When a queen ascends the throne she will choose some apprentices from the ages of three to six to train as potential heirs. Her own daughters may be chosen if they are of the right age for the first five years after her ascension. Heirs-in-training keep their hair long. At the age of eight, if they are willing to accept the responsibility of being an heir they commit to not cut their hair until the next queen ascends. They will never have hair shorter than the queen’s. If they choose not to continue as an heir they will choose another job to train for and ceremonially cut their hair.
When a queen feels that it is the right time, usually before the age of 50, they step down from active duty and choose their favorite apprentice to succeed them. When the heir ascends her hair is cut off at the shoulder to replace the weight of childhood and being an heir with the weight of being Queen (a heavy crown and staff). The queen stepping down joins the Council of Queens to advise the ruling queen. The ruling queen is referred to as the High Queen.
If a High Queen dies before she decides an heir to succeed her, the Council of Queens will choose which of her heirs will ascend: If they are all too young to ascend, one of the former High Queen’s Sister Heirs (the heirs she was trained alongside) will be chosen to fill in High Queen’s duties until the apprentices are old enough and one is chosen to ascend. The youngest an heir can ascend is 15.
Typically a High Queen will choose three to four heirs to train, but there have been as many as ten heirs chosen at one time. Heirs are treated as high royalty even if they never ascend. Heirs growing up and training together often form a strong sisterly bond. When one ascends the others are always by her side serving as friends, advisors, and protectors. Betrayal from an heir is very rare and is regarded as the highest crime possible.