Things hadn’t worked out that simple. Rescue the women .. escape .. Maciste’s ill-thought-out plan. Maciste had been outplayed by the Parthian general. Taken prisoner, on his back every second, treated like a slave. Savagely tortured .. for hours.
The enemy had got his back up. The Parthian was making up the rules as he went along. So Maciste refused to play ball. He had sworn to stay true to himself, he’d not give into pressure. Acted the part of a prince who’d surrendered. And expected to be treated as such.
But that determination to stay true to himself .. to stand up to his captors as they dragged him back in chains to their emperor .. it had gone tits-up. His chances had got limited .. the stupid arrival of Menander boxed Maciste into a corner. About to have his head whipped off. The fight-back finished with one stroke. Just what Maciste’s plan had been trying to avoid.
NOW .. the added complication. He had to get his prince away. And even after Maciste had capitulated .. forced by threatening Menander’s life .. agreeing to be the slave and drag the cart like some ox .. that damned Parthian general had not relented. He deemed the goat-shagger still was to pay for his crimes.
“No getting off scot-free.”
They hung on to Menander. The Parthians had assumed he was just some local peasant .. that he had come into the camp to steal food. But that was a crime the goat-shagger would have to pay for.
“Good strong body on the goat-shagger. Fetch a good price.”
Spoils of war. The general had ordered Menander hitched to Maciste’s waggon. Together all morning they had hauled it .. for the one slogging his way into slavery. For the other, on a sweaty road to an appointment with a messy death.
“I’ve saved the women. You’ve got to get away.”
Maciste blinked the sweat out of his eyes .. feigning effort with his shoulders rounded under strain, head down to disguise the fact he was whispering to his prince. Menander just had to escape. He had to carry on the fight. Maciste figured that shouldn’t be difficult. Maciste was the prize, he was the one they had their eyes on. Only Maciste was manacled to the cart. Some stinking dumb-arsed goat-shagger was obviously no flight risk. Menander should be able to slip away.
“At night, when the camp is sleeping. Make like you’re going for a piss …..”
Maciste’s whispered firmly without looking at his friend.
“Not leaving you like this.”
Menander bravely hissed back. Brave but stubborn.
Maciste answered back forcefully, he recognised the risk.
“The longer you’re in their clutches, the greater the danger someone will recognise you.”
Maciste knew in this column there were warriors of their own .. captive .. being taken back .. to be sold into slavery. Someone might sell Menander out .. buying their freedom.
Insistent Maciste turned his head towards the young prince.
“Otherwise the fight is really up!”
Out of the corner of his eye Maciste saw Menander shake his head. Maciste persisted.
“Get away. Keep up the fight.”
The air snapped above their heads.
“Shut the fuck up.”
Menander’s jaws clenched together.
A second bite into sunburnt skin shot his head back.
“No slacking! Scum!”
Maciste cringed. The stupid Parthian was sparing him .. and striking out at the real prince. Clearly Tiradates had deemed Maciste’s hide was too precious. It would be for the emperor to deal with the “rebel prince”. That meant Menander was taking the heat.
Maciste was under no illusions. If they got him back to the emperor, all this stuff from the Parthian general .. it’d be like child’s play. They said it had taken Menander’s big brother three days to die. In public. Crucified. Hung out to die in agony under his own people’s nose. His skeleton still hung in the market place. A reminder of the austere power of Parthian rule. No rebel was safe. And a fight-back from a royal prince least of all. An example had to be made.
Taken captive before, Maciste had discovered to his costs that the sight of his strength could bring out the worst in some men. As if broad muscular shoulders and a tight etched belly was a come-on. A challenge to prove who was the better man. Maciste had suffered more than others .. the might of his physique sending some twisted signal to the force at the top of his captor’s thighs. The urge to dominate. To lord it over this muscled hunk in his clutches. To show who was boss around here.
He was under no illusions of the welcome Vologases would give. Maciste had had no intention of letting that meeting happen. Then Menander had turned up. Out of self-interest, Maciste had to get Menander away. Then he could focus on his own escape.
When he deemed it safe, Maciste persevered with Menander.
“Tonight. In the darkness ….. Go take a leak.”
Maciste kept up the pressure on his prince .. as soon as the driver’s attention was off them again.
“Tonight you slip away.”
Bravely, aware of the risks, he added.
“Leave Maciste to sorting himself out.”
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