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Queen Celeste had donned the Old Armor. Two score nights ago, after her successor daughter was dead and her scion granddaughter missing, she’d begun adding the armor, one piece at a time, over the plain grey shift. She now wore all the heritage pieces, each made with some of the original metal worn by the entire Magus line – rulers of the Pan-Galactic Imperium.

The smoothly clacking kilt of plates shone from her lap beneath the desk before her. The granular deckle edge of document paper slid beneath her fingerpads as she waved them across the horizontal announcement of a founding charter. A new library in the capital, with an archaeological catalog including items previously unreleased or unorganized. It would be a public-entry portion of the Imperial Grounds. The perimeter would change in that spot, but the style transition would be graceful.

Against the rounded upper curve of her office wall, two timelines and three pictures were displayed. Swiping her hand in the air, she’d cycle and rearrange items while assessing proposals. The sun would be setting soon.

At the first hint of the sky turning, Celeste began to put away her work. She collapsed page images into the 3D model. She contacted the responsible executives and the construction company. She signed it in.

The age of stone. There was a philosopher who discussed generational ages long ago, in terms of the longevity of their works of intention, as analogized with building materials afforded to each. The age of paper spanned decades. The age of wood spanned centuries. The age of stone spanned millennia. Daughter, mother, grandmother. Fathers and grandfathers. Celeste was in her age of stone. She thought through the consequences of her actions beyond a thousand years, what the future looks like when there are generations to follow. Stone agers laid those careful and heavy foundations.

Who amidst the ages was thinking to this year? Around a thousand years ago, the Magus line was just beginning on Alisandre with Marialain, dragon speaker. Now the worlds were full of dragon speakers, but she was the first to speak so well to them that they decided to collaborate with humanity in creating interstellar civilization: that which Celeste’s own hands now steered.

Celeste, Magus the 24th of the Pan-Galactic Imperium, called in tea and a plate of madeleine cookies. It arrived while she was putting her work away, tidy, as though anyone might come in and use her desk. Thinking of the stones she has laid. Would they crumble, like the stone in her dream? Would light shine out of them?

She spilled her glass of cold herb infusion onto the cleared desk. That elixir tasted so good, she hated to waste it. Perhaps it was her age or her illness that made it taste so fine. In the next moment, her head had fallen to lay next to it, and she watched the liquid approach her lips, all by itself. Celeste hadn’t been told it would feel like this, but she might be dying. So much yet unknown.

The sound of her last breaths grew longer, and vision turned dim. She became the growing shadow, but against it was a light. This opposition was the greatest of hopes, and in a final glimpse it overtook everything.

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