The burn of a lash tore stinging across Menander’s shoulders. Maciste shuddered at the harshness of his prince’s hiss. Hurting. Constantly taking the lash. Seeing the muscles in his back jar .. feeling his whole body contort. Lightning flashes crackling in every muscle down his straining back.
Maciste’s mind snapped. He was no fucking horse! His spirit raged furious with the minder seated comfortably behind on the cart. He was done-in. An endless day of exhausting pushing this cart. Under constant pressure. The moron was probably bored. Amusing himself by flicking out with his whip. Reminding the pair of scumbag-slaves who was boss.
It was the end of the day, they were stopping to make camp. Maciste hadn’t noticed. Exhausted, he had forced himself into a daze to overcome the tortured shrieking in his shoulder muscles. Losing sense of time. Losing himself in this mindless trance.
Grateful to stop, though. Next to him, he saw Menander drop shattered to his knees. They had conquered another day, jointly they had prevailed through their torture. And Maciste was one day closer to encountering their evil emperor.
This could not go on, Maciste kept telling himself. Furious with himself, angry at this growing weakness .. physically shattered. Tiradates was setting out to run Maciste into the ground. Broken physically. Crushed mentally. Much more of this, it could work. He had to get away, he knew.
His own body was becoming his own enemy. A growing sense of dismay was assailing him. Grinding into his bones, his strong warrior-spirit was turning on him .. turning traitor. His weakening body was at war with his strength of will. Maciste had to make his will prevail, he had to overcome this growing sense of despair. He would rise above this, he could, he would .. he told himself. He had to escape.
But Menander …… His prince’s well-being was the problem. Why hadn’t he got away? Night-after-night Maciste willed him to be gone. The fight-back .. continuing the rebellion .. everything rested on Menander’s name. Fighters would follow him. Then why the hell was he still here? Why the fuck was he failing to escape?
He was trapping Maciste. Maciste could not manage his own escape till he knew Menander was free. Damn him! Menander’s stubborn refusal .. gluing himself to Maciste’s side .. tortured day-after-day in pushing this cart .. that refusal was shortening Maciste’s odds. In no time he could be in chains before their emperor. Only the gods knew what that could foretell. But it wouldn’t be nice.
So why was Menander hanging around? Condemning his friend. To the worst possible fate.
That Tiradates, the enemy general ….. clearly his plan to have his prize prisoner ground into the ground. Out to break his spirit. Break the back of Maciste’s resistance. To tame his resolve.
Well, to hell with that. Maciste was a fighter. No slave, no ox. Master of his own will, master of his own muscle-corded body. Men looked him over and they bowed. In respect of his strength and fortitude .. of his corded strength, not of his rank. Maciste didn’t give in to Parthian scum.
Maciste swore it .. Tiradates would never command his will. Neither would their damned emperor. With reinforced determination, he clenched tight his fists. Ignoring another flick of the whip from the bored morons behind, he dug deep into his reserves. Putting steel into his broad muscled back. Finding iron to pump into his exhausted legs. Standing up to them again .. shifting the cart into its resting place. Leaning his strong torso into the weight. Overcoming the weighty resistance. Prevailing. A lesson to himself, an affirmation. His strength of will had conquered weakness. So it would be from now on. Equipping him to face this destiny.
Maciste’s spirits lifted. He had prevailed, he’d survived this day, his strength of will intact. Tomorrow again he would triumph. Tomorrow sometime this physical effort might send him heading down into that vortex of dismay. Tired-out, exhausted. But Maciste told himself he would win through. Rise above Tiradates’ torments, he vowed it. Grim-faced, he’d claw his way back out of that pit of despair. Girding his will about him to continue the fight.
Every day the same .. until he escaped. Every day he’d face that challenge. He’d triumphed over his exhaustion today. Tomorrow again, he would succeed. Every god-damned day he would prevail. He’d clawed his way out of that pit of despondency once. He would do it again. And again. And again-and-again.
And …… if only the gods could smile his way for a change .. the time would come .. he would face that general. He’d smirked into Tiradates’ face. Take him on, fight him. Defeat him in a duel. It would be the last thing Maciste would do probably. But it would be worth it. That Parthian general owed. Maciste would see him looking up from the dirt. Pleading. And, cold-hearted, justly vengeful, Maciste would plunge his own sword into the bastard’s throat. Cover himself with the monster’s blood.
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