Adam leaned against the wall of the room, standing far enough from the edge so as not to slide into the lava pool. Sweat dripped from his forehead. Partly from the heat, yes, but mostly from the battle they’d just won.
Did they win, though? Acerack had been standing next to Thia one minute, gone the next. At least he didn’t take her with him, he thought. That Lolth would use an Arch Lich to get to Thia wasn’t something Adam would put past the Goddess.
He glanced over to the door they’d come through. Jinnaari had finally made his way to Thia, and she was removing the curse Acerack had placed on the paladin. The Dragonborn’s frustration was all over his face. It was a battle he’d prepared for, only to be cheated in more ways than one.
“Adam,” Helix moved his way, casually tying some string to the end of a staff. “Why’d you give this back to me? It’s a staff. I thought you warlocks loved these things.”
“It’s not that I don’t want a staff, Helix,” he explained to the cat. “It’s more that I don’t want to deal with Maynard again.”
“What’s a Maynard?”
Adam blinked, “What do you mean, ‘what’s a Maynard’? You made a brush out of what was left of that staff!”
Helix tilted his head, his whiskers twitching. Casually, he flipped the staff and sent the rope into the lava. He looked exactly like someone who expected to catch a fish on the other end. “I didn’t make a brush. I don’t remember anything after Flink died and I headed into the forest. I wanted to bring him back…somehow. Next thing I knew, I was in the cage with the hags. They kept hounding me about all of you. The only reason I knew who Jinnaari and Thia were was because they asked about them. But I wasn’t around when this Maynard was with you guys. Was he nice? Did he know how to catch mice?”
“I’m sorry, Helix. I forgot that you’d been replaced and didn’t know what happened. We’d found a Staff of Power. Only it was sentient…and the force within wanted to use me to take over the world. In the end, we destroyed it.”
“Oh,” Helix paused, looking at the staff in his hands. “Do you think this is a Staff of Power?”
“The Hags argued over it. In the end, they decided it was better none of them used it. But I never heard them call it Maynard or anything like that. They had stuff that was sentient. I could tell by the way they talked to the items. Like the dolls. This thing wasn’t like those.” The staff twitched. “I think I got a bite!”
Helix jerked it back. Off the end of the charred string dangled the burned arm of a barbed devil.
Adam watched, slack jawed, as Helix unhooked the arm. Grinning, Helix turned around and said, “I hope it’s not overcooked!” He leaned the staff against the wall next to Adam and walked off, chewing on his catch.