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I tried to find a date for the song, but could only find that it is traditional. I hope that means it was known in the late 19th century!



Chapter Forty-Five


The ruined city, 1880


Nagi hid a smile behind one grimy hand as Schuldig gaily sang while examining their latest finds with deep concentration, his voice cracking on the higher notes.

"Du, du liegst mir im Herzen, Du, du liegst mir im Sinn," carolled Schuldig as all the others winced. He picked up a heavy gold ring, trying it on each of his fingers in turn. "Du, du machst mir viel Schmerzen --"

"No, you cause us pain," muttered Farfarello. "Crawford, cannot you make him stop?"

"Weißt nicht wie gut ich dir bin," chirped Schuldig, singing faster as if he felt it needful to reach the end of the verse before Crawford could beseech him to be silent.

"Are you going to stop any time soon?" said Crawford, clearly trying to hide his amusement.

"Ja, ja, ja, ja," sang Schuldig, laughing, and with a flourish finished, "Weißt nicht wie gut ich dir bin! So true, Crawford. You do not appreciate me in the slightest."

"It's true I have my doubts about the wisdom of your career as an operatic soprano," said Crawford.

"A soprano?" cried Schuldig. "I am a baritone!"

"Pah!" ejaculated Farfarello. "You should make your mind up, you tried to hit almost every note on the scale."

"It's true I have a broad range," said Schuldig modestly.

"I did not say you succeeded," said Farfarello. "Look. You have scared Nagi, and Micah may choke, he is trying so hard not to laugh."

"I'm not scared!" cried Nagi quickly, as Micah stuttered, "I'm not laughing," and spoiled his claim with a helpless guffaw.

"Must you make us remember Herr Zahn?" grumbled Farfarello as it seemed likely that Schuldig was merely recovering his breath in order to sing once more.

"He was the music master in the Schloß," explained Crawford as Micah looked at him in surprise. "As it was not known in what situations we might find ourselves in later years, a wide range of skills were taught us. Nothing could induce the man to be silent, once he had started on his favourite theme of how music was the noblest calling on which a man could embark, and that proficiency in it was the mark of a true gentleman."

"We too had such lessons, though enough merely to teach us to read music and remain reasonably in tune," said Micah. "Why,I think it must have been the same instructor, for I am sure he was introduced to us as a Herr Zahn! A small, elderly man?"

"Yes," said Farfarello. "At least a hundred years old, it seemed to me. With an ebony walking cane with which he would beat out the time for us to keep -- and beat the students too!"

"You - thwack - will - thwack - learn - thwack - to - thwack - keep - thwack - the - thwack - beat!" cried Schuldig in an affected falsetto voice, miming the action of striking a cowering form before him. "Why am I given such donkeys and monkeys to torture the ears of the divine Euterpe and Melpomene with their braying and chattering?" He smiled modestly, continuing, "Not that he ever beat me, for he said I sang like an angel. No offense, Farfarello!"

"A fallen one, I assure you," muttered Farfarello as Micah grinned and said, "What tragedy happened to rob you of your skill, Schuldig?"

Schuldig put a slender hand to his forehead, swaying as if the shock of such criticism would fell him and steadfastly ignoring the laughter of the others. Nagi pressed his hands against his mouth to stop his giggles, for he felt it unkind to mock Schuldig's performance, though he well knew the young man was enjoying the attention and wished to make his friends laugh.

"Little Schuldig grew too old," said Farfarello with an evil smile. "I am sure Herr Zahn proposed some desperate measures," he continued, miming with his fingers the action of a scissors.

"Crawford," said Schuldig with the sweetest of smiles, "my singing is delightful, is it not? I am sure you will not fail me, my friend!"

"It's no worse now that when I first knew you," said Crawford, a little grin playing about his mouth. "You have maintained the same standard admirably."

"Philistines," said Schuldig without heat. "None of you understand culture. Nagi, mein Herz, come with me." So saying he walked from the chamber in which they had stored the smaller items they had found in the temple.

"He is in a good humour," said Micah cheerfully.

