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titel-schutz > Witch Water > Part 24
There was no vocal response but- What-what's that?

Fanshawe heard the faintest sound, like a m.u.f.fled, hot thumping...

A heartbeat!

Someone was in the room.

He raised his flashlight, was about to turn it on- From behind, some form of garrote looped around his neck and tightened. A chuckling like bubbling tar gurgled. Fanshawe's tongue shot out of his mouth from the tightness of the noose; he had no choice but to drop the flashlight so that he could raise his hands to hook his fingers under the rope.

"Might this break thy starch?" a man's voice slithered up. Then Fanshawe's eyes bugged when he was kicked from behind between the legs. Pain bloomed. He doubled over.

He began to choke at once. His heels pummeled the floor; he was being dragged by the noose across the floor, through horrid darkness, then- thunk, thunk, thunk -dragged up the stairs.

Fanshawe's face ballooned as his attacker tugged him along as though he were a sack of feed. He continued to kick, twist, and contort in resistance, all for nothing.

"So," the mocking voice resumed, "ye venturer desires to be a warlock, aye? He dares quest to be one with ye Squire?"

"No!" Fanshawe croaked out. "I just came to-"

A hard yank of the rope cut off the rest of his garbled words. Up another flight of steps, Fanshawe was hauled, then the last flight, and then down the hall. Splinters from the wood floor lanced through the rump of his slacks and into his flesh; he could only gargle his torment against the noose.

He was dragged to the left, into a room. For a moment, the noose's pressure lessened; a needed rush of blood shot into his head. Got to get up! he realized, and he'd almost accomplished that when- whap!

He toppled again when his attacker rammed a fist into his stomach.

If Fanshawe hadn't summoned the strength to get his fingers back under the noose, he probably would have strangled, because just after the blow, his attacker began to climb the now-familiar rope ladder with one hand, while keeping the noose-rope attached to Fanshawe's neck in the other.

"Up, up goes ye venturer!"

Fanshawe's eyes could've popped out now: his back and then his feet left the floor as he was suspended aloft by his neck. In hard jerks, he was hoisted up into a room he'd seen three hundred years in the future...

Fanshawe's vision dimmed, and the pressure made his face fit to erupt. Just as he thought he would die, he was slammed down onto a floor of wood planks.

The noose was taken off.

Fanshawe heaved in air while coughing at the same time. His mind spun like a child's top; no coherent thoughts formed, which seemed understandable. But as his vision brightened, he was able to see exactly where he was: the secret section of the attic.

He sensed his attacker's bulk just behind his head. Fanshawe was enraged now; he wanted to fight, as implausible as that instance was. Play dead, he thought.

And so he did.

He lay as if unconscious,

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