“The king is dead. Long live the king!”

Loud voices rose from the streets and went up to the royal apartments in the tallest castle tower.

Inside the tower, amongst the heavy tapestries and fine furniture, all was still. Oil lamps cast a soft light in the room and reflected on the shiny armors of the guards.

Four pages stood still around the bed, and the queen mother sat next to the canopy, her face pale and solemn.

On the ground, in the shadow cast by the bed, knelt a young man and a young woman. The girl rested her head on her brother’s shoulder, and they both looked down.

Two hounds sat with their muzzles laying on the knees of the young men and looked up to their masters with a worried look.

At the center of the room, in the canopy, laid the motionless body of the king. His eyes were closed, and his calm features could suggest sleep, were it not for his pale and hollow cheeks. His hair and long silvery beard had been braided and treated with scented oil.

The king had died in his sleep, his body consumed by a long illness, while his mind was still active and clear.

His family knew he was dying, but this did not make it any less painful for them, and they were in mourning.

“The king is dead. Long live the king!”

The marches and choirs were a way for the citizens to celebrate both the old king and the new king. To the royal family they felt like a cruel litany.

So much that the Queen Mother wanted to close all the windows, seal the castle, and keep it away from the world.

Instead, she steeled herself, got up, and walked to her two children. She hugged them, then held out her hands for her eldest son. She knew this was the last time she could afford to be affectionate to her son: he was the king now, and she would have to show deference.

The young man stood up, raised his hand to stop the servants who were rushing to him, and put the crown on his head. He walked to the balcony, watching the crowd despite the light blinding his eyes.

He kept his chin up and saluted.

“The king is dead. Long live the king!”