Arnel indescribably loved his work in the new place. In this wonderful garden his soul felt like at home. The plants accepted him well; he heard their “singing”, felt the vibrations of life, the joy of the sun and love for all the inhabitants of the estate. Even for their supposedly sullen Master. Yes, having lived here a little more than a month, Arnel began to understand that all the hostility, causticity, and coldness of Master Celtiel are only feigned. He saw this every time he met the owner in the garden, sitting on a bench or right on the grass near a decorative stream. In every look bestowed on the flowers, trees; in every touch to the elastic leaves there was so much warmth and tenderness, as if he was touching the tremulously stored past. Most of all, the gentleman loved petunias. And, judging by their “words”, he even spoke to them. The young man did not believe it at first, but later found out that the blue-haired elf is a waterman, and the spellcasters of this element can also hear the echoes of Nature.
Finally, Arnel managed to debunk the myth of the evil Master of a beautiful estate when he once stumbled upon a dark-eyed man in an art workshop in the west wing, where the master’s chambers were. Arnel was just finishing feeding and modeling the hedge in front of the gallery windows, bent down, inspecting the root zone, and heard quiet footsteps. Hiding in the shadow of the fence, the young man looked through the panoramic window as the gentleman went inside, pulled off the fabric covering the easel and sat down on a high stool. At first, Caro simply sat, not taking his eyes off the unfinished portrait of his spouse, Diriel Caro, the Lead Nature caster in the Empire, who died fifty years ago in a war with the drow. After sitting for about twenty minutes, the gentleman held his palm over the cans of paints, and those, sensing the owner’s strength, seemed to start up, splashing out a couple of drops. The elf closed his eyes, concentrating, stretching both arms forward. Thin multi-colored streams shot up from the cans, colliding and intertwining, and began to settle on the canvas in small strokes, outlining the contour of the eyes, adding depth to the color of the irises. After a couple of minutes, everything froze. Celtiel appraised the result for a moment. The look of satisfaction with a barely perceptible smile, then a slight sadness, and later such transcendental grief had settled on his face that Arnel's heart sank. With tears coming out from his eyes, he watched as Master splashed the paints on the floor with a sharp wave of his hand, called a wave of water from a bucket standing a couple of meters away, and generously poured it onto the picture destroying the sparkling joy of the pine look, light green hawkey eyebrows, thin aristocratic lips curved in a mysterious smile. He sat then, staring unseeingly through the canvas, then got up wearily, and quietly left the workshop.
Yes, he still loves. After so many years. Loves so much that it even hurts to look at a beloved face, and no strength left to at least finish the portrait.
After that incident, the Master didn’t show up in the workshop for a while. He only came to the garden, or wandered around the house, sometimes receiving all sorts of important persons from the government in his study. Master Celtiel had long been sent either into retirement, or on a long vacation, but nevertheless was a member of the military council. So the ministers came to see him for advice quite often. One official pissed him off so bad with his utterly irrelevant chatter, that Caro escorted him out with shouts and threats, spat on the ground, and made a few faces when the disturbance had already disappeared behind the gate. The young gardener was so delighted with this sight; he could hardly restrain himself from clapping his hands. It was so rare seeing so many emotions instead of the usual cold master mask! And he set himself the goal – revive the formidable and beautiful elf by all means. After all, he really wanted to see Celtiel Caro the way Master Diriel had shown him a long time ago.
The plan matured instantly, the risk, however, was great, but the petunias promised to intercede if something happened. Professor Deaney was right, Arnel graduated with honors from the Academy of Nature. And his special skill was a midnight spellcasting, the essence of which was that the magician of greenery could, with his own strength and skill, force, or rather, diligently beg the plants to take any form given by the magician. He remembered that there are rather pliable shrubs right outside the master’s room windows, and more than enough of the bindweed.
It’s settled then, the rescue mission starts at midnight!