They had left him. Left him with his suffering. Stretched backwards over this torture stone. The sun heating it up. Maciste, in his exhaustion, his future menaced by threats.
Looking down over his chest. Hard to resist looking. Seeing that indignity mocking him there. A gross ugly nose-ring left on his chest. To mock him, to threaten his manliness. A sign of getting reduced to the level of the beast. Vologases’s prime brute. Like an prize ox marked by an ugly iron ring dug into his chest.
He tried to wriggle it away, he tried to dislodge the ugliness off his chest. But he only managed to shift it into the centre of his chest. Lodged there .. an ugly coarse ox-ring .. threat of a pain to torture him. Threat of wearing that indignity.
He’d get used to it, he told himself. So what? Used to seeing it dangling off his tit. Accepting it .. normal, the way things were. This was Hellgate. But only if he let hell in …..
His whole body ached, suffered. Burning up over this torture stone. Fiery agonies crippling his arms. The sight of that gross ring tormenting his sight. Hungry, thirsty, the smells of their cooking playing on his weakness. BUT …
NO! NO SLAVE. NO BEAST. Not Vologases’s special prize.
Fury flushed weakness out of his strained joints. Manly pride drove such thoughts of feebleness from his being. Beast? Who was the animal here? Maciste would never be their beast.
Maciste had surrendered. For noble reasons. To save the women hostages. Which brute had since tortured him relentlessly for an honourable act? These Parthians. But he should have known.
Who had proved himself unworthy? Who showed no concept of honour? Of human dignity?
It was not Maciste who should be cringing. Not he who should be overcome with shame. That monster had thought of planting that ring in his chest. Who would stoop so low? Behave like a monster? The emperor who had ordered this. Who ruled over a regime that feasted on pain and repression.
And if they did it ….? A ring inserted through his chest – that was no shame. Only shameful if he let their symbolism get to him. It was an honour to bear such a mark. A symbol that this monster who ruled in this hated empire feared him. Frustrated that they could not get through to him, could not wear him down. Driven to such means because he was standing up to them.
No shame. Vologases was the one who felt threatened. Threatened because Maciste was not an easy push-over. Their emperor who needed Maciste subjected to his will. He had to dominate, Vologases was the one driven to win. And Maciste was refusing to bend.
Fuck the bastard! All these tortured efforts to break Maciste’s will … Maciste welcomed that. Their emperor was paying him a compliment. Driven to extremes by an implacable foe.
Hellgate was what it said. It was hell, absolute torture. During the on-going agonies of their tortures it was impossible to see things as they were. As he was seeing them now. Only when his tormentors had abandoned him to his suffering … when they were snoring away in their tents … when the barely bearable strains of freezing in his hole had become second-nature – only then did Maciste manage to find the strength again.
Maciste knew who the monsters here were. He knew right was on his side. He was convinced … he owed it to his sense of his moral worth .. the warrior that was Maciste had to prevail. He WOULD.
Maciste had no army. He could not wage a war against Vologases. But he was feared. Put simply, Vologases feared HIM. Or feared the power of the man he thought Maciste was. He felt threatened that Maciste would not bend. He feared that “Menander” could raise an army. He could. Within days. Out of love for him, men would rally to his cause. THAT was what Vologases feared. THAT was what he did not understand. The love of a people for their king. Their willingness to sacrifice .. out of love. THAT Vologases could not defeat. The love of Menander’s people. For their prince.
Only one answer for Vologases .. break “Menander’s” will. So never again could he rise up. Except ….. Maciste could still smile at the Parthians’ folly .. they had got the wrong man. It was not Menander here in Hellgate. And with the luck of the gods, Menander would have got himself free.
Only one choice for Maciste .. to endure. To survive. To continue to divert these Parthians from the truth. They were torturing the wrong man. This Yothin was out to break the will of the wrong guy. And a man who did not break.
What a joke. When Vologases dragged him before his court, ordered Maciste to his knees ….. and Maciste confessed to the truth. They had the wrong man.
Again he glanced at the slave ring that threatened to disfigure his muscled chest. Shame? Humiliation? WHAT! Once free, Maciste had no reason to bear this symbol of Vologases’s greed to dominate.
All he had to do … seize the opportunity when it presented itself. Break free. Live to fight another day.
They had tortured him. The agonies of sitting astride that wedge …. Digging into his balls .. agony! They were still torturing him. Grilling him over this hot stone. And if left here overnight …. the shivers would come with the chilled desert air. But .. seen positively .. better than sweating into feebleness in that sweat-box.
When daylight came, they’d come for him. They’d torture him more. If the gods were kind, it wouldn’t be those poisons injected into his flesh.
But break him? NO, Over his dead body. He’d fight them every god-damned bit of the way. He’d go down fighting … If that was what it came to … Over his dead body!
But break? Break Maciste? NO WAY.