How convenient an elven perfect memory sometimes is. The events that whirled in Arnel’s head took place more than fifty years ago but he didn’t forget the single smallest detail, as if it was yesterday.
I was right on cloud nine; I was accepted to the most elite prep school in the Empire! Five years under the guidance of the supreme master of herbology, the magician of Nature and Life, the strongest midnight spellcaster – Diriel Caro! He was a legend, a living legend for all the Nature magicians; an outstanding sorcerer, a healer who has devoted himself to various teachings for more than a hundred years, who worked at the court of His Glorious Majesty! And it was exactly when I had to attend the pre-academic courses, that he was distributed, or rather, he himself expressed a desire to carry his knowledge to the masses. This was pure luck.
I did my best. Always sat in the front rows, tried to write down every word he said, caught his every glance and gesture. Please don’t think that I was in love with Master Caro, but my admiration for this elf knew no boundaries. His shining eyes seemed to tell us that nothing will make us happier than new knowledge, skills, and experience. Practical lessons with him were just a fairytale, a new adventure into the world of plants. The Master was a born teacher.
After six months of training, we had our first midnight modeling lesson. No lecture, just practice to make the Master understand which of us is endowed with at least the rudiments of this gift of Nature. You can imagine my joy and pride when Master Caro stated that I had remarkable abilities for this type of magic. And since then, we have become even closer. Once a month at night, practical classes were held for me and six other gifted ones. And, since there were so few of us, each lesson started with a repetition of the theory, ended with practice, and was spiced with stories from our, and Master’s, lives. We all became very good friends. We felt more and more reverence for Master Diriel, and he saw us as equals.
Imperceptibly, those years allotted for preparation for admission flashed by, and now, all of us who have successfully passed the exams were standing on the threshold of the Great Imperial Academy, ready to gain new knowledge and develop our skills, take part in research and work for the good of the Glorious nation.
And again, we faced more luck; having vetted us on the courses the Master became so attached to his wards that he moved from the prep school to teach at the Academy for our class.
And then the war began. The drow attacked suddenly, without warning, rejecting all attempts of His Glorious Majesty to negotiate. They did not want peace; they just got angry with their relatives of light and set themselves the goal of eradicating us.
Master Diriel signed up to help on the battlefield without a moment’s hesitation. He was the most skillful healer even if he was inferior in the ability to wield a blade. However, the Empire valued him too highly; everyone understood that they could not afford losing him too soon. He was never sent to the front line and was not allowed to do anything except healing, and was always transferred within a year back to his native land: to us – his wards, and to his family.
During the course, he told us about his life, home, and his garden, and about his beloved husband. On several occasions, he used modeling to show us you – the elder Master Caro. Completely different from our Master: tall and strong. And our Master has told us what kind of reliable support you were for him, a rock that protected him from all the troubles, his roots that were tying him to his home. And the teacher spoke of you with such a gentle expression that we all sighed languidly, secretly dreaming of finding our love sometime.
While Master Caro was at the battlefield again, his teachings were taught to us by Master Deaney.
This continued for many days, months, years. The war dragged on, taking with it more and more victims, and there was no end to it. Although, it was rumored that in the inventive department, teachers and students had racked their brains over the awakening of the secondary properties of battle crystals, or were creating a new artifact or a potion ... In general, they kept everything under the strictest confidence since spy sabotage and leakage of information had already happened repeatedly. They pinned many hopes on the invention and expected that it will put an end to fierce battles and losses.
Therefore, one fine day, when the research was completed, the military leader arrived to pick up the results, and take Master Caro with him.
After giving a lecture, the teacher got ready for the trip. From the very beginning of the lesson, it was clear that for some reason he did not want to go right now. It surprised me a little because he so willingly agreed each time before but soon this secret was revealed to me. In the corridor, when passing to another lecture hall, I was pulled by the sleeve into some dark office. Having blinked off the surprise, I realized that this was Master Diriel’s office, and the one who brought me in here, in fact, was he himself.
“Master, what happened? Is everything okay?” The magician looked straight at me with strangely shining eyes.
“Arnel, how old are you?” He finally managed.
“Um, I’m eighty, sir, since two months ago,” I answered, discouraged by the question. Yes, we celebrated my coming of age pretty loud, like any similar event in the life of every elf though.
“Thank the gods! Then it’s saved.” He said, making everything sound even weirder to me. “Arnel, I ask for your forgiveness in advance, but I have no other choice. If they use an artifact then it will be death for the enemy army, but ours will suffer no less loss, such is the price of its activation. The shock wave of terrifying force, and not of just the light magic, as you might have guessed. And I have just completed all the preparations,” he stopped, shaking his head in defeat, “I cannot lose it, having spent so much time and effort to create it. Please save it until I return. And if I don’t....” He paused again but found no words. “Then you have the right to decide whether to get rid of it or to hand it over to my husband.”
I stood there unable to form a response, not understanding a single word of his quick feverish speech. He waved his hand then and whispered an immobilization spell, and I, unable to move a limb could only watch his face approach mine. Muttering a “Sorry!” he covered my lips with his.
It was not a kiss of love or passion; it was a necessary contact for a transplant. Yes, I realized this when, after a couple of seconds of such ‘intimacy’, my throat burned with fire, and a bright radiance enveloped both of us. As the pain subsided, Master Diriel pulled away from me, removing the spell. Tears immediately gushed out of my eyes; this honor was so huge for me, and his trust so valuable. The Master hugged me gently, stroking my back and waiting for a surge of emotion to be gone.
“Forgive me, child, but you are my only hope.”
“Master,” I creaked through a sob. “You don’t have to apologize, please, it is an honor for me, I will save the Seed of Life, and I will do whatever you ask of me.”
Looking very serious, he asked, “Do you know what you need to do now?”
“Only in theory, but…. I know that before being impregnated, the Seed needs to be nourished for ten to twenty years with my magic. I have to maintain chastity, avoid physical and spiritual injuries and other health problems.”
“Yes, that’s right. Thank you, Arnel, forgive me for condemning you to such a fate.”
“But, you will come back, I will wait for you, and everything is going to be fine.” I cried, wanting so desperately to believe what I say.
The teacher smiled at me with his warmest smile and kissed the top of my head.
“I will try very hard but we should be ready for anything.” He whispered into my hair, his voice cracking. “And if I’m not destined to get out, no one can change it. In this case, the maturation can take much longer, since you are not the creator. The Seed may take extra time to adapt to your body and magic. In any case, you will understand everything, the Nature will help you.”
We were interrupted then by a knock on the door, and the stern face appeared in the doorway. Diriel Caro nodded to the general, turned to me, hugged me again, and left.