Nightmare had him over a barrel. And if Maciste could admit to that, Yothin certainly knew it. It hadn’t just been the piercings .. numerous sharp steel needles penetrating deep into throbbing muscle with pain .. bad enough.
On top of it … those poisons .. inflaming him from the inside .. muscle like being eaten by acid .. watering his eyes with the pain .. wrenching tears from deep under the skin. Fires .. flames .. embers that needed only the slightest movement .. bursting into life .. in seconds raging like a branding iron deep under the skin.
And to prove it ….. Nightmare had had Maciste caned. Stinging strikes against his chest. Even the lightest of hits …… they exploded deep in muscle ….. he gasped out. A tap bursting into an explosion of pain. Impossible to hold down his cries. Impossible not to yelp.
And Nightmare had not made do with the slightest of hits ……
By the time Maciste was freed from his agonies …. lowered into his pit ….. he was beyond himself. He’d simply collapsed, blacked out. His body could take no more. Starving hungry, parched after hours in the heat …. His body knew only one response. Oblivion. Unconsciousness.
The poisonous flames had spread throughout his whole body. For hours he’d been a man on fire ….. a sacrifice trapped on the burning pyre …. every sinew, every muscle alive with unbearable flames. But still they’d worked him. His body raging with their poisons, he’d been put to work. Pitiless hard work. And every move … every twitch had had him crying out with pain.
Hell. Maciste had stepped over the threshold. The fires of hell were alive in his flesh.
At some time in the pitch-black of the night … in the freezing darkness of his pit …. Maciste had come awake. At first barely daring to move. Fearing any twitch could awaken those fires. Realising slowly the flames had stilled. Gingerly he moved. Cautiously he found his sack of stale bread in the dark. Warily he slugged back the water from the bag. And looked to the positive …..
Doggedly he refused his thoughts from going back to the horrors of the day. His body had suffered untold agonies. The poisons alive within every fibre of his being while he was lashed into unstinting hard work. That monster Yothin knew his stuff. He was a daunting foe. But Maciste made himself put negative thoughts aside. The challenges would return once he was hauled back up out of this hole at first light. Maciste chose to grab the chance. He seized the opening to think.
Maciste could congratulate himself. He had fooled the Parthians …. And he’d fool this sucker Yothin as well. He’d got the Parthians thinking he was the rebel prince. They were convinced he was Menander, the last of the royal line. And he had that bastard Yothin doing his best to break the wrong man.
He had them fooled. They thought he was Meander. And with Menander’s execution, they thought the Parthian conquest would be complete. “Menander” would be summoned to the enemy’s court. To be executed, To wipe out his royal line.
But their emperor was a vain man. Vologases needed to show off. Convince his court that crushing Menander was his work, his success. Which was why Maciste had been sent to Hellgate. For a few weeks of “softening up”.
His henchman, dubbed Nightmare by Maciste, had been commissioned to break Maciste’s will. So that when Vologases summoned “Menander” to court, his sycophants would see the emperor breaking the rebel himself. Before sentencing him to a cruel death.
Only Maciste wasn’t the prince ….. The Parthians were wasting their breath.