A stately and incredibly handsome elf with eyes black as night and long navy blue hair running down to his thighs, regarded his guests with the look of utter disdain. He was wearing loose trousers and a dressing gown.
“Master Caro, I assure you, Arnel is the most capable of my students, the best of his graduation year. An Earth magician and a Nature caster; he’s got more than thirty years of active practice.” The speaker paused for a fraction of a second. “You know I am already too old, and your wonderful garden needs reverent care, a fresher look at floristry.”
The owner of the house turned his gaze from the gray-haired elf, who had been looking after his garden for half a century, to the wiggly boy called Arnel. Rather short and thin, frail. Slanted green eyes sparkled with delight on his heart-shaped face. His hair was a strange color. It seemed to shimmer from sunny yellow to the shade of unripe wheat, just like his hair, unusually short cut, barely reaching his shoulders, and a bit curly at the ends.
“Master,” the strangeness exclaimed loudly at him. “It is a great honor to be chosen to care after your garden! Your garden is the most beautiful in the province, and perhaps in the entire Holy Empire! To me–”
“You, young man, truly lack some modesty,” said the blue-haired elf, squinting sternly at the youngster, “fix that if you wish to receive such a great honor.”
“Sorry,” the child got all flustered and turned his gaze to the floor.
Celtiel Caro did not like the changes. Much he didn’t. But the flow of life doesn’t depend on your likes and dislikes; one is not always able to change things. And this was an arrangement he liked even less.
“I suppose,” the owner of the house said wearily, “I simply have no choice.”
“I humbly ask for your forgiveness. You know my circumstances…” started the former gardener but the gentleman interrupted him with an impatient wave of his hand.
“Show him around,” he grumbled and was gone.
Professor Deaney bowed to the retreating figure wearing a gown and nodded at Arnel to follow in the other direction. The Caro estate resembled a dipteran moth with a tiny body and huge rounded wings, or a flower with only two petals located one opposite the other.
Having crossed the “heart” of the flower, they passed the living room, the master’s study, the kitchen, and, finally, the young elf was able to survey his new abode. The room was quite spacious for a servant. Little furniture: a bed, a wardrobe, a desk with a chair and a bookcase. Bright light filtered in through two floor-to-ceiling windows with dark green curtains. The walls were also draped with a rich, fresh grass color, and the floor was covered with a fluffy light gray carpet.
“The utility room with tools, fertilizers, and other equipment is outside; books and scrolls on agronomy and landscape are in the west wing of the library. Do you want me to give you some time to settle, or would you prefer to dine?”
“I’d love to see the garden!” pleaded the young man, looking at the professor with all his eyes.
“No rush, you little fidget! Then lunch comes first. Leave the trunks here and let’s go.”
The kitchen was large, even though there was a separate dining room. A short elf woman in a white apron and a voluminous cap was bustling about by the stove, hiding her seemingly luxurious head of hair.
“Tealina, meet my successor. Arnel, this is Tealina, Caro’s cook.”
“Nice to meet you madam!”
“Likewise, young man! Sit down, I’ll fix something to please your stomach,” the woman replied, beaming cheerfully with her brown eyes, and further fiddled around the lockers. After a hearty lunch of meat pie and stewed mushrooms, the gardeners thanked the hostess of the kitchen and went out into the courtyard.
“You see the building with the red roof? You’ll find your gardening accessories there. Let’s go see it now.”
Having skirted the wing, they came out to the rear facade of the house, opposite which there was a low wrought-iron gate leading to the kingdom of greenery.
Arnel saw many paintings by skilled artists, magical impressions of the garden on paper, sketches, verbal descriptions, but seeing it with his own eyes left him simply breathless.
A riot of all shades of green, unimaginable flowers in numerous flower beds on both sides of the serpentine path, winding left and right; fruit and ornamental trees, hedges, and in the center of the garden there was a beautiful fountain in three tiers, murmuring cheerfully with water.
“The fountain also feeds the plants. The water flows directly into the soil, and under the sod there are porous rocks and guides, grooves, you could say. They are laid evenly over the entire area of the garden and reach the grove. Just keep that in mind if you want to transplant anything. Or, more precisely, if the Master permits it.”
“He hasn’t changed anything since then?” asked the young elf, instantly becoming sad.
“Not a twig,” admitted the professor. “The main task is to maintain it in its original form. My advice to you is not to risk it if you don’t want to be footed out of here. I think you perfectly understand why.” the teacher raised his eyebrows significantly. Arnel just nodded.
After wandering a little along the paths, the elves returned to the house.
“The younger Master Caro was truly a God’s given gift spellcaster,” the young man concluded dreamily.
“He truly was.”