No one paid Maciste much attention when he was roughly escorted down to Vologases’ dungeons. For now he was an also-ran. His guards were more interested in the fate of the fallen general down in the dungeons. Maciste was brusquely stuck back in his cage, manacles released and his escort enthusiastically joined in the fun with the traitor.
They had Tiradates stripped of his general’s uniform. Back to a pillar, hands tied behind his head, stripped to the waist. Through the bars of his cage Maciste could see Tiradates had put up a fight .. dishevelled, running with sweat. Maciste could imagine him still playing the general, ordering the guards to stand down, still believing in the authority of his rank. The guards had responded with a sock to the jaw, his lip was swollen.
“You regret this. I’ll
fucking make sure of that!”
Tiradates’ outburst was greeted by a brutal punch to his belly muscle. And not the first by the look of his reddened stomach. They were soldiers, always getting pissed around by officers. A rare chance to beat the shit out of a general. And they were making the most of it. They cheered when Tiradates bellowed out all his air. Another got in a stinging slap to the face.
“Shut the fuck up!”
The soldier had Tiradates by the jaw. Squeezing hard. Crushing the jawbone till he got the result. Eventually Maciste saw Tiradates’ defiant features forced to give in to the pain. Satisfied the guard spat contempt in his face.
“The lord emperor says you’re a stinking traitor. Who were gonna believe? His words ‘re good enough for us.”
His other hand swept in from underneath. The fist hammered the one-time general in his balls. The pain spat back at the guard. The soldier returned the favour. Another hard punch in the groin doubled Tiradates up. The guard kept his fist there and ground the general’s balls flat.
By the time the guards had had their fill with the emperor’s traitor, Tiradates could do little more than stumble. Escorted to his cage .. tossed from soldier to soldier. Stripped down to his under-loincloth, he was shoved once too hard. He lost his footing. Falling he grabbed at another guard, the man showed his disgust at a traitor’s touch .. lifting his knee .. driving it into Tiradates’ belly. The force knocked Tiradates onto all fours. Kicks and curses had him crawling on hand and knees into his cage. Disgraced. Fallen from grace.
“What the fuck you looking at?’
The pair of cages were opposite. Tiradates snarled at the sight of Maciste smirking through his bars.
“Fancy seeing you here!” Maciste taunted.
Tiradates grabbed at the bars to his cage .. as if he could tear them apart to get at Maciste.
“Lies! All lies! I’ll get you, lying swine! Making up those stories for the lord emperor. You’ll pay for those lies! The truth will out.”
Undaunted Maciste shrugged.
“Strikes me Vologases is not listening. Not to the likes of you. Made up his mind already.“
Maciste did not reveal that Vologases had sentenced himself to Tiradates’ fate. Two sides of the same coin. Sentenced to die in the same way. And the emperor was in no mood to make it easy on the traitor. Maciste would suffer the same. Still, there was be no fun in letting Tiradates off the hook.
“Didn’t say a single word that wasn’t true ….”
Maciste could have said more. He was biting his tongue .. suppressing anger at the shameful acts with Menander to which Tiradates had subjected him. He bottled-up his bitterness. More fun to rub Tiradates’ nose in the shit of his own downfall.
“Couldn’t be happening to a nicer guy,” he mocked. “What a prick. The real Menander there .. under your nose for days .. wandering free …. How we laughed!”
Not true. There’d been nothing to laugh about those days on the journey back to the capital. Whipped and beaten, treated worse than the animals. But where was the fun in going on about that?
Maciste scoffed out loud.
“Let him go free, you did. Raise an army, drive you fuckers out. Squandered the whole campaign, you did.”
Maciste shook his head in mock disbelief at Tiradates’ folly.
“All those precious resources .. wasted. All that effort. Waste of space!”
And despite his own dire quandary, Maciste felt elation at this personal victory.
“What a stupid prick!”
Tiradates seethed through the bars of his cage. It took a while before his pains let him hiss
out his vow.
“If it’s the last thing I do ….”
Tiradates spoke quietly. His eyes creased. Mouth twisted into fangs.
“ …. you’ll eat those words ….. I’ll see you do.”