"Yes," said Crawford with complacence. "This is how he should be, gay and carefree. Go on, Nagi, Schuldig wants you."

Nagi ran after Schuldig, finding the young German standing in full sunlight, rapt in contemplation of a great statue of a native grandee of the ancient past, running his fingers over one massive stone ankle.

"Are you going to sing again?" asked Nagi.

"Before such a small audience?" murmured Schuldig absently. "And you didn't find it too appalling -- I prefer to annoy people when I sing. Can you move this?"

"Probably," said Nagi. "Why?"

"Because, little pest, I want to see if anything is under it."

"I'm not a little pest," muttered Nagi, frowning at the statue. "Does it matter if I break it?" he asked in a voice tight with concentration. "Pushing it over would be easiest."

"Best not to break it," said Schuldig. "Crawford might cry."

"Crawford doesn't cry!" said Nagi in outrage, the statue wobbling dangerously as he took his mind from it.

"Careful! Nagi, come now," said Schuldig, snatching him back. "You know we all tease each other, it means nothing. Do you think I'd really insult Crawford?" He smiled ruefully as thoughts of all the times Nagi had seen him do just such a thing rose unbidden to the lad's mind. "Well, do you think I'd mean it for more than a moment of heat, when we are such great friends? Come along, it is foolishness on my part to think there could be something hidden there. The statue is far too heavy to be moved without such a clever boy as you to do it." So saying he seized Nagi's hand and tugged the boy along after him.

"Schuldig," said Nagi, happy to accompany his friend, but a little surprised at his manner, "Is everything all right?"

"Yes, yes, of course," said Schuldig, taking out a notebook and consulting the calculations and sketches therein, "Why do you ask? Do you think I seem a little queer this morning?"

"No," said Nagi doubtfully.

"This wall," said Schuldig, pointing. "There is something wrong about this wall. I'm sure there is something behind it - Crawford and I were puzzling over the plans last night after you fell asleep. You may most certainly break it, it's quite plain." He smiled wickedly, adding, "Crawford will hardly cry at all."

Nagi concentrated, staring at the wall. It felt very solid, but he was sure he could break it down if he tried hard enough. He could feel perspiration upon his brow, not only from the great heat of the sun as it climbed higher in the sky, but also from his efforts. At last, when he felt sure he would have to disappoint Schuldig and say he was unable to succeed, he felt one of the stones in the wall shift and forced all his attention on the tiny gap now opening. All at once, and with a tremendous noise, the heavy stones moved, and ground together protestingly, some of the smaller of their number shooting outwards so that Schuldig seized Nagi round the middle and threw them both down flat on the ground.

"You are very heavy," said Nagi in a muffled little voice, feeling quite unable to breathe with Schuldig's arms wrapped about his head.

"I am a feather," laughed Schuldig, clambering off him. "A little warning would have been nice, Nagi!"

Nagi brushed his clothing free of sand, grumbling softly to himself. Schuldig had wanted the wall down, had he not? And now it was down indeed. He grumbled some more as Schuldig ruffled his hair, sending clouds of sand into the air abut his face.

"Thank you, Nagi," said Schuldig cheerfully. "I know well how much we need you, don't feel unappreciated. Here now," he continued, "are you all right? Here, have some water - you are looking very hot and tired."

"It's a heavier wall than I thought at first," said Nagi, eagerly drinking. "Let's see what's on the other side!"

"Not so fast!" said Schuldig, grabbing his arm as he rushed forward. "It looks like a sizeable place." He peered through the swirls of dust still billowing in the air from the masonry's fall. "Gold! Come on! No, wait," he said, changing his mind again. "There could be traps."

"We can set them off," said Nagi, tugging at his arm.

"That," said Schuldig "is what I am worried about."

"Schuldig!" cried Nagi. "Micah's right, you are too changeable!"

"Oh, he says that, does he?" muttered Schuldig. "Let's go." So saying he strode forward, Nagi a half-step behind. "Stay behind me," said Schuldig. "I don't want some curse falling upon you."

