THOUGH THE LACK OF ACCESS TO HOLLOWAY DISAPPOINTED MANY OF THE CHILDREN, APPROACHING YULETIDE SOON BECAME THE OBJECT OF THEIR EXCITEMENT.
The Events Committee - made up of fifth and sixth formers, had been given free rein over the decoration of the castle and the surrounding grounds. They had organised a midnight mission to transform the Sanctuary as a surprise when the others awoke.
There was an astonishing amount of holly, along all of the skirting boards, twining around the banisters and made into wreaths to be worn by the armoured guards like ruffs. Salt dough shapes and pentacles made from twigs hung in mobiles from the ceiling of the grand staircases, constantly spinning alongside crystals meant to resemble icicles, and glittery pine cones. Fir trees were hauled up to all of the classrooms, all complete with decorations crafted complexly by dwarves: glass and metal figures of dainty fae, angels and animals. Finally, along all of the pathways outside were lanterns made from red glass, hung on staffs and constantly lit by encased fireflies, beacons to light the way in the darkening afternoons.
To compensate for the lack of shopping in Holloway, Principal Paradam employed the use of catalogues and package systems, all delivered through hobs - tiny household servants like brownies, urisks, pixies and hobgoblins. Therefore, the previously desolate mail-room was now filled with tiny people putting deliveries into pigeon-holes, some packages requiring a dozen hobs to lift them. The hard work they went to implored Paradam to build a small pit-stop in an empty cabinet. It was named the 'Hob-Hole' and was complete with miniature beds, chairs, books and toys to relax and entertain the hard workers.
A week before Yuletide celebrations began, everybody found it odd when they arrived for breakfast to find Paradam sitting with the teachers at the table. Everybody knew he had his own dining room, he ate with Anala at most meals, and only joined the children on the first and last day of term. This time however, he sat comfortably in the grand hall, pointing out and marvelling more of the holly which twined up the pillars and lined the dais they sat on.
Then, to add to his unusual behaviour, he stood and approached the podium, ready to make an announcement. The children quietened and listened curiously.
'I know that an announcement like this is unorthodox, however an opportunity has arisen for us which I cannot keep from you any longer. You see...we are organising a trip, outside of the Sanctuary.' Paradam received the reaction he'd expected - leaving the Sanctuary was unheard of, their residency there was to be protected from the outside world, to leave was dangerous, and made no sense.
'I understand how strange it may seem, but I believe that this opportunity is unmissable. At Yuletide weekend, a phenomenon will take place which some of you may be aware of - the Aurora.
'This comes only once a century and is believed by many to be a deeply spiritual occurrence. The trip is open to anybody from second to sixth form, and if you are interested, we will be handing out Blinking pendants in my office throughout the week - you and a small group will need this in order to travel to our vantage point. We will set out on Friday evening and leave on Sunday morning, so I suggest you pack a bag of necessary items. That is all I have to say, please seriously consider going, and enjoy your breakfast.'