Maciste had often haboured the thought .. when Yothin’s prisoner still .. that on the journey, when Vologases had sent for him .. he’d manage some escape. It had been the morale booster that had kept him going through the tortures. If there was no let up from Yothin’s regime .. at least, Maciste would engineer some way of escaping Parthian clutches when being delivered to the emperor. Before Vologases got his hands on the “rebel prince” and executed him.
But the reality had turned out different. There’d been little chance of that. Kept bound to his horse .. reins in possession of an enemy soldier .. another riding behind, his bow notched in case Maciste would get lucky .. Maciste realised these troopers did not dare. Arrive without the emperor’s prize captive .. and it’d be them groaning their life away from a cross.
Night-time even, his legs were also tied together, hands and feet bound together around the back of a tree. All three nights spent uncomfortable on his side wrapped around a tree trunk. And a couple of Parthian soldiers snoring right by his side.
Three days’ ride and not a sniff of a chance. Strangely Maciste had been stolen into the capital in the dead of night. As if no one wanted it known that the “rebel prince” had arrived. He’d expected some victory parade to welcome him. Expected be paraded before cheering crowds in some act of humiliation. But his escort had waited it out. Staying hidden in woods in sight of the capital’s walls. And then they’d snuck Maciste in when all were asleep.
First, it seemed, the stench of Hellgate had to be washed
off him. Sleeping slaves were woken in
the night. Grumpily they set to work on
him. Maciste was stood, hands safely tied
above his head, while male slaves with rough cloths soaped him down. It was cold down in the dungeons, the slaves
in their clothes grumbled. But no one
worried for the naked prisoner shivering as they scoured his whiplashed skin
clean of grime and ingrained filth.
Cold water had him shivering, the rough handling of his bruises and welts made him jerk. His face was shaved free of matted beard and they cut the knots from his hair. The prisoner would be presented to the emperor, he’d expect him suitably cleaned of filth. What did it matter if his every fibre shivered in the cold?
He was hand-fed while still tied. No one was risking even a futile attempt at escape. And just to make sure … Maciste spent what he thought was his last night alive stuck in a box. A metal cage barely suitable for a big dog. Thighs pressed up into his chest, head bent forward between his knees, the top to the cage pressed down on his bent neck. He couldn’t move.
At the last minute, a guard reached in and grabbed his
wrists. His hands were shackled behind
his back, chained together outside the bars of the cage. Within seconds Maciste felt the strains
setting in. This position was going to
be as bad as anything he’d known in Hellgate.
Hellgate. That reminded him. His unspoken promise to Yothin. Maciste was caught like a trapped wild animal in a cage much too small for his bulk. But he’d promised he’d have Yothin up to his neck in shit. First chance he got he’d show that sadistic brute up.
It’d be the last thing he did probably. But worth it.
Maciste would make sure Yothin went down for failing to break Maciste’s
spirit. That thought provided some
comfort in his stress position, bent up in maximum discomfort. Cramped up, muscles seizing up. Chained to a cage .. his
normal muscular bulk beefed up more by weeks of pitiless hard labour.
Cramped and chained to a cage far too small. No escaping. Any signs of him living out his days in Parthian luxury were still to manifest themselves. No one was taking a risk with him. No one chanced risking the emperor’s wrath. But last thing in life Maciste did ….…. He swore Yothin was going to get it on the neck.