5. Command performance
Now there was a name to conjure with. Tiradates had no idea where it was. Something in his sceptic depths wondered if it actually existed. But men HAD disappeared. Whispers about court said the emperor had consigned them there. For treacheries that could not be atoned for .. not even by the worst of executions.
Men had disappeared. Their names never mentioned again. One-way traffic. They ever came back. Was it just a myth? Hellgate? Just a story put about by the emperor’s innermost circle? To terrify. To keep the court in line. To quell the ambitions of any military man.
Men had supposedly disappeared there. Their names no longer even whispered at court. Memories wiped clear. Did it actually exist? Men like Tiradates felt it better not to know. Those who knew WERE there. And they were already lost.
Tiradates had heard of only one who returned. It was said the emperor bore him such bad blood .. he’d had the poor fucker brought back. Clutched in the vengeful claws of an unforgiving emperor. Returned for a private execution. Agonies that supposedly lasted for days.
Or was that also just a myth?
Maciste was still seething after that “show” in the night. Afterwards it had taken the sergeant and a troop of five to subdue his anger when they shackled his legs back to the cart. Punched, kicked, beaten .. but Maciste took their blows like they were nothing. Like a madman he fought them back. Maddened by their cruelty. Letting them feel his fury. Incensed at the abuse dished out to poor Menander.
Since he hadn’t seen his prince. No doubt that night of sadistic torture had put the scumbags in the mood. Menander would have “served” them. Abused out of his skin. Only thing to hope-for .. most had boozed too much, many would not get it up. But then Menander’s throat would have been worked double.
The sight of that general swaggering along the river towards him just made Maciste’s blood boil. He’d sworn he-didn’t-know-how-many times in the night .. he’d kill that bastard .. if it was the last thing he did.
The brute loomed over Maciste. He was seated on the earth, leaning against a wheel .. his feet chained. They’d never returned his rags. But Maciste sat manly-defiant with his knees up, legs wide apart. Provocatively he thrust an undaunted manhood at the scumbag’s face. If that general thought that session with Menander had dented Maciste’s sense of manliness .. if the brute thought that the shame had got to him ….. this pride in his bearing threw the message back. No shame! Not put-down. Get a look of that!
Tiradates read the prick’s posture. He felt the bristle of resentment prickle in his loins at this disrespect. Tempted to land his metal-cleated boot right in that insolence. But the news of what was planned for this prick settled his instincts. Pending victory over this arsehole’s false pride was sufficient to resist stomping his boot in between those preening thighs.
Soon enough .. the dumb fucker would find out soon enough .. in no time he’d be changing his fucking-tune. Days from now .. time that felt like a era of suffering compressed into a few days .. sit and posture like this? The prick ’d never dare …..
“Special treatment. Special plans. Specially for you ……”
Tiradates was not going to show any trace of his resentment at getting out-manoeuvred by those fuckers back at court. He’d follow orders. He’d see this prick escorted away. And then he’d race to the palace to sort out this fraud. Hellgate would do Tiradates’ work for him. Crush this fucker to smithereens.
“Special location. To await the emperor’s summons.”
Unusual. Those consigned to Hellgate didn’t return. But the message was that this rebel prince WOULD be sent for. Clearly the chancellor DID have plans for Tiradates’ prisoner. And by the time the fucker crawled back from Hellgate .. broken, crushed .. Tiradates would have made sure that he himself featured strong in those plans.
“Hellgate it’s called. Where the emperor keeps those he favours with his special demands.”
Tiradates felt he had the stubborn arsehole’s attention pricked. All muscle, stubborn as an ox. But not stupid, he had to be curious. Tiradates turned the screw.
“Special treatment. Designed to bend the will. Break the back. Until the emperor is inclined to welcome you into court …..”
Maciste had never expected kid-glove treatment. The news he’d be condemned to some kind of hard labour .. somewhere like the quarries .. that came as no surprise. He’d imagined getting confined to the darkest dungeons .. menaced by torture instruments .. it was what he expected. He’d be a marked man. Marked out for special treatment. Like Menander’s brother had been publicly crucified.
For days Maciste had accepted that was to be his fate. Unless he failed to get away.
He stared back unmoved. Knowing he didn’t plan on staying Parthian prisoner longer than it took. Looking his tormentor strong in the eyes. So far Maciste had had little chance to escape .. too closely-guarded, under strict watch. But … a new location, new chances. With luck in his new confinement better opportunities would present themselves.
Menander? Well, it looked like they’d be separated. Nothing Maciste could do. His prince would have to take care of himself. But, at least, the Parthians thought he was just some dumb peasant. Destined to get sold off for the muscles on his back and the strength of his legs. At least his secret was still safe. Once sold into slavery, Menander would still engineer an escape.
“Hellgate. The name says what it is.”
Tiradates was irked that he couldn’t trace any fear in this prick’s face. But it wouldn’t take five minutes in that place for the fears to start flowing through his every vein.
“No saying how long. Awaiting the emperor’s summons. And execution.”
His cold eyes travelled up from the futile display of the prick’s limp cock. Up the muscular power in his belly. Over the dirt-streaked breadth of a hard-packed chest. Taking in the solid power of his muscled shoulders. Over-muscled motherfucker! The prick would need every bit of strength he could muster. Hellgate would punch it out of him.
“And what an execution!”
Tiradates promised himself. He’d be there. He’d have won himself into his emperor’s favours. And would bathe in glory at the show.
He was determined, though, to give this sucker something to think about as he faced this new turn of events. Life after Hellgate.
“Execution .. when it comes. The best butchery man’s imagination can devise. Deserving for the likes of you …… Agonising. Tortured. And looong …..”
For a fleeting moment Maciste saw the general’s features break. A brief flash of pleasure at the thought. Undeterred Maciste stared him back. The general was saying nothing he had not imagined himself. Still that thought could knot up his stomach. But such fears never reached his face. Besides, ….. he had no plans to fall into the clutches of that emperor. Hellgate. If that place gave him opportunity to escape …… so much the better.
Tiradates could not afford to waste any more time with this motherfucker, he thought. Every urge in his body prickled with his own needs. To race back to court. And reverse the underhand trickery that had been played against him.
“We’ll meet again.”
From his dominating height over this failed one-time prince in the dirt Tiradates gloated.
“….. when the emperor summons your presence. I’ll be there. After enduring the nightmares of Hellgate .. for days .. weeks .. who knows?”
They’d meet again, he promised himself. The prick-of-a-prince would survive Hellgate, the chancellor would make sure of that. Brought back to the emperor. For an execution .. the likes of which would freeze men’s blood.
And Tiradates would make sure of something too. By then, this prick-of-a-prince would be HIS. HIS gift to the emperor. Hellgate or not …. afterwards .. whatever crippled state this motherfucker was in …… Tiradates would have claimed him back. This over-muscled brute was his entry to greater things.
“We’ll meet again.”
Tiradates crowed over the fallen prince.
Meet again? Over my dead body, thought Maciste ……..
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