Beast of burden
“You think this some game, dog?”
Tiradates glared down from his mount. Frustrated that this captive could find such strength of will. What had the Stone done to him? Annoyed that torture had failed to tame this spirit.
“If it is … it is MY game.”
He twisted round in the saddle. To his sergeant, Tiradates snapped out an order.
“Bring that peasant. The thief. From last night.”
Ignoring him, his feet planted firm, Maciste stared up. His defiance unchanged.
“I am no dog …..” he asserted.
Tiradates snorted back in disdain.
“And no prince either …. Not any more ……”
His face twisted into a sadistic sneer.
“Otherwise you would know better …..”
Maciste knew full-well what it meant to be noble. And it was this Parthian ruffian had no principles. No qualms about using women as hostages. About slaughtering children. Stupidly Maciste had surrendered. He WAS prisoner. But he was not going to be treated as less than a dog.
So they had sent for some thief? Trying it on again, Maciste thought. Blackmailing him. Using others to weaken his resolve. Threatening Maciste with the life of another, probably. It had worked before with that woman. Not again. This was going to stop, this time Maciste would make a stand.
Tough on this thief, whoever he was. Maciste could not give in. He’d die, the poor thief, these bastards would kill the poor soul .. before Maciste’s eyes. Filling him with guilt. But Maciste would not concede. Maciste was not going to yield. He’d given in enough.
Footsteps approached from behind. Maciste made to turn. A stinging lash tore across his shoulder. Pain biting down the length of his back.
“Eyes front, slave.”
The other guard ripped his whip painfully across the soft skin of Maciste’s waist. Shocking him, shamefully making his grunt out loud. A snort of pain leapt from his nose. Worrying signs of weakening after that torture … He’d have to guard himself.
Tiradates hadn’t planned it like this. The Stone did it for everyone, never an exception. What was this dog? Some freak of nature that even savage torture didn’t get to? His eyes swooped over the torso again. He stood there .. ignoring everything, this dog-of-a-prince, like there was only him mattered in the world. Around, soldiers stomped out their march, waggons creaked, oxen bellowed at being made to haul over-burdened carts. But this damned slave stood strong, ignoring it all. Unbothered by the cacophony of sound, the movement of an army. Centre of his world .. the world revolved around him .. arrogant stuck-up noble.
He must be putting it on, this had to be all for show. Tiradates glowered down from his mount, he refused to believe the Stone hadn’t done for him. This dumbass couldn’t be feeling as strong as he looked. Dense muscle stood proud of his chest. Shoulders back, muscular, haughty, self-assured. His chest an overhang of mocking strength tipped with nipples equally firm. Everything about him looked determined, unmoving, undaunted. But how strong? It couldn’t be. How much strength was left there .. if tested?
Waiting for the thief, Tiradates had looked for signs of weakness he could exploit. Belly muscle .. hours tortured on the rack of the Stone. But no sign of trembling. Nothing weak, nothing looking broken by strain. Tiradates did not want to believe his eyes. His head denied what they saw, this was a put-up job.
This dog should hardly be able to stand. Tortured through the night. Robbed of water, starved of food. The prick was covering up, he had to be. Put him to work. Hour-after-hour hauling on the overloaded waggon .. burned up by the sun .. sweating his balls off in the heat. Soon see for himself .. he couldn’t keep it up. A put-up job.
Slowly Tiradates shook his head, feeling confident. Assuring himself. All that haughty muscle .. that manly confidence .. a show, it had to be. It couldn’t be real, no man survived the magic of the Stone.