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2016 Artwork Acolyte! Illustration Brother Archmalkwith

Realising that you can’t see a sugarbowl anywhere nearby, you politely decline Brother Archmalkwith’s offer of sugar. Mumbling under his breath, he pours you a cup of tea.

You sip the tea. To your delight, it is the finest Earl Gray. You don’t know why, but you half-expected it to be some kind of strange herbal tea. Smiling, you thank Brother Archmalkwith and ask him why he became a high mage of the grammatical arts – being careful not to end your sentence with a preposition, of course.

Brother Archmalkwith’s reply is so well-argued and so eloquent, that to set it down on paper would be to cheapen it. By the time he finishes, you feel tears welling up in the corners of your eyes and an eternal burning hatred of misplaced apostrophe’s building within your stomach.

Finally, you finish your now-cold tea and thank Brother Archmalkwith as profusely as you can. A wry grin crosses his face and he says: ‘Acolyte! Once you have been initiated into the Order, I would be happy to have you under my tutelege. But, it is a mere two and three-quarter hours until midnight, you should make haste. This ancient map will lead you to one of the mansion’s more populated waiting rooms.

He scrabbles through the papers on his desk and pulls one out, before thrusting it into your hand and saying: ‘Make haste, noble acolyte. May Zuccax be with you.’

Thanking him again, you don’t bother to look at the map until you leave the room. It is a map of the ancient forbidden catacombs of Venice. Even so, you don’t quite have the heart to question an old man’s mistakes. Plus, it’s not like the waiting room will be that difficult to find.

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