes, but those were different and he had never learned any.
"No... I've- I've no idea..." No idea of what they meant, no. How could such things just appear from thin air. He could see faint magic lingering on the runes. It was not strong in volume and almost invisible in the brightness of the morning light, but he had no doubts of the power of the spell behind them. That was a thought he left unsaid for now Astrid grabbed his attention back to the present, back to July. "Oh! Yes! No... aww. No, maybe the fire kept her safe? Agh." He had doubted the old lady, but now, after his own despair had been eased and put away Calden could only recall the gentle tone and mannerism of the woman. The thought of her getting cornered by those things did not make an image that he dared to even fathom.
His heart was kept in suspense until they made it to that old, now abandoned, campsite. He could only peer around curiously. Astrid voiced her own guesses as he was about to make his own and instead he simply found himself agreeing. He was glad to have been right, well partially anyway and to be fair this was better than what he had thought when he claimed that July was some evil creature. "Well... maybe I was wrong too. I mean I thought she was somehow evil, but she did bully you. Hehe I'm kind of really glad she wasn't. I mean if she did draw these, or whatever it was that looked like July." He decided that next time they'd meet he would greet her too, and Calden was quite confident that even if that - whatever it was - changed its form he would recognize that strange aura anywhere.
He jumped right at her idea of trying out the runes. "Yes. It's not that big a shape, and the magic I see in it is... well it's not that strange or too big. I'm sure you can do it. Heh, you came up with flame on the spot!"
His cheers were so happy when it worked, the exact opposite of last night. He chatted happily that night, only quieting when Astrid finally stopped responding. But it was not the fearful solitude that he had in store. Even without her comments and reactions the night was beautiful enough to keep his head straight and away from darker thoughts. Calden just wondered at the forest creatures of the night and was glad to get to observe them, he began trying to figure out their habits, keeping notes of the little details; something he wanted to prepare so he had things that she might want to hear. It was the closest to a dream he had had in many nights. On the following nights he would still sometimes ask her to remind him of human touch, but Calden became noticeably happier, chattier. He no longer had to spend the nights alone with only the sound of her breath reminding him that there were others in the world than him and those horrid creatures. No, the last memories of that forest were ones he would cherish.
He beheld that distant valley town quietly from her shoulder, but the excitement and anticipation were obvious even in his whisper. "Aaaah. Finally!" He too looked forward to seeing others. Afterall, they had never been outside of the village in their lives. Cities were a thing of stories told by older people who had seen the world and traveled just as much as forest lions and nightly creatures of the woods had been. A lot of wild legends began mixing in inside Calden's imagination. Would they be all witches and sorcerers too? Would the people even look human? What could they be then? Trolls, dragons? What were those big rising smokes? Could it be like the pyres of midsummer back home? Maybe they were having a festival. Most of the sillier ones he kept to himself.
The boy's thoughts were in another realm altogether until Astrid voiced her worries. It triggered those of his own, but his voice remained calm and determined as he gave his own opinion on the matter. "Hmm... I think so. I mean people who live in that big a city must be friendly, right? They couldn't be able to stand so many neighbors otherwise. I mean there's soo much space in the valley, if they weren't good folk they would spread out don't you think? But... yes, maybe it's best you hide me. I mean even the forest lion thought I was something bad, and they're friendly things, much more so than most humans at least if the elders' stories are true. Don't worry, I'll keep an eye out for magic! I can see it through the clothes. I'll whisper you if I spot something strange. The money um..."
He had forgotten there was such a thing. They had never used it in the village and he hadn't cared about that particular story too much. Pieces of shiny metal having value? Silly idea, but now that word - money - raised mysterious doubts. He too could vaguely recall how it was everything to people outside and that without it one was worthless. Even if people liked their neighbors here, Astrid wasn't one. Maybe they wouldn't help her? She was sharp and good at magic, now maybe even better than he or the other kids had ever been, but what good would that do? Maybe everyone here was like July.
Calden tried to sound convincing as he reassured her, "It'll be alright, I'm sure. We can always go away if they don't want us there, right? Forest isn't so bad nowdays, though maybe next we should go up there," his eye looked up at the mountain range on the other side. It had looked big from the edge of the forest, but from down there in the flatlands through which they were making good pace they seemed absolutely gigantic. He was captivated by their majesty, Calden had always loved high places. "Or, maybe that way?" He looked to their side, to the direction in which the valley opened up into distance where low hills, rivers and small puffs of forest made a continuous horizon of a more gentle looking landscape. "It'll be okay even if they turn us down."