Beast of burden
“Sergeant, do you keep your sword razor sharp? To take off a head?”
The sergeant held it up .. his lips pursed appraising.
“It’ll do the job, sir. Might need three or four hacks to do the job completely …..”
The general eyed the peasant down in his knees. Then his gaze shot harsh towards Maciste.
“For the last time … SLAVE ….. push.”
His lip curled.
“I’ll be generous. Counting to five.”
What choice did Maciste have? No way could he wait to Five.
Maciste turned on the general snarling. He HAD to keep up the pretence. That HE was the prince.
“Scum. Motherfucking scum.”
Maciste shook his head in disgust. He had to keep Tiradates centred on him. To stop Menander from betraying them both.
He goaded the general further.
“This the best you can do?”
Maciste snarled his contempt at the Parthian.
“THIS how big you are? THIS all you can fight against?”
Maciste spat at Tiradates’ feet.
“Can’t take on a real man?”
Maciste’s fist slapped himself across a hard muscled chest.
“Have to make do with … THIS? Some poor man …”
Maciste was consciously irritating the Parthian. Anything to divert. Anything to keep reinforcing the idea in Tiradates’ head .. that he already had the rebel prince in his hands. And persuade Menander to keep his mouth shut. He’d done enough harm.
“This poor sod … a peasant .. just needs to feed his hungry children. Starving … because of you and all your Parthian scum …”
Maciste’s gaze flashed back at Menander. Willing him to stay silent. But horrifyingly aware that the sergeant still had hold of his prince’s head. Still the sword raised. All it would take was Tiradates’ signal.
Desperate Maciste shouted out.
“OK. Since you daren’t take on anything better …..”
Maciste thrust out his chest. He jutted up his defiant chin.
Defiant Maciste bawled at the general.
Maciste capitulated. Whatever his earlier resolve, Tiradates had got him again. Menander’s stupid gesture had left him no choice. And to prove the point, he grabbed at the cart. Hands next to the shackles for his wrists. Like he was ready to put his back into pulling the cart, he made his shoulders bulge. The hard muscles in his arms peaked. Stood as if he made to move the cart.
But his eyes flashed too at Menander. Looks communicated. Making sure Menander gave nothing away. Why let-on? No need …..
Tiradates had what he wanted. The “enemy prince” reduced to a slave .. a beast of burden .. hauling the rock-laded cart .. his back exposed to the whipmaster’s lash.
Maciste stood at the cart .. ready. Reluctant but submissive .. that was the gesture he was portraying. And asking, What did Tiradates need with some peasant caught stealing food? He’d used the poor sucker, he’d twisted Maciste’s arm into an impossible position. His reluctant slave had tapped out.
No need, then, for Tiradates to hang on to the poor peasant. Hoping Maciste’s submission would get Menander set free. Best he could, surreptitiously Maciste was communicating his command to the real prince. Maciste was giving Menander a chance. The opportunity to make-up for this fuck-up. And to get his stupid hide out of here. Signalling, Don’t fuck up again. Get your arse outta here.
Tiradates sneered down from his horse in triumph.
“You think that’s enough? Slave.”
He’d not given orders for the grip on Menander to be released. The sergeant still stood, sword ready.
“Let’s hear it. SLAVE.”
Triumphant at getting his captive prince to yield so easily, he was going to rub his nose in his own shit. Give in? That easily? Just to save some stinking goat-shagger’s neck. These princes really were that weak!