recall things better than people. The village looked so much smaller than he remembered. One of the supply men elbowed his companion and pointed to another trail, a white scar in the rocks of the hills farther west and north. "He fell where the path takes a sharp turn and skirts the Cliff of the Hyenas. Broke his neck. You can still see the blood on the rocks at the foot of the cliff." Suddenly alert, Kysen spoke up. "Someone fell from a cliff?" "Yes, master." It was the owner of the donkeys who answered. "A quarryman. Last week. It happens sometimes, may the revered Osiris protect us. A man grows careless after years of climbing these hills. He missteps, puts his foot on a loose rock too near the edge." The man slapped his palms together. "Smashes onto a valley floor and breaks like a melon." "Ah yes. I heard in the dock market that a quarryman was killed. Was anyone with him?" "No, master, else they would have told the fool not to go so near the edge." Kysen heard the disguised contempt in the man's voice. It was obvious he was considered one of the soft, pampered city officials who knew little of real work. No doubt the whole village would take the same attitude. Many of those who worked in the vast royal and temple bureaucracies were corrupt. Scandals often arose about functionaries who took bribes and cheated honest folk. A few had ended up on Meren's list of murder victims in the office at home. Refraining from comment, Kysen accompanied the grain supplies down to the village. He dropped back behind the last man as they approached the village temples, small replicas of the great stone structures on the east bank. He glanced at the hillsides to his right and left. Pierced with tomb shafts, they contained the resting places of the artisans' ancestors, his ancestors. To the southwest he could just make out the white-painted chapel that stood before the tomb of his family. Laughter distracted him. A group of people emerged from the shadows of the main street. This road was so narrow one could touch the houses on either side of it. At the head of the crowd walked a man. He stepped past the gate in the wall, talking rapidly all the while. The two women who flanked him burst into renewed mirth while the man lapsed into a silent smile.
Kysen noted the scribe's kit dangling from his right hand, the roll of papyrus in his left. This was Thesh, scribe of the Great Place. Scribe—one of the most noble of all professions. Scribe—the profession that opened its arms to any boy, peasant or noble, who possessed a heart clever enough to memorize over seven hundred hieroglyphs, their corresponding cursive script, and their use. Kysen himself could read and write. He wasn't fool enough to think the ability made him a scribe, for scribes managed accounts, commanded laborers, surveyed an entire kingdom, preserved the sacred texts of the gods. As a scribe, Thesh would handle matters of law and religion, economy and labor. Thesh and his train of followers reached the long, open pavilion in front of the village entrance. The scribe called a greeting to the supply men before seating himself on a reed mat. The women gathered behind him while the grain was unloaded and set before Thesh. Kysen remained behind a donkey, watching. As scribe, Thesh equaled in importance the two foremen of the artisans, and was probably the most influential man in the village. He would have dealt with Hormin. Having unstrung his scribe's kit from its knotted cord, Thesh was instructing a boy in the mixing of ink as the last of the grain was unloaded. Now that the supply men had stopped moving about, several of the women noticed him and gave him curious looks. Kysen held back. Thesh looked up from the papyrus he'd been studying, and his gaze fastened on Kysen at once. He expected to be beckoned peremptorily to stand before the scribe. Instead, Thesh allowed the papyrus to snap