The walls are all of black polished stone, so thick no sound or light may penetrate. There is only one door, only one way in and one way out: between pillars as tall and gilded as Heaven’s gates. Inside, the vault is suspended by a circle of columns wider than a man’s arms may stretch, their heights lost in shadow. No torches burn in the sconces along the walls to dispel the darkness enough to illuminate the mosaic which patterns the floor. In the center of the circular chamber rests the sarcophagus. It is nothing but a weighty presence in the darkness, but I watched the procession to the mausoleum from afar and glimpsed its gold and silver scroll work, the celestial scenes crusted with glittering gems. Even now the stones seem to wait in the dark, eager for the glowing touch of my torchlight to wake their beauty again.
Yet the extravagance of the tomb pales in awe before its noble inhabitant. I push aside the heavy coffin lid and gaze upon the last king. He is not as I saw him in his final moments, pierced by his own battered armor and drowning in blood like rich wine. No, the filth has been washed from his flesh and his fatal wounds sewn tight with gold thread. He has been dressed in the finest golden robes, silks as light as air and velvets as soft as untouched snow. On every graceful finger sits a ring, each set with a different precious gemstone, and upon his brow rests a golden crown wrought in the shape of the rising Sun. Even his skin, pale and cold as marble in death, glows handsomely with scented oils and his thick hair shines as glossy as ravens’ feathers. But his spirit finds no comfort in perfumed soaps and ruby collars, nor can the gold dust on his lips lessen the grief which rends his face. This finery binds him to the harsh world of men as tightly as does his sealed crypt. He is not meant for condemnation below the earth. He does not deserve to rot in darkness. How may he ever ascend beyond this prison when even starlight cannot breach his tomb? How may he ever know peace in this private hell when even the wind cannot kiss his lifeless flesh? He was the King of Light, the Master of the Sky, the radiant Lord Sun himself. How could they bury him inside cold, dead stone? They know not their own blasphemy; it is up to me to make amends.
I lift him from his bed of silk and stone and carry him out the great pillars of the mausoleum. Out on the open earth, beneath the clear night sky and its field of silver stars, I have built him a proper pyre. The interwoven oak and ash branches which form his pedestal were nourished by the Sun, and now their many fingered arms will lift him back to his true kingdom. I have no flowered water with which to anoint him, only plain lamp oil to wet his skin and slick down his sable tresses. I remove the weighty charms and jewels, the multitude of velvets and silk ribbons. What use are such frivolous mortal baubles to one so glorious, so transcendent? He is of the dawn and the dusk, the spring and the summer, and so he should return to his vaulted kingdom. I touch the burning torch to the base of the pyre; the fire leaps to the oiled wood and spreads with a hungry crackle. The inferno welcomes him back as the Lord of Flame, relieving him at long last of the burden of mortal flesh. It returns him as weightless ash to the waiting sky, and thus he transcends. I have given him his pyre. Now it is for the winter to mourn him and the spring to witness his resurrection.