Distant shouts echoing throughout the halls woke Anitepsut before dawn. The black dog curled at her side yipped nervously once or twice as Ani blinked awake. Stroking her pet to calm him she sat up, staring wide-eyed into the darkness.
“Death! Blood! O gods, help, help me!” The cries broke off in wordless wailing.
Nimlot? she thought. The kitchen boy? What is he about?
She heard the thud of hurrying footsteps on stone and questioning calls closer at hand as Nimlot’s lamentations from below roused others in Imhotep’s luxurious house.
Moments later, wrapped in a fine robe of nearly sheer linen, Ani joined the press of disheveled sleepy-eyed household members crowding into the kitchen.
The first thing she noticed was Nimlot, flattened against the plastered wall, trembling and biting at the knuckles of his right hand. He was fourteen but husky for his age. Now, however, he was as pale as new linen and looked ready to vomit. His gaze was directed down at something Ani couldn’t see because her view was blocked by earlier arrivals. She stepped forward between two servitors to see what Nimlot was staring at, and gasped. There lay Kebi, the cook, face down on the stone floor, fully dressed. The back of her skull was crushed as if by a heavy blow. Kebi’s arms were thrown up above her head, reaching, her hands clawing at the stone.