Maciste heard her pleading before he saw her. Glancing around to the sound .. stuck down on his knees. She was sobbing, the woman they had fetched did not know what she had done wrong. But before she knew her fate, she had experienced enough with these Parthians to be going out of her mind with fear.
Seeing a man forcibly bent forward on his knees did not settle her mind. It only made her cry out more desperately.
A simple village woman. Late twenty’s, dressed in the cheapest of shifts. Dishevelled and unkempt. But Maciste was sure these conquering troops did not keep these hostages for their personal hygiene.
Her eyes frowned at the sight of him. Clearly a prisoner .. he had taken a beating .. but she had never seen the man before.
Without waiting the sergeant grabbed at her neckline and tugged. A few hard tugs and the shift ripped from neck to hemline. She had nothing on underneath. A sense of panic rushed across the woman’s face. Horror slapped her arm across his breasts, the other hand rushed to grab together the material at the tops of her legs.
Maciste roared .. struggling to his feet. Going to settle this the only way. But the hold on the back of his neck turned murderously tight. Hands pushed down on his shoulders. Forbidding him to stand. A hand twisted a sharp pain out of his scalp. Helpless to help her.
Tiradates loomed over Maciste to one side.
“So you wanted to set them free? Your freedom for their lives, eh?”
Maciste rankled at the way he snorted. At Tiradates’ obvious joy at his downfall.
“But you got THAT wrong. Arsehole.”
Maciste knew he had. But having it rubbed in his face didn’t make him any happier. Or explain what was happening.
“Prince .. rebel .. prisoner .. slave. Quite a career you’ve got going there. The only way is down, it seems.”
Tiradates’ mocking Maciste’s stupidity only made him angry. And frustrated that he could do nothing about it. And increasingly nervous for the woman. She was there because of him.
“Sergeant, when did our friend here last eat?”
The soldier shrugged. What the hell did he know? What the fuck did he care? The arsehole had got nothing out of them.
“How remiss. A strong man like this .. powerfully built .. he needs to eat. Keep all that muscle fed. And meat. A man of this size and strength .. he needs meat. Red meat.”
Maciste saw the smirk flicker to life on his enemy’s face. Making him more wary.
“Tonight serve him a stew.”
Tiradates stared down at his kneeling prisoner. That slave collar still untouched in the dirt by his knees.
Then Maciste saw his smirk freeze. Tiradates looked him straight in the eyes. Stern. Commanding.
“I will count to three. That collar is around your neck. Or this bitch loses an ear.”
Maciste froze. He should have known.
“I start the count again. One-Two-Three.”
Tiradates’ tone was icy cold.
“You have put that collar around your neck. Or another ear goes into your stew.”
“You monster. What kind-of-twisted-female brought you into the world?”
Tiradates ignored him.
“Or a nipple ….”
“ …. or maybe two …..? For the more succulent bites.”
Maciste was appalled that a human being could think this way. An innocent bystander. A woman.
“Throw in a few fingers. Bones to strengthen the stock.”
“Remember …. ONE-TWO-THREE? Up to you, arsehole.”
The woman was sobbing. Near-hysterical. Pleading. Her eyes flashing from Tiradates to Maciste. Not understanding what was going on. Understanding only she was about to be brutally maimed. Shocked that her fate was to be decided by two unknown men. Men she had never seen before .. clearly enemies ….And what they did decided whether she was cut to pieces. She was terrified.
She looked at Maciste. Confused. Terrified. Her eyes were running with tears. Her face twisted with fear.
“Please … I have children ……”