Kay has a long, unpronounceable name stemming from his mother’s ancestry. She came to Orlean when she was five years old from the sands and their tribes across the sea, and later named her only son after a grandfather far away.
We have always called him ‘Kay’. He always insisted on it, laughing when he attempted to speak his full name. After my brother, this man has ever been there for me. As I have for him.
We meet and embrace, slapping backs and laughing. “You made it.”
“Hit and miss, brother,” he laughs as he shoves long dark hair from his face. “Many tried to stop us, but eventually I paid the town criers to announce the march and invite all who wished to walk with us to do so at a given time.” He slaps his thighs in appreciation. “Set the falcon among the rats, I did!”
Kay’s irrepressible good humour is a balm I have missed. “How many?”
He looks behind him at a dark mass of people. “I reckon around fifty thousand.”
I whistle. “Well done.”
“There is another column about two hours behind us, from Cassis. Manuel leads, and from their dust, we can expect about the same soon.”
Again I whistle. We certainly have enough hands and minds for our new society.
“How many from the plateau?” Kay asks.
“Twenty thousand. Population wise, they were sparser than we thought.”
“You mean we could have overrun them years ago?” Kay doubles over in laughter upon seeing my face. “Joke, brother!” He straightens when Damin approaches.
“Damin Mur, our leader,” I say. “Damin, meet Kay Longstone.”
The two men grip hands, each studying the other carefully. “Marsh Devil, huh?” Kay then goads.
Damin smiles. “They call you the Pennant.”
“How do you know?” I demand.
Damin glances at me. “You are not the only one with secrets.”