At first Ameun trued to teach his new slave his letters but Ameun-Ast had no skills in this. He was strong and nimble however so for a while he trained with the mage's household guards. He learnt quickly and was soon able to fight with two weapons, a short sword in his right hand and a dagger in his left.
He was indulged and spoilt by his master, something that irritated the rest of the servants. He was treated to the best scraps and dregs from his master's table and soon developed a taste for the finer things in life. He was barely into his teens before he had his first taste of Zzonga-fruit and he was hooked. He did what he could to get the smallest scraps of this expensive drug, even resorting to stealing from his master. It didn't take long for him to be caught and the mage's steward delighted in bringing the snivelling wretch before his master. To the steward's disgust Ameun did not kill the slave but instead sent him away to be apprenticed as an illuminator. "That will be punishment enough. It was my fault, I did not treat him as a slave but as a son I could never have." He explained. "Prikpen is a harsher master, it will knock discipline into Ast and perhaps teach him a proper trade."
Ameun was correct on both counts. Compared to the luxuries of court, Prikpen's studio was crowded and smelt of raw materials of his trade. Rancid fat, metallic oxides and pungent resins assaulted Ast's nostrils until he got used to the smell. He, along with several other boys of his own age was set the task of copying basic texts and some simple illumination. Prikpen preferred children who could not read as it reduced distractions, gossip and the risk that one might read out the words of power on a scroll.
But accidents do happen. Ast had not been at the illuminators for long before one of the elder boys, in a show of bravado read what was on the scroll he was copying. The stone flagged floor buckled and the other boys scattered as a hulking creature formed of soil and stone emerged. The earth elemental ripped the boy apart as he stood witless still holding the scroll in his limp hands. Prikpen heard the commotion and came running but the elemental was still lumbering around the studio, smashing benches and scattering pots of ink and size as he rampaged. Ast picked up a thick iron bar, used for opening the high skylights and struck the elemental across the head. Using his swiftness and the length of the bar Ast managed to keep the elemental at bay until Prikpen could utter the words of dispelling. Prikpen was impressed with his student's quick thinking and bravery and gifted him with a bracer
"This will give you, or whoever wears it an advantage when fighting creatures from the elemental planes." He said strapping the heavily tooled leather band to Ast's muscular forearm.
Over the next five years Ast progressed from simple copying and rudimentary illustrations to more ornate work. He learnt to apply gold and silver leaf to parchment, how to mix colours and the meaning and symbolism behind the various plants and beasts he was adding to scrolls. He even got to work on the restoration of damaged grimoires. Some were burnt, some were corroded by splashes of dragon acid others partially shredded by the claws of huge beasts. He became close to Insa a pretty pearl-island girl who had joined the service of Prikpen. Ast was now the supervisor of the illuminators allowing Prikpen more time to experiment and research. One sunny day, a few weeks after his eighteenth birthday, Ast heard strange sounds coming from Prikpen's laboratory. His orders were never to disturb his master when he was working but this time the sounds were so strange that he could not just ignore them. He opened the door and stepped into his master's laboratory.
In the centre of the room stood a swirling vortex that was sucking everything in the room into it. Already all the chairs, desks, benches and the numerous objects that stood upon them had gone. Now it was trying to suck the plaster off of the walls and the nails from the floorboards. Somehow Prikpen still stood outside the vortex though his hair whipped about him like a wild halo.
"Leave now Ast." He shouted above the whine of the winds. "I can't control it."
Ast turned to leave but was sucked off his feet into the vortex. He grabbed the door and hung for a moment stretched out horizontally two feet above the ground. He felt his boots slide off then his trousers started to go as well. Then with a crunch the door came of it's hinges and it and the hapless Ast vanished into the vortex. Looking back he could see for an instant Prikpen's horrified face, then the door struck Ast on the head and he remembered nothing more.
He woke, unknown minutes, hours or days later in a warm, clean bed under whitewashed eaves. His startled cry brought a small ruddy faced woman who smiled.
"So you've awoken stranger. Were you robbed? They gave you a good beating too. Then to leave you in the forest for the goblins to play with, must have been the work of the Iron Ring."
He started to correct her, then decided that no one would believe his story.
"What's your name dear?" she asked plumping up the pillows under his head.
"I, I don't remember." He lied. "They must have knocked me about pretty bad."
"You have a strange accent. You're not from around here are you?"
"I don't know. I don't even know where 'here' is."
"Rugalov village." She replied and when Ast still looked puzzled. "The Grand Duchy of Karameikos."
"Oh." Replied Ast slowly, the vortex could have thrown him much further but at least he was with civilised peoples.
He took the name Ivan Karbarov, remembering two of the people from Karameikos who had ordered scrolls from Prikpen and combining their names and said he thought he was the son of a tradesman. He demonstrated his skills with bow and hunting, learnt from his father and he was soon accepted by the people of Rugalov. Ivan grew to like the area and spent many a happy day hunting with the villagers in the forests. Sometimes for game, other times for goblins and orcs, the former being very common in the woods near the village. He became a member of the village council, until he fell in love with one of the Callarii elves. The relationship was always going to end sadly, Ivan had a cruel side and when his elven partner found he was dallying with a tavernkeeper's daughter she ended the relationship.
Ivan spent more and more time in the woods after that, curious and willing to learn what he could of the skills of tracking and hunting from those elves that would still talk to him. He was greedy for knowledge, but also for money and he sometimes used his nimble fingers for more than trap setting. He never got caught but sometimes it was a close thing. He also had a courageous side, once defending a wagon of elven children for several hours against a pack of wolves until elven reinforcements could arrive.
He has never given up hope of returning to Alphatia, he had a dream that the whole of the empire was transported to a nightless world where it floated over numerous strange lands. He would like to see Prikpen or Ameun or Insa again but he knows it is unlikely. If he hears tales of expeditions to the strange openings adventurers have found at the poles he will willing join in an adventure to see if this will take him home.