Page 51

2016 Artwork Acolyte! Illustration Brother Archmalkwith

Thinking back, you say: ‘No, Brother Archmalkwith, I did not have sugar in my tea.

Brother Archmalkwith is silent for a few seconds, before saying : ‘Oh yes, I remember you now. You seemed like an eager and keen student of the grammatical arts. I KNEW there was a reason that I picked you as my apprentice. Most of your fellow acolytes cannot even string a single sentence together properly. As you know, that is something up with which I will not put!

You bow graciously and thank him again in the glorious name of Zuccax, being extra careful to use the correct phrasing.

Brother Archmalkwith smiles to himself and says: ‘May your initiation go well, apprentice. May your mind be sharp and may your hand be merciful.

Another elderly Brother dodders over to him and whispers something in his ear. Brother Archmalkwith clears his throat and says: ‘Of course, I meant to say, may your mind be obedient and may your hand be merciless. I hope that you can forgive the idealistic ramblings of an old man.

He dodders back into the darkness as you thank him again. Well, it’s almost initiation time…

CLICK HERE to continue.

Page 50

2016 Artwork Acolyte! Illustration good ending

Taking a deep breath and trying to steady your trembling hands, you say: ‘I will not sacrifice the goat, because …. because I believe that variety is the spice of life.

Indignant grumblings and puzzled mutterings quickly fill the room, until a voice from the darkness shouts: ‘Explain yourself, acolyte!

Looking around, your eyes rest on the box of chocolates once again. You pick it up and hold it above your head, before saying: ‘This may be heresy and it may be blasphemy, but this order has been sacrificing goats to our glorious Elder Goddess for many years. I can’t help but think that the Elder Goddess Zuccax might be tired of eating nothing but goat.

Gasps of horror fill the room, until High Priestess Lachard steps out from the darkness with a furious scowl on her face: ‘Silence everyone! Very well acolyte, you may sacrifice the chocolates. We shall let the Elder Goddess be your judge! May she strike you down if you are in error!

The clock strikes midnight and you raise the dagger above your head. You feel a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. At the third chime after midnight, you swing the blade downwards into the box of chocolates.

The goat jumps off of the altar in abject terror as your dagger pierces the cellophane and large gouts of strawberry cream and Turkish delight spatter across your robes. An eerie silence fills the room until a low rumbling sound echoes through the air.

In a voice that can only be described as divinely beautiful, the Elder Goddess Zuccax says: ‘Finally! At long last! Some chocolates! Acolyte, you have served me well and as your reward, I anoint you as the leader of my Earthly followers. May this be the beginning of a long and beautiful friendship.

You bow and thank the Elder Goddess. High Priestess Lachard is absolutely speechless. Brother Throckmorton cackles quietly to himself.

Finally, you say: ‘As my first act as anointed leader, I decree that we order pizza for the ceremonial feast. And will someone please turn the lights on, I can’t see a bloody thing in here.

As the rooms lights flicker on, both the goat and your new followers look up at you eagerly. You’ve done it! You’ve won! You have the blessing of the Elder Goddes Zuccax and a lifetime of power, wealth and ruined boxes of chocolates ahead of you.

The End 🙂 Congratulations, you got the good ending 🙂

Page 49

2016 Artwork Acolyte! Illustration Brother Archmalkwith

Brother Archmalkwith dodders out of the darkness and stands before you. He squints at you for a few seconds, before saying: ‘Acolyte! It seems like fate has placed you under my tutelage.

You smile at him and say: ‘I thank you in the glorious name of the Elder Goddess Zuccax and I swear, by her name, that I shall be a faithful and diligent apprentice.

Brother Archmalkwith waves his hand dismissively and mumbles something about participles before saying: ‘Apprentice, as your first task, will you help an old man with his memory? When we drank tea together earlier, I cannot for the life of me, remember whether you had sugar in your tea or not.

Puzzled, you say: ‘If you don’t mind me asking, why do you want to know?

Brother Archmalkwith grumbles under his breath and says: ‘I DO mind you asking! Answer the question, apprentice!

– If you had sugar in your tea CLICK HERE

– If you didn’t have sugar in your tea CLICK HERE

Page 48

2016 Artwork Acolyte! Illustration medium ending

Well, you’ve come this far and it’d be a shame to turn back now. So, taking a deep breath and steeling yourself, you raise the dagger above your head and look down at the goat. The goat looks back at you quizzically.

Clang! The clock strikes midnight!

Remembering the ritual, you wait until the third chime before plunging the dagger downwards. I’ll spare you the gory details, but you’re probably going to have a rather awkward conversation at the dry cleaners’ tomorrow morning.

