Note: I've been doing a major revision on this book, practically a new second draft, and it's taken me a month to rework 120 pages. 240 pages to go . . . gulp. I can do a first draft faster than this!
This new corpse's chest was a mess. It was going to take some skill to fix the crushed ribs and remove the organs where blood had pooled in a dark stain under the skin. The hyenas had probably come down in search of food, which was common at harvest time. The hyenas were probably rabid, too. One of the other bodies waiting in line for Imarus’ embalming knife had died of rabies, another from lung disease, a fourth knifed in a bar-room brawl. Heart attacks, chariot accidents, swamp fevers—Imarus saw it all.
He stared at the sun-browned skin, the long hair a sweaty tangle of black strands. Strangely, a fistful of grass and seeds were still clenched in his fist. Imarus' gut clenched as he loosened the man’s grip. Tiny white flax and crumbles of drying mud fell into Imarus’ palm. The dead man’s fingers involuntarily curled again, and Imarus sucked in his breath, his heart stuttering in his chest. A tiny symbol of the Aten god was tattooed on the lower palm of the man's hand.
He jerked the ragged cloth off the face. Imarus hadn’t recognized the weeping elderly man who had brought the body, but he knew this face. This dead man was Kuni. Kuni.
A flood of memories from the late-night meetings in his father’s shadow-lit study washed over him. Kuni had attended every secret meeting, one of the younger men sitting in the rear, listening but not saying much. He couldn't be more than a few years older than Imarus. Even though a poor farmer, Kuni had been a valuable link between the Aten underground organization and the farmers they were recruiting for the future.
This could be me, Imarus thought, feeling a shiver crawl down his spine.