Menander wasn’t going to tell Maciste how he felt relieved when the women arriving saved his arse. But it was no easy task either to tell him that the Parthians had hung on to the women.
It made everything Maciste has done for them .. all this suffering .. what he’d been forced to put up with .. it was all a waste of time.
Not to mention what was still planned for Maciste when these monsters got “Prince Menander” back. His fate in the hands of a vengeful Vologases.
He went silent. Maciste had lashed out verbally when Menander had been returned to the cart next dawn.
“You were fucking-supposed to get this arse out of here!”
Maciste had never been so angry with him.
“What the fuck’s wrong with you?”
Menander was at a loss what to say. He knew he’d done the right thing, staying. In the circumstances, he couldn’t have got away. But answering back to Maciste .. justifying himself .. rightly .. Menander ran the risk of saying too much.
Saying anything back was like rubbing Maciste’s nose in it. A “look at the stupid mess that surrender got us both into”. Both knew Maciste’s actions had been rash. And he was paying for it .. maybe he’d pay for it with his life.
“And for what?” Menander could have added. The women were still hostages. Last night the Parthians had gorged their lusts on them. Despite Maciste’s sacrifice, they were being mistreated. They’ be sold out into slavery. Or worse. They were still spoils of war.
But he could tell Maciste that.
“Why the hell didn’t you get away when you could?”
Maciste persisted. Menander felt a rush of temper at his jibe. What could he say? Sorry, I was being raped at the time ….. He was holding back .. taking the jibes. Not snapping back bad-temperedly with the news that the women were still here. That Maciste’s efforts had been a fucking waste of time!
Truth-be-told, Menander did not know what to say. Ashamed at the rape. Protecting Maciste’s feelings. Not telling about the women. Not rubbing Maciste’s nose in his total failure.
And now suddenly HE was in the firing line! He was getting told off. How could he admit that he had never had the chance? That the shame of that rape had had him paralysed?
Maciste must have noticed the sullenness in Menander’s posture. His head flashed over at him. Grim-faced, single purposed, Maciste repeated his insistence. This time more persuasive than giving Menander a bollocking.
“You have to get away. Understand? Maciste will have to take care of himself.”
Easier said than done. Menander felt he had to cover his tracks. He was struck by the need to justify himself.
“They had a job for me …… I couldn’t get free. Put me in charge of some small kids.”
Menander saw Maciste turn to him, frowning. Kids? But he looked away. Again Menander was only telling a half-truth. His guts had knotted when the sergeant had appeared with a pair of scumbags. He’d thought they were starting again where they’d left of. Dreading a taste of the women had given them a taste for his arse.
“Put me in a tent. With some kids ….. no idea where they came from …….”
Not true, it was the women’s children, Separated from their mothers .. so the Parthian scum could have it off the women all night.”
“Had me keeping an eye on about twenty kids.”
KEEP THE FUCKERS QUIET, the sergeant had snarled. His men wanted a trouble-free night.
But Menander couldn’t tell Maciste the truth. He couldn’t know whose kids. Or he’d know about the women. And his abject failure.
What a mess! And Menander kept digging himself even deeper in these lies. Covering his tracks. Justify his failure to flee.
“Some were tiny. Only a few years old. Terrified. Alone. Without their mothers. Hungry. Scared.”
Menander was hiding what their mothers were being used for at the time. His grim face gave back the message. He’d had no chance to get away. Staying with those poor kids .. no choice ….. he’d done the right thing.
“Even the bigger ones were struggling to put a brave face on it.”
“Kids! Small kids. Slaves!”
Maciste looked at Menander.
In Menander’s dilemma a Parthian would have abandoned the kids .. without a second thought. Maybe Maciste as well. But not Menander. Warrior prince. He’d not forgotten what counted in life. A nobility of spirit was deep-engrained in Menander.
And Maciste, after all, …. He was in this mess because HE had done the human thing. Acted to save the women’s lives. Whatever mess he had finished up in as a result.
Maciste growled after a while. Reflecting on his big mistake with that Parthian general.
“Should never have trusted this scum.”
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