Maciste was surprised. At this announcement. Surprised and excited. The execution to be stayed? So the gods were watching, after all?
At these words Maciste pricked up his ears. He glanced at the captain stood with his parchment. Then his eyes flicked over at Kheir, wallowing in smug satisfaction from his throne.
He frowned down at Kheir. Had there been a change of heart? But he couldn’t believe that. He had got to see his young stepbrother in a different light there past few days. He’d groped himself under the sheets hundreds of times .. dreaming of this day. Give up seeing Maciste made to suffer? Like hell!
Tied to the crossbeam, arms out-stretched, Maciste had been glaring over at Kheir. That word traitor had inflamed his blood .. the idea that HE was roped to this cross and not the real traitor …. But the captain’s words about a reprieve had stolen his attention.
In the look from Kheir that returned his anger, though, Maciste read there would be no change of mind. Kheir had his brother just where he wanted him. Whatever plans Kheir had changed, for Maciste there’d be no reprieve. He prepared himself for worse news. Kheir didn’t disappoint.
“For a traitor such as this execution is not enough.”
So why was he hung here suffering, Maciste wondered?
“In the king’s home-land, for any who threatens the king’s rule .. death is not his reward.”
The captain’s arm indicated backwards .. at Maciste up on the cross.
“A traitor like this .. he will spend the rest of his miserable life .. slaving for his king. Condemned to slavery.”
There was a murmur in the crowd. But the captain saw not one hint of protest. Only yellow-bellied curs. There’d be no uprising here to save Maciste.
“Any who rises up ….”
To make sure this mob stayed cowed, he underlined the point.
“ .. like this dog .. for THIS swine .. a lifetime of hard labour. In the service of his king.”
Maciste pricked up his ears. He was already feeling the burn setting into his upper body. Pulling with his arms to raise himself off that nail between his legs. The pull beginning to tell in a tightness across his upper chest. His muscles starting to warn him about the effort of keeping that up.
Not executed, then? But the idea of slaving away in the service of that smug-looking brat …..!
“A lifetime of regret.”
The captain confirmed.
“Back-breaking work. To break his evil will.”
The captain nodded backwards. At this traitor the people had once thought of as their rightful king. “Traitors are worked into the ground .. serving the king. Making amends. Sentenced to hard labour .. to break his back. To break his will. In back-breaking submission to the king.”
The captain’s hand disdainfully swept over the suspended body, the weight of muscled flesh pressing down on the vindictive nail. Crushing its hard-on underneath.
“Endless drudgery .. payback for revolt against an anointed ruler.”
The captain spat in the direction of the cross. And the one-time prince.
“To the end of his miserable days.”
Kheir smirked into Maciste’s scowl. That look! This was almost as good as those screams Kheir would have loved hearing when nails had hammered up his bones. Maybe his mother was right. Back-breaking hard work .. will-breaking penance .. every sting of the whip a cruel reminder of Kheir ruling from Maciste’s throne. Worked into the ground .. his every laboured breath wishing it could be Maciste’s last.
At this announcement, though, Maciste’s spirits lifted. He’d not be executed here today? He remembered his brother’s taunts. Kheir had mocked him with the kind of punishment his mother preferred for Maciste. So she had got her way, had she? Maciste sentenced to lifelong drudgery in the mines. Whipped into working until he dropped.
But Maciste was strong, fit, healthy. Nothing would break his back. And he had a will of iron. His hatred for his brother would keep his spirits alive. Maciste was to live. He would break free, he vowed it. He’d come back, he promised himself. He’d set his people free.
He’d exact revenge. Kheir had better watch his back. Keeping him alive was the worst mistake Kheir had ever made.
“The king has instituted here the same law.
The captain’s arm gesture behind to the cross.
“THIS is your king’s warning. For any tempted to rebel.”
The captain turned his face up to Maciste on the cross. Naked, exposed.
“The traitor hangs here in this shame. A warning to all who threaten the king.”
So Maciste was up here on this cross as a warning, was he? Not to die here. To suffer ….? An example to any thought of future revolt? And then .. after being made an example of .. Maciste was to be sent to the mines? He saw the captain roll up his decree. The soldier looked out over the whole city, assembled before the cross, forcibly driven here to attend the shaming of a former prince.
“Hang in shame. Hang as a warning, “ he repeated.
Maciste saw Kheir turn his head towards Maciste. And snort in derision. The crowd glanced with him. Collectively their eyes took in this human warning. The muscled power tied down and condemned to suffer on the cross. A symbol of the pointlessness of revolt .. even in a prince. Once destined to rule, now condemned to hang on a cross. Once the resolute warrior-prince, now showing signs in his muscled flesh of the pains beginning to grow. His manhood shamefully exposed. His cock forcibly made hard with his trapped blood. An ugly thick nail between the legs crushing his balls. A symbol of futility. A king’s warning against revolt.
His brother was hurting now, Kheir knew … but he’d made sure Maciste would suffer longer. The captain completed his announcement to the mob. With a final twist meant to strike a further blow at his brother’s anguish.
“Hang here till dawn tomorrow.”
ANOTHER DAY! Kheir wanted to shout it out. He knew how that news knew must strike a spear of despair into Maciste’s fresh hopes. Hopes raised and then dashed. Execution stayed but to suffer like this the whole day .. and into an endless night. The pains in his balls. The shame to his pride. The strains in his chest and his arms. An announcement intended to mock his brother with the taunt. His life had been reprieved. But before that .. before the dawn .. only endless hours of torture .. suffering-without-end like this. His proud warrior-spirit broken by unbearable pains before his people’s eyes. That image of Maciste put to public shame.
The captain continued.
“ …. Dawn tomorrow .. this stinking traitor will be taken down. Dispatched to a life of never-ending regret.”
The captain’s eyes sternly swept over the mob below.
“The fate of any who rises in revolt.”
Kheir smirked to himself. If this arsehole of a stepbrother thought he was suffering .. stuck up there .. balls crushed .. naked in his shame .. the agonies of endless hours on the cross ….. if the fool thought he had it bad now .. then the prick was fooling himself. Kheir had given instructions .. to be carried out in the mines. A fate waiting for him in those quarries. Kheir’s decree that would hang like a millstone around his cocky stepbrother’s neck. Weighing him down pitilessly. Worked till he dropped. Then whipped till he struggled to his feet. For the rest of his miserable days.
This prick Maciste .. he didn’t yet know what suffering was. Nothing like.