Brooding, he knew, was dangerous. He couldn’t afford to lie there feeling sorry for himself. That way weakness invaded his senses. Took a hold on his spirit and drowned him in self-pity. Nothing gained from crying over spilled milk. There was still a fight to win.
The sun had raised its cruel face. Lifted to its zenith. Uncaring it shot its pitiless rays down on a suffering earth. Denying any shelter. Banning clouds from sullying its countenance. Magnificent its huge face held sway over man and beast. Ordering them to cower .. withdraw from its dread presence. Warning earth’s weak creatures to take shelter where they could. Any who defied its will would feel the full effects of its wrath.
The earth heated up. Vision quivered in fear of that merciless power. The air hung heavy, weighted down by the awesome terror of a pitiless sun. Hard to breath. Even harder to move. The only option to submit to the fiery orb’s command. Creep indoors, stay hidden. Rest, sleep, make no move. Best stay out of sight of that cruel-hearted countenance until the sun took its rest. Until its heat started to ebb.
No such luck for any creature condemned to a roasting stone. Stuck there till his body gave in. Trapped here by his enemies .. intent on breaking his will. Invited to suffer the burning heat in his back .. a hotness certain to slowly burn away that wilfulness. Reduce his obstinacy to cinders.
Maciste had reproached himself when his mind had been more lucid. Scolding himself for the stupid mistakes he had made. Under-estimating this enemy. Thinking he was dealing with a noble mind, an enemy a prince could deal with. Or even being stupid enough to think that by his surrendering, its general would be grateful that surrender brought conflict to an end.
Tiradates’ way of showing his thanks? Roasting Maciste alive. No movement, no shelter, no escape. Fried under a merciless sun. Long since he had run dry of sweat. Dried to crusty salt on his skin. His torso shook .. gripped by uncontrollable fevers. The temperature of his body rose, his heat-beat raced. His head swam.
Now gripped by the fever wracking his body, lucid thoughts were cremated to dust. Delirium shivered in his brain. Creatures from the dark other side entered his thoughts. Skewering him on the horns of dismay. The blackness of the other side crawled the length of him, its talons raking him. And its fiends seized hold of his mind.
The promised food had not appeared, no drink either. Maciste was weakening, he had not eaten since the previous night. Hunger had once gnawed at his guts. But such times were long since passed. He was beyond that point. If the gods released him from this rock now, would he even be able to crawl?
Stuck, immobile. Chained tight to the stone. Not a muscle had moved in hours, not a bit of movement in his limbs. Racked, stiff as this rock torturing him. The chains stretching him so tight, his back seemed to have fused into the burning rock. The pull on the chains so intense, it was like his belly too could be sucked down into the stone.
A cruel sentence. Stretched out on black stone. Absorbing all the heat. Giving nothing back. The rock sucking up the searing rays of the sun. Buckling under a pitiless whiplashing from the sun’s heat. Charcoal-black. Coal-black. Mocking the failed hero being roasted to ashes.
Not a drop of liquid had passed his lips .. in hours. It was on his journey here, racing to save the womenfolk and surrender to this Parthian general – that was the last time Maciste had tasted water. Burning up. Draining the strength out of him. Roasting the will out of him.
Under his back, like stretched out over roasting coals. A suckling pig roasting in the glowing embers of a great fire. Already before the sun had reached its zenith he had sweated it all away. He had turned his face away from the merciless sun but his body could not.
Before, he had dripped with sweat. A thick viscous coating had clung heavy to his skin. Long gone, long since. Maciste could no longer sweat. Drained of liquids, depleted of fluids. Drying out. Dried out. He had shed himself empty of all liquids, his enviously muscled body .. admired by men, desired by women .. it had nothing left.