Back in the sweat box. He had to think, he had to come to a conclusion, the right one for his desperate plight. He’d not have much time. Soon the heat would have taken him over and he’d be roasting alive in this oven.
He’d done the thing. He’d given Yothin proof that his prisoner was beginning to cave in. It had been going on now for .. what? .. three days? It felt like more. End of every day before rations were given out … down on his knees, humiliatingly crawling forward like a dog. And taking Yothin in his mouth. No hands. Ordered behind his head. Just mouth and tongue. Till Yothin came. And sometimes sprayed himself over Maciste’s face.
Three days? Or more? Time seemed to have fused into an endless suffering. So far, so good. Maciste didn’t feel he had given up anything by that act. He was playing Yothin at his own game. And getting enough in his belly to keep his strength up.
Those guards were still on his back every waking minute. Forced to endure duress like he’d never imagined. Three days of sucking Yothin off ….. but if he had carried on being stubborn .. suffering their deprivations for much longer .. they’d have got to him. In time .. starved, worked into the ground … they could have broken him. This regime .. in time .. it could break the will of even the most pig-headed.
Maciste had to work a way out of this mess. Mentally at least .. he had to finds a way of not breaking. He would not have put himself in the category of a man who’d buckle under .. against his will. But Hellgate was aptly named.
Physically too .. ideally. Escape .. if he got the chance. Stuck in this clay oven again, he could see how continued treatment like this could wear him down …. Given the time. If he allowed them that time. Break free. THAT was the ideal.
At least, sweating his guts out in this box, he was left alone. Physically, right now, Ugly and his cronies weren’t breathing down his neck. And Maciste had precious little time to think straight. Ideally he needed some escape plan. At the least, some way of working how to stay in control of himself .. even if only by trickery.
Here, sweating away, his temperature rising as he could no longer keep himself cool, it would not be long before his brain was addled. He’d go delirious. Before that happened, he had to reach the right decision ….
He had to work out how things went on from here. How he could keep life and soul together. Before he was so weakened .. so tortured out of his skin that he handed the Parthian emperor victory over him.
He could break, they could wear him down. He could see that. Given time. And they had all the time in the world. Their emperor didn’t have to send for him. He was in no rush. Things could wait. Until Vologases was given word .. that the enemy had been broken. That Hellgate had worked its magic. The emperor could afford to wait till then .. before summoning his enemy. Whatever cruel execution Vologases had conjured up for Maciste .. it could now begin. But till Maciste broke ….. Vologases could allow himself to wait.
Deciding to surrender had been a spot-of-the-moment decision. A disastrous mistake, he was paying for it in a big way. Luckily, the Parthians still believed they had the right prince in Maciste. HE was in Hellgate, still impersonating Menander.
What had happened to his prince? Had Menander managed to get away? The gods had intervened .. decided Maciste would endure Hellgate .. as the putative Menander. And they might allow the real prince to escape .. with any luck. Menander would rally his men and drive the Parthians out. Then all this suffering would have been worth it.
Not to worry, Maciste had assured his prince, Maciste could take care of himself. That was before Maciste discovered what he was up against. Hellgate.
Worked till he dropped. Maciste was strong, tough. But they had him tottering on his legs barely able to put one foot in front of the other. At the end of each day .. he had nothing to respond with. No defence.
Just enough strength to keep him alive. His body hourly subjected to the harshest demands. His body .. strong, muscular, envied by other men, desired by women .. it was worked beyond breaking point.
They wouldn’t let him die, he’d learned they dared not. Vologases, their emperor, wanted “Menander’s” humiliation. In public. Before his court. A display of his power. Menander, the last of his line, broken, humiliated. And finally executed. In the cruellest way devised.
Vologases would send for him. Torture and execute him himself. The guards .. especially Yothin .. they couldn’t risk Maciste dying on them. But they could make his life hell. To a point where he had nothing left to fight back with.
Unless he could trick them. Keep fooling them. Giving Yothin what he wanted .. signs that his prisoner was breaking. Maciste had managed it once, fooling Yothin every night as he crawled forwards on his knees. He’d done it once, he could do it again. Maciste just had to come up with ideas .. how to keep fooling Yothin. Maybe then the pressure might let up? Maybe Yothin would slip up, look the other way …. That would be a fatal move, Maciste promised that himself.
He’d have to make a show of it. Play the part. And play it well. Give them proof they had the upper hand. He just had to come up with the means. Submitting more and more to Yothin’s goal of seeing Maciste break.
Maciste would not break, playing them for a fool. It would mean nothing if he gave in to Nightmare’s demands. He just had to come up with the means. He had to think this out.
But thinking-time was always short. He’d not found any concrete ideas this time. And he wouldn’t. Already, being baked alive in this clay oven, he was running with sweat. Hard to breath in this over-heated coffin. With every stream of sweat running down his sides, already his head was swimming.
Soon he’d be dead-to-the-world. A mere muscular shell of the fighting man he had been .. quickly he corrected the thought .. the man he WAS. Before this stifling heat claimed him, Maciste decided. Things had to change, he had to get back where he had some control. Just what actions were best?