Helix kept his distance while the rest of the group entered the tower. The tip of his tail hovered just above his shoulder. Something wasn’t right.
The stone floor of the room was clean. If the vampires at the door weren’t a big enough clue, this was. The stalagmite was occupied. Whether or not the owner was home was the question.
He glanced over at Thia. She hadn’t flinched when the two Drow materialized. This was a good sign that her fear was waning. Still, something wasn’t quite right about her. Probably the drugs Lolth gave her, he reasoned.
Jinnaari looked around, making sure they were all in the room before he opened the door. As it swung inward, the Tabaxi smiled. The warm glow of dozens of candles drew him forward. In the center of a room, on a small table, sat a Coroniir game in progress. Across from the lone chair, a staff floated in the air.
“Who are you?” a voice demanded.
“I’ve got this,” Helix whispered to Jinnaari. Stepping into the room, he studied the staff. “Hello. My name is Helix. What’s yours?”
“I don’t have one. Why are you here?”
“To finish the game with you,” he motioned toward the chair. “May I sit down?” He saw the others move into the room. Moon came closest, examining the board. Helix kept his attention on the staff.
“I suppose so. My master is busy with other things right now. But we have to return the pieces as they are now when we’re done. He will be upset if we don’t.”
Studying the board, he tried to figure out the game. He’d never played before, but had a vague understanding of the rules. Picking up one piece, he placed it two squares away. “I believe we’re looking for your master. What was his name?”
The staff glowed slightly and a small arm of ice reached toward the board. Grasping one of the pieces, it countered Helix’s move. “Ezzat. He’s really smart. He made me, after all.”
Moon moved behind the staff, her ears twisting at odd angles. Was she giving him hints on the game? He took a closer look at the board and saw a move he’d missed before. “Yes, that’s the name. My friend there,” he gestured toward Jinnaari, “has a question only your master can answer. Do you know when he’ll be back? Or is he home now?”
“Ezzat rarely leaves. He’s in his study, trying to find the answer he needs.” The icy appendage moved another piece. If Helix didn’t know better, he’d think a smile appeared on the wooden surface of his opponent.
Examining the board, he understood why. There was no way he could win the game. He gently placed his elven coronal on its side, signaling he conceded the match. “Well played, my friend.”
“Thank you. I do not often win against my master. I do not believe you are nearly as clever as he is.” The staff began to move the pieces back into position on the board.
“May we go see your master now?” Thia and the others hovered near a door. One of Jinnaari’s hands rested on the knob, the other on the hilt of his sword.
“I suppose so. If he didn’t want to see you, he’d have killed you by now.” The staff went silent.
Helix rose from the chair, catching the paladin’s gaze. Nodding once, he followed the rest into the next room.