“Every breath … every single breath a grateful slave is granted …”
The hand clawed tighter at Maciste’s throat. The fingers tightened around his neck. He could not breathe.
“Even a piece-of-shit like this … is lucky. It has an owner. Re-assuring. THIS …..”
Nightmare’s gaze swept over the expanse of Maciste’s muscular chest.
“ …. It is owned. Someone has rights over it.”
The claw on Maciste’s throat tightened.
“And this lucky shit-pile …. It is owned by an emperor. The lord emperor.”
The grip tightened. Maciste stared up. Into the cold eyes of his torturer. Never a whiff of emotion from Nightmare. But Maciste returned his look in-kind. The lord emperor did not want him dead. Not yet.
“Every breath this dung-heap takes – a gift of the Emperor.”
The tightness around Maciste’s windpipe clenched like a vice. Pressure was building in his chest. He could NOT breathe. But Nightmare could not afford to let him die ….
“The right to exist – a gift of the Emperor.”
The burning in Maciste’s throat could not be denied much longer. He wondered how long he could keep his cool. Maintain this defiant look. Like this .. tied down over a large stone .. he was helpless to defend himself.
“Life. The gift of the lord emperor.”
Nightmare prattled on. Maciste felt the panic billowing in his chest. But like hell was he going to show the dread that raged in his guts. Steely-eyed he glared back into the face of his tormentor. That cruel mouth only inches away from Maciste’s face.
Nightmare pressed down harder. He had got the measure of this slave, he reckoned. No ordinary Hellgate specimen. But the Emperor had known that. When Nightmare had tried to enquire, the Emperor had frozen him with a vindictive glare.
“Break him. That is all you need to know ..”
The Emperor had added, “You know not to disappoint …”
Nightmare did. He did not dare disappoint. And already he could see why Vologases had needed his skills. This prisoner had taken everything so far .. a ferocious pulverising of his thighs, the brutal thwackings across his belly … it was not just the beatings he had taken, most Hellgate prisoners had endured as much, he too would endure more. It was HOW he had taken them. It was the attitude.
No amount of threat or pain had wiped the look of contempt from this slave’s eyes. He’d take a hit, pain would scrawl its claws in his face. Then back it was, that look, that look of contempt. As if goading Nightmare to dish out more.
But Nightmare was no novice. When had he failed his emperor? Even now, this dog dared sneer in Nightmare’s face. Even as he was being robbed of life’s breath … Nightmare increased the clench on his throat. Cutting off all air. Digging pain into his neck. Nightmare had his orders. Break the back of this dog’s will. Then drag him on his knees back to court. Even being throttled like this … Nightmare knew, he could not let the dog die.
These cretins had done as told. Dragged the prick over to a man-sized rock .. stretched him out over the giant boulder. Feet on the floor, back stretched over the top of the rock. Arms caught by unbreakable thick rope spreading him on his back in some giant rebellious X.
Nightmare kept up the pressure. Applying it on the cocksucker’s throat. The prisoner on his back, bent backwards over this boulder .. no defence, no chance of fighting back. But still putting up a fight. As if he’d guessed ….. the emperor did not want him dead. Not till he’d nailed the fucker to a cross.
As the sun heated, so would the rock. Helpless, roasting under the sun. Nightmare leaned his weight behind the throttling. The prick’s arms were caught out of the way, helpless. Strangling what they said had once been a prince.
What now was the lord emperor’s prized slave. To be broken. Failure did not come into the question.