Gray's breath caught in his throat and his heart felt wedged against his sternum. He wasn't about to sneak past the doorway, but maybe he could find some way to protect himself back in the room. He crept silently down the hall, keeping his eyes attuned to anything which could be used as a weapon. Sadly, there were none as he re-entered the open living area. On the wall he found a tiny decorative shield which displayed an ornate coat of arms, but looked as though it would be unable to protect against a fork or a pencil, let alone an actual pointed weapon. Beneath the cot where he had spent his time unconscious and recuperating, he spied his moccasins and his pack; his cloak hung from a peg in the wall above the cot. He gathered his things as quietly as he could but kept his eyes trained on the hallway for movement. He neglected checking his pack because he knew there were no weapons hidden in there.
He took a moment to get his bearings: there was a sooty old stone fireplace in there with him. Smoke lazily wafted up the chimney from a charred pile of kindling. But there were no other ways to escape; he got the impression that this room was located at the rear of the abode.
Desperately he looked up. Besides the useless ornamental shield, the walls were barren. He slipped on his boots and kept looking.
There was a collection of small vials atop a wooden table nestled in one corner, by the foot of the cot. Maybe he would get lucky and find an accelerant of some kind and be able to set this structure alight. Herbs for healing, herbs for hunting, herbs for harvesting. Curse his luck! None of the vials would set anything ablaze. He was doomed.
The voices in the kitchen seemed to be wrapping up. Gray's heart rate tripled.
Wait a minute. In one hand he held a vial marked “Marblese Powder” and in the other he held one filled with Numlided, a poultice for rashes and burns. If he could just find... He searched through the stash on the table again.
The voices grew louder in the hall, there was motion behind him.
No! Please, please, please! His hand furiously cast aside vial after vial.
A thunderous bellow clapped the air behind him, “Hey!” just as his hand closed over what he was looking for: Dragon Moss. By itself, it was a mild and little-used tincture used mostly by midwives during childbirth, but combined with the Marblese Powder and the Numlided, Gray was pretty sure he could conjure up a thick cloud which would serve as a distraction to enable him to sneak out the door.
But how much? It didn't matter, he didn't have time to measure out a specific recipe. Instead he smashed two of the bottles on the floor at his feet, then looked up at the faces of the two men at the other end of the room. The mask had returned to obscure his host's features, but Gray had already seen him, had already recognized him.
“No!” the two men screamed, but Gray didn't listen. He threw down the last vial with all the strength in his body, and was rewarded with an immediate explosion of thick, green smoke which enveloped the entire room.