"Don't be silly," said Nagi eagerly. "Crawford says such beliefs are ridiculous."

"You won't be saying that when you die of a hideous wasting disease," laughed Schuldig. "Careful! That stone looks ready to fall!"

"I won't let it," said Nagi. "You are quite safe with me, Schuldig."

"Such cheek! Ah!" ejaculated Schuldig, a fit of coughing overcoming him as they stepped beyond the circle of daylight that encroached upon the dimness within. "Be damned to all this dust!" He waved a hand in front of his face, his voice sounding clearly within Nagi's mind to continue, "Let us not rely on speech, it will be more comfortable like this. I have a candle somewhere --" He searched the stub of a candle out of his pocket, and Nagi eagerly took out a box of matches, striking one against the nearest stone and lighting the wick that Schuldig had smoothed out. He looked eagerly around as Schuldig held the candle up, and a soft, faint light suffused the darker area in which they found themselves. Nagi's eyes widened as he took in large items of gold and he felt very glad that he - though he graciously thought he would allow Schuldig some small part in the endeavour - had discovered precious idols for Crawford at last.

"Is it a tomb?" he cried aloud, spying a massive sarcophagus of stone, and coughing then from the disturbed dust.

"I hope so," said Schuldig's voice in his mind. "I am very fond of hidden tombs filled with treasures." He opened a box made of stone carved as thin as the finest porcelain and whistled, taking from it an elaborate necklace of wide, flat golden beads. "How charming you look!" he thought, putting it carefully about Nagi's neck.

"Bah! Stop!" thought Nagi. "I'm not some girl!" He fumbled in irritation with the gleaming thing, finally getting it off. Even the wire upon which the beads were strung, he saw, was golden.

"We will cover you in gold from head to toe, so that all anyone will see of you will be your eyes," thought Schuldig gaily, "and we will introduce you to society as a delicate princess from a foreign land."

Nagi snorted an uncouth laugh, peering further into the chamber, drawing back then in shock. "Ah!" he ejaculated. "Look!" He took as deep a breath as he might, given the dust-laden air and tried not to look as if he had been overly alarmed as Schuldig quickly stepped before him, then turned back to favour him with a relieved smile.

"This fellow won't bother you," said Schuldig aloud, going to squat beside the body huddled by the side of the sarcophagus. "See?" he went on in thought alone, "he is quite dried out, his skin is preserved like leather! I wonder if he is some hapless thief walled up with his objects of desire for all eternity, or if he has been here from the start, a faithful servant?" Leaving the body, he stepped delicately over heaped wooden items that seemed set to crumble to dust should they be so much as breathed upon, and exclaimed, "Ach! Another!" He crouched down again, his face alight with interest. "Komm, Nagi, they can't hurt you."

Nagi came forward hesitantly, unsure that he wanted to see anyone dead and so horrid in appearance as the half-glimpsed Martian that had first startled him. As Schuldig smiled at him kindly, however, he told himself he must not be such a great baby, and took a firm step up to the young German. "What was he doing?" he said, looking in fascination at the way in which the dead hands reached for the wall.

"His fingernails are all broken," said Schuldig, lifting one light, desiccated hand. "He has been scratching at the wall -- see this thin line in the stones! This was the door that was walled up! He was trying to get out." He turned the head, face set in an anguished grimace and nodded, pursing his lips at the sight of the dented skull. "Someone took care he would stay here. No doubt he came to enough to know he was being walled in and tried to scratch at the stone to vainly seek his freedom."

"Was he in a lot of pain?" asked Nagi, staring closer at the twisted features.

"It would not have been the quickest of deaths," said Schuldig, off-hand. He went back to the first body, examining it with care. "This fellow is more peaceful, as if he went to sleep and did not wake up. The builders misjudged a poison draught with the other one, perhaps, and sent him to his gods in another way."

"They are dressed alike," said Nagi, taking heart from the sensible, matter-of-fact way in which Schuldig dealt with their dead companions. "And they both have such long plaits! Are they girls?"

