Kesen was about seven years old when his family was forced to evacuate the Malazan garrison at Orbal in the face of the Seven Cities Rebellion. The column of retreating families and their military escort was struck by an Army of the Apocalypse as it marched south. Kesen's life was spared by the unexpected arrival of Kalam Mekhar, who rescued his family from bandits, then escorted them to safety in Aren.
Kesen asked Kalam to train him to fight, but Kalam replied that he expected "your father has a better life in mind for you, lad. Fighting is for people who fail at everything else."