It was hard not to smirk.
At Tiradates’ catastrophic fall from grace. Maciste just had to press this advantage.
‘My name is Maciste. I am not Prince Menander.”
He grinned into Tiradates’ furious look.
“All this time he’s had the wrong man.”
Maciste willingly told the emperor glaring back off his throne.
“I only command the prince’s army.”
Maciste felt every eye on him. And Vologases was looking thunder.
“He fell into my trap. This was all my plan all along. I volunteered to surrender pretending to be the prince himself.”
He had the emperor’s attention .. for
now. That would not last long, the
emperor’s temper was frayed. Maciste had
to hold him. Maciste chose to cut
corners. He wasn’t going to waste this
chance on giving away too many details.
Maciste thrust up his muscle-plated chest .. as if leg-irons and chains could not hold him. Proud.
“Why would any man take that risk?”
Maciste addressed Vologases up there on his throne. Looking daggers at him.
“Why volunteer for certain death?”
He conceded a truth. He flattered the man by using his title.
“The lord emperor’s soldiers sacrifice themselves in his name every day.”
Not exactly why Maciste had posed as Menander. But, for Vologases, it would do.
“Being returned here as this fool’s captive, I was chained
to a cart. Another captive was assigned
Maciste smirked at Tiradates.
“Remember? A younger man?”
Impudently he winked at Tiradates.
“THAT other captive …… you idiot …..”
He laughed into Tiradates’ face.
“Not just some random captive. We tricked you.”
Tiradates looked fit to bursting. Again Maciste addressed the throne.
“That captive …..HE was Prince Menander.”
He gestured disdainfully at a furious Tiradates.
“This fool had got the right prince all the time. And the fool never knew. He took my word for it.”
Maciste looked triumphant at Tiradates’ downfall. Despite his chains and guards threatening
him, Maciste chortled.
“And you let him escape.”
Maciste mocked Tiradates for his stupidity. The general just looked confused, open-mouthed, not believing what he had heard. Shaking his head, in denial, his brain rapidly putting together the past. His desperation fighting to come up with some excuse.
Tiradates tried to get to his feet. Aiming to silence Maciste.
“A lie! A filthy ……”
A club to the side of his head silenced the protest. Half stunned Tiradates collapsed against the legs of one of the guards.
Maciste rubbed it in.
“I was permanently chained to the cart .. supposedly I was the precious prize. But Menander .. the true prince .. the rebel .. this incompetent general of yours, lord emperor, he left him to come and go. He served the soldiers with food. He brought them drink at the camp fires. Free to walk around. The emperor’s prize goal …. And he could come and go as he pleased.”
Maciste left out the details of the abuse dished out to
Menander. Rubbing salt in the wound, he scoffed
at Tiradates’ incompetence.
“The fool believed what he wanted to believe. That he had the rebel prince captive. He was going to be famous. Win the lord emperor’s favours.”
Maciste saw Vologases flinch at the thought.
Rubbing Tiradates’s nose in his shit, Maciste threw his
adversary a patronising wink.
“HE had the real Menander under his nose all the time. HE let his lord emperor’s rebel prince wander around freely.”
Maciste paused before the killer punch.
“And he let Prince Menander escape.”
Maciste didn’t know how Menander had pulled it off. But for now …. nothing else mattered …. except adding fuel to Tiradates’ funeral pyre.
Vologases glared at Maciste. Long, hard. Then he signalled to the guards to drag
Tiradates up to his knees.
“Let me get this right.”
Vologases was addressing Maciste. But the rage in his eyes tore into Tiradates.
The emperor’s fury briefly alighted to Maciste.
“You plotted this? This was all your idea?”
Maciste nodded. Hard to suppress his smirk.
“And you pulled this off ……? Fooled this incompetent idiot ….?”
Vologases’ glare flicked over to Tiradates. On his knees, shamed. Overshadowed by soldiers who minutes ago would have been under his command.
“You fooled this idiot of a traitor into believing you were the rebel Menander?”
Again, enraged, the emperor’s glare flicked to Tiradates on his knees. And then swiped back to Maciste in his chains.
“You got this cretin to swallow your lie? He never checked? Because “you told him so”!!!!”
Vologases mimicked Tiradates’ excuse. Someone giggled at the emperor’s performance. But a look of thunder quickly choked off the laugh. No laughing matter!
Maciste nodded. Condemning
his old rival with that simple gesture.
“Yes. I planned it. All my idea. Not hard to fool him.”
More salt in the wound.
The emperor’s eyes were burning flames of rage scorched into
an open-mouthed Tiradates on his knees.
Wanting to deny all these lies.
But threatened by a club in his face.
Vologases continued. Now no
longer so enraged. Forensic. Searching out the truth.
“This cretin kept the wrong man in chains? For days. Escorted back by a whole army. Free to wander among the troops. For days!”
The emperor had gone quieter. Maciste could see a thinking head putting this unexpected story together.
“He never suspected?
He fell for a lie?”
Gleeful Maciste nodded. Vologases hissed.
“This prick to whom I awarded an army …. he had my rebel running around under his nose? Free? The rebel I’d sent him to capture …..!!! Running around free.”
Vologases paused .. quietly seething at the incompetence.
“Free to wander! Free to escape?”
Maciste nodded. Trying not to show the elation on his face. He’d really socked it to Tiradates. To rub salt into the wounds, he continued.
“After I was sent to Hellgate .. as the wrong man … then Prince Menander was free to escape.”
Maciste could not stop himself from rubbing their Parthian noses in their defeat.
“Prince Menander raced back home. He raised an army. And drove the invaders out.”
Vologases chose not to rise to the offence. He was still analysing. Vologases was still directing his wrath at
“And we have this incompetent idiot to thank for that?”
Tiradates could no longer suppress his protest.
“Lies! Lies! My lord emperor …..”
A hard crack at his head with a club sent the general plummeting to the floor. Vologases hissed.
“Get the traitor out of my sight!”