Once the sacrifice is completed, the room is filled with ominous chanting. A low rumbling sound fills the air and High Priestess Lachard steps into the middle of the room and shouts: ‘Silence! Our glorious Elder Goddess Zuccax speaks!

A deathly silence falls over the room. After what feels like an eternity of silence, you hear an unearthly voice echo around the room. Thanks to the room’s terrible acoustics, you can’t quite work out exactly what the voice said, but you could have sworn that it said: ‘ANOTHER bloody goat!? *Sigh* Fine then, welcome to my eternal service. Asshole.

When the voice has finished speaking, the room is filled with chanting and frenzied applause. You are now a member of the Eternal Ancient Order Of The Golden Rain!

Your quest, it seems, is now at an end and all that remains is to eat your celebratory box of chocolates, pay your membership fee and begin your apprenticeship. But, somehow, you can’t shake the feeling that this moment should have been better somehow. Still, who cares? You’ve won! Woo hoo… I guess.

The End :I …. Meh.

(You goat the “okay” ending. It’s ok, I guess. Still, if you want to do better you could always start again. Or, if you’re the kind of unprincipled swine who likes to flick back a couple of pages when playing a gamebook, I suppose you could cheat)

Page 47

2016 Artwork Acolyte! Illustration Man with goat

Another ominous silence fills the darkened room. After what seems like five minutes, you hear a door swing open and the room is quickly filled with loud bleating sounds.

A voice from the darkness says: ‘Acolyte! The hour of sacrifice is almost upon you. Please stand behind the blood altar and prepare yourself!

As if by magic, the other candles on the altar flicker into life. If you didn’t know any better, you could swear that the ancient blood altar is nothing more than a trestle table with a cheap plastic tablecloth draped over it. But, banishing such heretical notions from your mind, you solemnly take your place behind the altar.

Once you are standing behind the ancient blood altar, you spot a box of chocolates propped up against one of the table legs. Obviously this must be the ceremonial gift that the Order has prepared for you after you’ve completed your initiation. Thankfully, the box also seems to be wrapped in cellophane, so that it won’t get ruined by the goat’s blood.

The bleating sound gets louder as a hooded man emerges from the darkness, with a live goat under one arm and a fearsome dagger tucked into the belt of his robes. With practiced precision, he places the goat onto the altar. Naturally, it tries to make a bid for freedom, but he quickly lures it back to the altar with a handful of assorted weeds and flowers.

The goat lies on the altar and knocks over a candle with it’s tail as it begins to eat the flowers greedily. You hear splashing water and a quiet hissing sound. The hooded man pulls the dagger from his belt and says: ‘Acolyte! The hour draws closer, take this dagger and make your sacrifice in the glorious name of the Elder Goddess Zuccax.’

Solemnly, he passes you the dagger and disappears back into the shadows. Well, it’s up to you now! What are you going to do?

– If you want to sacrifice the goat CLICK HERE

– If you don’t want to sacrifice the goat CLICK HERE

Page 46

Filled with self-righteous indignation, you bang your fist on the altar and say: ‘I refuse to sacrifice this goat, because it is wrong!

Puzzled gasps and shocked mutterings fill the room. The goat bleats at you reproachfully. But, since you are on a roll, you ignore this and continue speaking: ‘I find this Order’s callous disregard for the rights of our capricious bretheren to be shameful, nay, disgusting! All of you should hang your heads in shame!

By now, the mood in the room has got colder and angrier. But, you’re too filled with your own trumped-up sense of righteousness to notice: ‘In addition to this, the methods of sacrifice are quite clearly unlawful and inhumane! I have no qualifications in such matters and, yet, I am supposed to just disregard the laws of this land and stab this goat with no regard to it’s well-being. Well, this stops here! I shall inform the law immediately!

As you finish your sentence, you hear footsteps. A hooded man in dark robes steps into the middle of the room and says: ‘Go on, then. Inform away.

Sensing a threat, you point the ceremonial dagger at the robed man and say: ‘You don’t frighten me! In fact, I am making a citizen’s arrest right now! All of you, please form an orderly line and follow me to the local police station.

The hooded man laughs quietly to himself before removing his hood. It is the local Chief Constable!

He smiles and says: ‘I think that you’ll find that the station is closed tonight and, if you don’t put that knife away, I’ll be the one doing the arresting tonight!

The room is filled with cackling laughter. The Chief Constable strides over to you and snatches the dagger from your hands. Raising it aloft, he says: ‘In keeping with higher laws than those of man, I sentence you to death for breaking the ritual and dishonouring the Elder Goddess Zuccax!

