How could he have forgotten Tiradates? All of Maciste’s efforts had recently been
focussed on Yothin, his tormentor in Hellgate.
Resisting him by building up a hate for his torturer. Feeding his strength of determination off a hatred
for the brute. For weeks Maciste had
suffered under his cruel thumb. But he’d
forgotten the man who was the cause of it all.
And hadn’t it been Tiradates who’d got him there? Sent him to be tortured at Hellgate?
And here he stood again, the smug brute .. wallowing in his lord emperor’s presence. Stood only a few paces away.
Tiradates, the haughty general to whom Maciste had
sacrificed his freedom. His efforts to
set free the women hostages by surrendering made futile. Tiradates had made Maciste’s noble gesture
worthless. He had gone back on his word,
despite their agreement. Tiradates had dragged
the women off into slavery .. no doubt he’d earned himself a good sum. Maciste’s surrender and the ordeals he had
undergone had all been for nothing.
On the journey back to the capital, Tiradates had abused his captive .. no sign of the customary respect shown to a royal captive, especially one who had surrendered. Maciste .. and the true Prince Menander .. they had been treated like the lowest of the low. And then Maciste had got sent off to Hellgate. For treatment even worse ……
And here he was again, Maciste’s old adversary. Stood only paces away. In the throne room of the Parthian emperor. It had been Maciste’s dream to attack the emperor. Murdering Vologases .. here before the assembled court .. that would be a fitting end to Maciste’s misadventure and ordeals. The ultimate revenge.
But he was hampered by leg-irons .. close-guarded .. armed soldiers blocking his attack. Any the chance of killing Vologases looked slim at best. But Tiradates ……? He was only paces away. Maciste could feel his blood picking up the pace at the thought. His fists balled, remembering the ordeals Tiradates had made him suffer. That Parthian emperor on his throne might be beyond reach. But slaughtering Tiradates …..? That was a good second-best.
The emperor’s chancellor stood on the steps to the throne
and addressed the general.
“It is you who delivered this prisoner? You the lord emperor has to thank.”
Tiradates lifted his chin .. acknowledging the fact. His chest, hard with muscle, rose in pride. He heard the words as a statement. It was fact. He felt gratified. Eventually his success was being publicly recognised.
He had spent weeks now reminding the court of his triumph. This devious chancellor had had the prisoner removed. Shipped off to Hellgate. The chancellor had had the rebel prince taken out of Tiradates’ hands .. sent to Hellgate .. all part of the plot to undermine Tiradates’s victory.
Tiradates had arrived back in the capital with his army .. but not with his great prize. No victory parade. Not able to offer the gift of the rebel’s life .. Tiradates’ way into the emperor’s favours. His triumph foiled by this scheming chancellor. But now he’d had to recognise the truth. Tiradates had captured the rebel. HIS was the prize. To be offered to the lord emperor. Tiradates’ path to riches and favours.
All this plotting just so that Tiradates could not arrive with the captive rebel in triumph. Tiradates was a man of action, a soldier. He was not given to court intrigue, he’d had to spend weeks countering the rumours. AT last, it had all paid off. Here was his prisoner. This rebel prince here in chains was his triumph. At least, that was now formally being acknowledged. HE, Tiradates, had caught the prisoner. It was to HIM that the emperor owed his thanks. Even his rival, the chancellor, had had to admit the truth.
There was no love lost between the two men. He stared coldly back at his rival in court and,
head held high, he nodded .. proud of
his achievement in delivering the rebel prince.
“My lord emperor honoured me with leading his army.”
Tiradates bowed with military pride at the emperor he had served. Then he glanced over at the naked one-time prince. With mock modesty his hand gestured to him. Tiradates acknowledged his prize.
“Yes. In service of the lord emperor, I took the rebel captive.”
Tiradates stared the chancellor back. He did not belong, these conniving courtiers
thought Tiradates was an upstart, not of noble birth. And the chancellor had never wished for Tiradates
to be seen in a good light.
“More accurately put … the prisoner surrendered to you.”
Tiradates was not surprised that the chancellor was doing all he could to put the general down. He stopped himself from showing his anger when the chancellor’s lip curled in disdain.
“Without a fight.”
Someone had been talking. Someone in Tiradates’ own camp ..
betraying him to the chancellor.
But Tiradates had learned to be wily too. He was ready for the put-down. Tiradates countered the claim.
“A strategy of threatened reprisals. One woman would die for each day he did not turn himself in.”
His hand again gestured at the prisoner in his nakedness and chains.
“You see. It worked.”
Tiradates smirked back at his rival in court. His eyes found the emperor.
“The rebel surrendered to pressure. A strategy that successfully saved Parthian lives. Saving costs. The emperor’s army had been wasted chasing down these rebels. Once he was secured ……”
Tiradates puffed up his chest as his hand indicated his triumph. Stood in his naked shame, chained, defeated.
“Once I had him captured …. the emperor’s army could return. To serve the purpose it performs best. Conquering further lands. Bringing them under the lord emperor’s heels.”