"Let's see," said Schuldig, carefully lifting the skirt of the tunic in which the more peaceful of the bodies was clad. "No," he said, raising an eyebrow. "This one at least is not a girl, though he's not much of a man either." He rose to his feet, brushing the dust from his hands. "Dressed alike," he muttered, "Their hair arranged in the same way -- priests, perhaps, to offer their services in Heaven? Favoured servants accompanying their master in death? Either way," he went on, turning to the sarcophagus with an avid light in his eyes, "you, my friend, are someone important. What do you have in there with you, I wonder?"

"Oh, let us open it at once!" cried Nagi happily. "Schuldig, do say we may! I can open it easily, I'm sure of it!"

"Yes," said Schuldig, "I want to open it at once too! But think of our friends," he said. "Crawford would want to be here when it is opened, don't you think?"

"I suppose so," sighed Nagi.

Schuldig laughed at his downcast little face, and shook him lightly, saying in a sepulchral voice, "I do not want you gobbled up by the monster that lurks within that coffin! We shall seek reinforcements!"

"You are being silly again," chided Nagi. "Monsters are figments of the weak-willed imagination."

"Oh?" said Schuldig. "It must have been some other boy that crept into my bed that night, thinking there were horrors lurking in the dark!"

"Humph," said Nagi. "That was different. Let's find Crawford." He marched off, ignoring the soft laughter from behind him, relenting only when Schuldig's arm came about his shoulders. "I hope he'll be pleased," he said as they approached the others.

"Oh, he'll be pleased," said Schuldig cheerfully. "Crawford!" he cried, making their friends look up from their tasks. "Nagi and I have been hard at work and everything we found belongs to us alone!"

"I see you've been out in the sun for too long," said Crawford in dry amusement. "What have you been doing?"

"We found a tomb!" yelled Nagi, unable to contain himself. "With bodies! And treasure, Crawford! Lots of treasure!" He blushed as everyone laughed at his excitement, but was cheered when Crawford squeezed his shoulder in encouragement.

"Tell me the story from the beginning, Nagi," he said. "There's no need to shout, I'll listen, I promise!"

Nagi told him everything he and Schuldig had done, tripping over his words in his eagerness to impress upon Crawford the excitement and wonder he had felt in the tomb, and stressing clearly that he had not been in the slightest bit scared at any point.

"Good work," said Crawford, making Nagi feel light with pleasure. "Schuldig, what were your impressions?"

"All very Egyptian," said Schuldig with a broad grin. "Well, reminiscent of that land, in any case."

"Even better," said Crawford, seizing up his notebooks and a pickaxe. "Who knows what else we may find?"

"That had better not be destined to end up in my hands," said Schuldig, looking meaningfully at Crawford's tool.

"I shall handle it myself for the time being," grinned Crawford, his wide smile making him seem the young man he in truth was.

"You always say that, yet somehow I always end up doing all the work," grumbled Schuldig, the laughter under his voice serving to show he did not mean it in the slightest. He clapped Crawford on the back and ushered him along, chattering to him in rapid German as they went.

"You are quite the little archaeologist, Nagi," said Micah with a friendly smile for the lad.

"Schuldig and Crawford had worked out where something should be," said Nagi. "I just helped him get at it."

"Such a modest lad," said Micah, ruffling up Nagi's dusty hair. "Do not sell your talents short, lad. You are a valuable asset to your friends."

"He's a friend to us," said Farfarello softly. "Come along, Nagi."

"Of course he is your friend," said Micah with an easy shrug. "A good and useful friend to have, are you not, Nagi?"

Nagi looked down shyly, pleased to have praise from all sides, and pleased too when Farfarello briefly took his elbow in a light squeezing grasp, for although the Irish youth did not speak much, it was plain to Nagi that he considered them all his bosom companions.

