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The room server found Celeste when she returned for the tea tray – Magus the 24th, slumped over her desk as though arrow-struck from behind. The server contacted emergency, who contacted the family. Before anyone moved her, the King Ascendant arrived, then Mireille with Cristobal and Carlo. So, they were able to witness the death scene.

The dead Queen’s family sat in the room with her, and talked immediately about the succession. From the small plate of madeleines, Mireille took a cookie, Carlo took a cookie, Cristobal took a cookie, and Mireille put one extra into a pocket. Vario did not take a cookie. Soleil, the Princess Ascendant, was still missing – yet even if she were there, she wasn’t the rulership age of thirty. There was no Queen Ascendant now. The children looked at their father. “Does this mean you’ll be King?” asked the next-oldest daughter.

“Yes,” replied Grant Vario, “but only for a little while, until the Scion is ready of age.” He looked into the eyes of Mireille, eldest child present, next-oldest daughter.

They emerged from the room after their personal grieving. Grant Vario signed the succession document held in front of him, and the arrangements began.

The Teachings took place over a full week. In the Teachings, traditional to the Magus, the works of the previous monarch were biographically presented so that all who survived her could assess what to carry forward in her memory. At the end of these, King Proxem Vario delivered an address.

“Though tragedy and confusion have brought me to this position, with your help I will make better of it. We are more than equal to the demands of these times. We need look no further than our own resolution to move beyond our troubles. I mourn as you do, perhaps more grievously, but I hold firmly to hope that things will be set to rights. The Pan-Galactic Imperium can stay steady, secure, and strong – as it has remained with Magus rule.

Many generations throughout the span of the Imperium have seen greater strife than what we now endure. To all who have lost homes and loved ones in the disasters on Genesee; to the Aquarii still suffering from the destruction of the Symbias trees, and people separated from loved ones due to travel restrictions; to those who struggled to survive the biological warfare of a criminal who has escaped justice yet again; to those who lost relations in the Photuris Attack, which freed the Imperium’s deadliest enemies and took the Queen Ascendant, my wife Charlotte; to those who await the return of our beloved Scion Princess, Soleil; I say that you can place your trust in me, Grant Vario, as King Proxem.

I will of course steward the best of futures to pass to my Ascendant child, and so will every one of you receive it. The Pan-Galactic Imperium is my heart and soul and family. To me, it is all. That our peoples should flourish, that we should rise to greater expanses and grasp the glories we seek, to this my life is already dedicated.”

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