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A Decorated Castle

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"Make sure that everything has arrived. I want the main hall secured and decorated, and the feast preparations should already have begun." Elmar spoke crisply, his hands folded behind his back as he looked down over the top of his glasses. "Have the feast preparations begun? Is the hall secured? Secure it first, then begin decorating. No other parts of the interior require decorations, just the main hall."

"Yes, regent." The servant turned and left, rapidly exiting the corridor. Elmar sighed, bringing on hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose. Unfortunately, slip-ups had been made by one of the servants, and half of the Halloween decorations hadn't arrived when they were supposed to. Elmar had had to take charge himself, ordering them and paying extra for express shipment, and they still had barely enough time.

Elmar lowered his hand and turned around. A small figure was peering at him from behind a massive hanging tapestry. "Yes, Your Highness?"

Princess Anastasia stepped out from behind the tapestry, quietly stepping towards Elmar. "Are you busy?" Her voice was quiet. Elmar was very, very busy, and was already late to checking on the feast preparations.

"Do you need help, young princess?" Elmar asked, crouching down to be at eye level with Anastasia. Anastasia shook her head.

"No. I wanted to see all the pretty decorations! And I wanted to make sure you weren't working too hard. Sometimes you work too hard." Anastasia took advantage of Elmar's crouch to climb on his back.

"Agh- Your Highness, I don't think-"

"Can I see the decorations?" Anastasia said eagerly. Elmar reigned in a sigh. This wasn't actually a break from work, after all, caring for the princess was a part of his job, and carrying her around, although she was light, was still physical labor and soon his back would begin to hurt.

"Of course, Your Highness." Elmar stood, lifting Anastasia so until she was riding on his shoulders. "Off we go!" Anastasia giggled with delight as Elmar set a quick pace down the hall. Elmar's brisk pace took them past several working servants, all preparing to close giant metal gates or doors to keep guests out of the rest of the castle during the celebration.

The main hall was splendid. Every suit of armor, statue, and tapestry had been replaced by stunning paintings of creepy scenes, statues of beautiful yet dangerous creatures, and of course, tapestries and statues of the witches. Anastasia reached out a hand to run her fingers over the stitching of a beautiful tapestry featuring the five qualias. Two unbelievably long tables took up the center of the hall, each covered in a black and orange tablecloth and intermittent candles. On the night of Halloween, an immense feast would cover both tables.

"Wow!" Anastasia was staring up at the ceiling, from which paper cutouts of pumpkins, bats, quailas, spiders, and webs made from fabric hung. The childish wonder in her voice brought a smile to Elmar's face.

"Do you want to choose where the paper chains go?" Elmar asked, and Anastasia nodded enthusiastically as Elmar set her down. "All right. Let's go get them." Elmar and Anastasia found the paper chains amidst the wealth of decorations and went about hanging them up, Elmar lifting Anastasia so she could loop the paper chains around poles and statues.

When they had finished, Anastasia had to go to take lessons, and servants had come to ask Elmar more questions about the setup. Elmar bid the princess good day. Elmar quickly answered the questions of the servants, and they continued about their tasks.

"Are you sure you wish to leave the paper chains like this, regent?" Elmar snapped his gaze to the servant, who was eyeing the slightly off kilter decorations. It was the woman in charge of the interior design, who Elmar had been consulting with for this year's celebration.

"Very sure," Elmar replied, his voice curt. "Don't you have some plating issues to attend to?" The woman opened her mouth as if to object, but then closed it and walked off in a huff.

Elmar allowed himself to admire the decorations. They were indeed crooked, clearly shaped by an inexperienced hand. Clearly shaped by a child's hand. Elmar thought of the young princess's smile. These decorations, and the celebration of Halloween would bring smiles to many children just like her.

The paper chains were crooked, askew, tilted and haphazard at points. But every one was perfectly placed. Elmar turned and left the hall. The celebration was soon, and the castle needed to be perfectly imperfect.