It started as a murmur. A few eager eyes spotting the pair roughly escorted out of the palace onto the steps. Quickly the sound gathered momentum. After a few more stumbling strides forward towards the crowd, Maciste already heard the wind gathering strength. By the time they were between the pillars, the storm hit him full blast. A roar of sound. A blast of hate. A firestorm of madness screaming for his pain.
Ironic. Maciste had
wanted more than anything to have revenge on this general. For the unnecessary suffering subjected on
him. A man getting off on his power over
the rebel prince he thought he had captured.
Tiradates was getting his come-uppance.
True, it was at the hands of the emperor whose interests Tiradates had
been acting. But better than
Ironic, though. For Maciste to get his revenge on Tiradates, he himself was going to have to undergo his enemy’s agonies. Maciste had to suffer the same in order to have his deepest desires.
The square had looked full already when the pair of them had been dragged out on the palace steps. Greeted by a swell of boos and jeers. Maciste was exhausted. Hours scorched under a pitiless sky. Drained of strength. Tortured in every joint of his body. Muscles and sinews for hours under unbearable strain. Not a drop of water had passed his lips in hours. Physically shattered.
He was heaving in breath, desperately calling up his reserves of strength. Tied between the columns, waiting for the promised punishment to begin, Maciste could see more people were still squeezing in. The square was packed already. The whole city had assembled. Summoned to see enemies of the emperor get what they deserved.
At some point, voices had called out. Labelling the pair strung out and awaiting the emperor’s pleasure. Traitors. Scum. Calling for their deaths. Another yelled back, Death was not good enough. Soon the condemnation was taken up by the mob. A dangerous swell of hatred. Eager for violence. Itching for pain. Excited at the prospect .. traitors getting flogged out of their skin.
As more flooded into the square, forcing their way eagerly in, the earliest arrivals were now pushed forward, up against the emperor’s guards. Eager young men. Shaking fists. Hurling abuse. Held back only by a thin line of soldiers holding out spears between them .. a flimsy barrier. If violence broke out there’d be no stopping a massacre.
Earlier Maciste had been slumped into semi-unconscious on his cross when they’d come for him. He’d come crashing back to reality when his face smacked hard to the sunburnt earth. The guards had cut the ropes on his arms before bothering to release his legs. The force of the fall blasted every bit of wind out of him. But before his tortured brain knew what was going on, boots were kicking into his side. Yells ordering him to get his stinking hide to his feet.
Maciste dimly caught sight of Tiradates .. on hands
and knees when Maciste had struggled up, swaying on his feet. Shaking his head. Blinking hard. Fighting to wipe the waves of complete
exhaustion from his muscular physique. Maciste’s hands were roughly grabbed, wrists were
being tied together. Tiradates was still
down on all fours .. the traitor getting a kicking. Maciste heard him crying out. In his exhaustion Tiradates had no
Maciste understood, he too felt he had no fight left in him .. after tortured hours on that cross. The heat had done its work. Upper body twisted into unbearable pain. Tiradates was no longer offering any curses back. The cross had completely shattered them both.
The Parthians had planned that. When they appeared, the mob seethed. Seeing traitors broken. Stood now on the top of the palace steps,
looking out over the crowd, Maciste saw the mob dangerously restive. Their jeers increasingly threatening. Menace rumbling in the air. Ominous threats exchanged among the crowd. Promises of what they’d do to the pair of
traitors .. given half a chance.
Maciste was having to put all his remaining strength into keeping himself standing. He was fighting to summon up any reserves of willpower. The pair were stood between a pair of mighty pillars, hands tied above their heads, rope from their wrists snaking up to a study wooden beam between the columns. Nothing to rest against, swaying, no support for their weakness.
Maciste was concerned.
Anxious how feeble he felt, robbed of fighting spirit by hours of
weakening under the cruel sun. And he’d
need his strength. Acutely aware of the
image he was giving this mob. Signs of
weakness only encouraged bullies.
All the world over, bullies sought out weakness, vulnerability. A victim that could barely stand on his own two feet only brought out the best in a bully. If anyone in this mob got the idea .. if some of those bawling thugs at the front got it into their heads to take justice into their own hands .. the sight of a prisoner swaying defenceless on his feet …. wouldn’t that only encourage such thoughts? Beat the hell out of the pair of traitors themselves. Totally justified. Traitors deserved nothing else. Traitors that could offer no fight.
That treacherous meat-head of a general .. for
all that muscular bulk .. he’d be no contest. They’d push the guards aside and batter the
treacherous fucker to death. That
stinking enemy rebel .. he’d cost Parthian lives. Get him down and kick the shit out of him.
Maciste saw a huddle of thugs right up front. Held only back by a single line of Parthian guards. Red-faced with loathing. Eyes ablaze with bloodlust. Shoving against the soldiers holding them back. Bawling out hatred. Busting for a fight. Gripping by a lust for violence. The gang winding itself up. Looking for a certainty that they’d take the law into their own hands.
Maciste feared .. no,
he knew .. there’d be little fight left in him. Nervously he heard a murderous threat shout
out against him. Agreement was echoed
out from somewhere else. Kill the
fucker, beat the fucker to death.
A forward movement, a lurch in the crowd. A risky mass sway forward. Not a crowd, a mob. Hateful comments were gathering momentum. Loathing was flashing like a plague around the square. It would take only a spark to ignite. And pandemonium could break loose.
A mob gripped by hate. Bloodlust raging in their veins. Crying out for violence. It they got it in their head …. if they rushed the guards …. Maciste ‘d not stand a chance.