"Schuldig and Crawford will have opened the sarcophagus without us!" exclaimed Nagi, the fear that Schuldig would be unable to restrain his excitement suddenly washing over him. Ignoring Micah's cry that, "They will have scarcely arrived there yet!" he ran back out into the harsh sunlight. It was with great relief that he found his friends engaged in quiet conversation and examination of the bodies that lay upon the floor. "Oh, I'm glad you waited till I came!" he said.

"We could not do it without you," said Schuldig with a smile. "Did you run across here without your hat?"

"Your brains will cook and you will be left fit only for honest work," warned Crawford. "Ah, here are the others," he went on as the others arrived at a more leisurely pace, Micah bearing with him Nagi's abandoned hat. "Now," said Crawford, looking eagerly about him, let us get to work! First, we must make careful note of everything within the tomb and its position." He shook his head at the groans that rose up and handed round notebooks and pencils. "The sooner we finish, gentlemen, the sooner we can open our prize." A hot and work-filled time later, he allowed them to gather around the sarcophagus, having first moved all the goods and the body away from its vicinity.

"We should put those chairs back together and have a proper rest," said Schuldig, nodding at the gilded frames Nagi had carefully moved to the furthest side of the chamber.

"Even if they were not so frail with age I am sure they were not built to withstand the weight of bulky human men," said Crawford, "The natives are so much lighter than us, comparatively speaking. Now, Nagi and you others, let us open this and see who lies within. Nagi, I want you to be ready to set the lid down as gently as you may."

"Help us, but do not make it obvious," thought Schuldig to Nagi. "Even though he is now our friend, there is no need to show Micah everything of which you are capable."

Without further ado they all bent to the task, the young men shifting the lid slowly and carefully, with Nagi's stealthy aid, while Nagi himself stood by to see that it was not damaged and to ensure it was not dropped causing injury to anyone. Inch by inch the stone moved until it could be slid and lifted with Nagi's abilities to rest on the floor beside the sarcophagus. Crawford at once climbed up and peered in, holding up a lamp to see what lay within. Without waiting for permission, nor with any thought that Schuldig might have wished to be the one to be Crawford's side, Nagi scrambled up the lid and stared avidly down at what had been revealed. Within a figure lay, thin and dry, its withered skin darkened by the passage of long years past the natural colouration of the natives. Its hair was elaborately dressed and studded with golden hairpins and the robes in which it was clad were ornate, the skirts covered over every inch with rich embroidery. A wide pectoral of gold and precious stones was arranged on its sunken chest, and on the stern and drawn face could still be seen the traces of bright paint, no doubt intended by the undertakers to give at least the barest illusion of vitality to those lifeless, dry cheeks. Heavy bracelets of gold and silver encircled each wrist, while links of gold from which were suspended many tiny bells lay around the ankles. On each of the figure's twelve stick-like fingers was a ring, and loosely clasped in one of the hands was what seemed to Nagi like a series of little cymbals attached to a carved stick. In the other hand was an item he did not understand.

"He is wearing a lot of jewellery," said Nagi happily, though not without scorn for such unmanly attire.

"Not 'he', Nagi," said Crawford. "This is a woman."

"What would a man need with such unmanned attendants, after all?" said Schuldig, nodding at the two bodies they had previously found.

"She's not very pretty," said Nagi, a little disappointed that if they were to find a princess, as his mind immediately suggested the figure must be, that she were not a beauty they could admire.

"No?" said Crawford, gently taking the mysterious item from the figure's grasp and holding it up to show it seemed to be a plaque bearing upon it the native writing and a moveable image of the sun, whose rays pointed to different characters as he gently pushed at it with a careful finger. "What do you think, Schuldig?"

Schuldig whooped with delight in seeing the golden handful. "I think," he cried, "that even without seeing her, I may say she is the loveliest woman on all of Mars!"

"Yes," breathed Crawford in triumph, moving the delicate rays slowly and with utmost care. "Thank you, Lady, for giving us the key so easily. All we need do now is find the puzzle it fits and we may leave you in peace once more to sleep away the centuries."

He smiled on them all and Nagi grinned at his suddenly infectious good humour. What the little golden thing was he still did not know, but if it made Crawford so happy it could only be good.
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