Shocked, you stutter ‘ B…But, capital punishment was abolished in 19… Aaaargh!!

Your journey, it seems, has come to a sticky end. Whilst you might have missed the point of this story, the point doesn’t seem to have missed you. I’m sorry to say it, but it seems like your story has an unhappy ending. Maybe you should have done things differently?

The End 😦

(You got the bad ending, better luck next time… Or, if you’re completely unprincipled, you can always cheat)

Page 45

2015 Artwork Acolyte! Illustration Brother Throckmorton

Brother Throckmorton steps out from the darkness. He rubs his bony hands with glee and says ‘Greetings… apprentice.

Greetings in the glorious name of the Elder Goddess Zuccax, Brother Throckmorton.‘ You say, before asking ‘But how did you get here so quickly? If you came from the dungeons, then I would have seen you.

Brother Throckmorton lets out a shrill laugh and says: ‘Apprentice! As you shall learn, there are more secret passages leading to and from the dungeons than there are for any other part of the house. For your information, I took the… secret tunnel….. next to the third spike pit. From there, I took a right by the lower cisterns, crawled through the withered hedgerow, ducked under the bladed pendulum, crept into the bathroom and opened the secret panel. It was, you could say, the… scenic… route.

You raise an eyebrow and say: ‘But, Brother Throckmorton, if you’ve just told everyone about your journey here, then how can you call it a “secret” passage?

Brother Throckmorton gasps and says: ‘Great Zuccax! You’re right! Everyone, everyone. Please… forget…. what I just said.

Thankfully, for both of your sakes, the Order is very good at forgetting. Thanks to the advanced age of many of it’s members and the tendency for the younger members to overindulge at the weekly bacchanals, no sooner has Brother Throckmorton finished speaking, the room is filled with confused mumblings and puzzled questions.

Eventually, High Priestess Lachard shouts: ‘Silence! The hour of sacrifice is almost upon us! The ritual must continue!

CLICK HERE to continue.

Page 44

2016 Artwork Acolyte! Illustration Brother Archmalkwith

Sighing, you say: ‘Brother Archmalkwith, of course I had sugar in my tea.

Brother Archmalkwith mumbles to himself for a few seconds and strokes his beard ponderously. A sour look crosses his face and he says: ‘Ah, apprentice, I remember you. YOU were the one who thought that I had attempted to poison you! Though you said nothing, your eyes certainly made the accusation! A dreadful calumny!’

Hushed and scandalised whispers fill the hall. You blush as brightly as the altar candles and try to stutter out an apology: ‘B… But, you had all of those other poisons in your room. It was a mistake, a simple mistake. It… It wasn’t like there was a label on that jar.

Brother Archmalkwith’s eyes widen and you brace yourself for some angry shouting but, instead, he gasps and says: ‘No, you are wrong! My sugarbowl is clearly labelled and it is a bowl instead of a… Oh dear!

Oh dear?‘ You stutter nervously.

Acolyte, I fear that I owe you an apology. You were indeed correct. In error, I appear to have sweetened our tea with … well, I’m not quite certain.

Although you feel a smug sense of vindication, this isn’t quite enough for the doctors at the local poisons unit to work with. Worst of all, the British Pharmacopeia is notoriously hazy when it comes to the ancient and arcane poisons that were used by the wizards and mages of old.

Still, if you don’t feel like donating your body to medical science, you can always…..


Page 43

Stepping back from the altar and looking down at the bleating and wailing goat in front of you, you realise that there was nothing about this in the script. So, it looks like you are going to have to make it up on the spot. Fortunately, improvisation is one of your strong points.

Taking a deep breath, you say: ‘Alas, brothers and sisters, I cannot sacrifice this goat. It pains me to do so, but – in the Glorious name of Zuccax – this goat shall not be sacrificed tonight!

An ominous silence fills the room as the clock chimes midnight. After what feels like a long, awkward eternity of silence, you hear hushed whispers in an arcane tongue that you had thought long forgotten. Even the goat looks up at you with forlorn disappointment in it’s eyes.

Finally, yet another voice booms from the darkness: ‘Acolyte! Explain yourself at once! You have broken the sacred traditions of our noble order and, unless you have a very compelling reason for doing so, then our laws clearly state that the Elder Goddess Zuccax can only be sated with human blood if there is no good reason for the ritual being broken.

Well, it looks like you’re going to have to think on your feet! What will you do?

– If you want to deliver a stern moral lecture CLICK HERE

– If you want to sacrifice something that isn’t a goat CLICK HERE