Had Maciste got things all wrong? Was this plan of his a mistake? But he knew Menander. He would have sacrificed himself to save the hostages. And that would have been the end. Meander was losing faith with the fight-back anyway.
Losing patience that .. for all Maciste’s success in harrying the invaders .. keeping them on their toes .. Menander no longer saw they were making headway .. not driving the invaders out. He was in danger of giving in.
And this camp looked amazingly well stocked, the Parthians were here till the job was done .. all opposition wiped out. Their emperor had sent this army in strength. Here for the long haul. Smashing Menander’s pitifully small uprising. In any front-on fight, Menander’s men didn’t stand a chance. But Maciste wasn’t for giving up the struggle.
In a pig sty .. crouched in pigs’ shit .. Maciste remembered. Last night Menander had sidled up to him with worrying news. Hostages, a whole village, only a few miles away. Every able-bodied male had been taken away .. forced into slavery. And the women taken captive. Taken to the enemy’s camp .. children clutching terrified at their legs.
The word went out. Give up their prince. Betray Menander. Or one woman would be executed every day .. one-a-day beheaded before the rest .. until they gave Menander up. And when they’d run out of hostages, the army would move on. From village to village. The same demand. The same reprisals. The message clear .. give Menander up. Then these reprisals would stop.
Just the kind of thing that would cripple the back of Menander’s weakening resolve. Menander would break. He’d sacrifice himself, surrender to release the hostages. And THEN ….. everything really WAS lost.
Instead, Maciste had stolen away. Middle of the night. Appeared at dawn at the enemy’s camp. Posing as the prince himself. Better to sacrifice himself. Buy Menander time to see things clearer. Flee with his men, regroup. The enemy would think they had taken the enemy prince prisoner. Hostages saved .. sent home. Ignorant that Maciste was playing the Parthians for a fool.
And Menander would live to fight another day. Come up with an alternative way to save his kingdom from these Parthian brutes.
All Maciste had to do was get to Tiradates. Talk to him .. general-to-general. Negotiate valuable regrouping time. He didn’t fool himself. He knew what these murderous Parthians had done to Menander’s family. What they’d do to him.
But he had to assume “Prince Meander” would be taken back to the emperor in triumph. That gave him days still. And once the women hostages were free .. Maciste had no plan to hang around.
Menander would have surrendered. Instead, Maciste acted. Pretend to be Menander, give himself up. No time to think implications fully through. But this was not the first time Maciste had fought a foe thinking on his feet. Maciste had to pre-empt Menander’s disastrous mistake. By passing himself off as his prince.
Now he was stuck in a stinking pigsty. In the hands of Parthian cretins. Maciste was intent on surrendering to their general. Instead they had gone for him. Unarmed, unprotected .. Maciste had hit back. He’d done more damage than they had.
He had come in peace, come to give himself up But these morons had other plans for him. Would he get through their thick skulls what was important? Or was he waiting for those dumb fools to come back for their “bit of fun”?