“That is enough!” shouted Mother. “Jakob! Vinsent! Stop fighting this instant!”
The two brothers sullenly receded from their clinch, neither daring to throw another punch, but casting fierce glares between them.
“He started it!” shouted Vinsent, jabbing his thumb at his older brother.
“I do not care who started it!” said Mother. “We are in a difficult situation as it is and you boys are not making life any easier, so I am going to do something about it!”
At these words, silence fell upon the brothers and their frowns dropped from their faces, the reason for their fight forgotten. Mother had long threatened… had they pushed her too far?
“Tomorrow morning,” said Mother, who had tears welling up in her eyes, “you will leave the camp. Jakob, you will travel to the front of the kārvān, and take up the vanguard alongside your father.” Jakob’s mouth fell open and a protest swelled in his chest, but Mother turned and continued. “Vinsent, you will travel to the rearguard and be with your uncle Quentin. Both of you, pack tonight.”
Both boys leapt forward to protest, but Mother silenced them with a raised palm.
“Do not argue, do not. There is no place for you here in the middle. I have to spend my energy taking care of your sister. You are old enough to look after yourselves, and if you are not, you must learn, and quickly. Pack your things.”
They knew she was right, they knew this moment had been approaching fast, and now it was here. They packed. She cried.
In the morning, after hugs and floods of tears from all, the two boys and Mother parted ways. Each had a journey of some distance to complete, in opposite directions. Many days of walking and running lay ahead, travelling past the thousands upon thousands of people, with their tents, pack animals, hopes and fears.
These were their people, once mighty, now nomads. Stretched out into a line, one expedition, stretching far across the landscape: the kārvān. Behind this exodus of survivors lay a burning city and salted soil. Ahead, the unknown.
To be continued…