Amazed. Hadn’t he endured as much in Hellgate? Or worse? Worked into the ground. Humiliated. Beaten. But this flogging had taken so much out of him. Why was he struggling to get his breath back? Why so weak? Maciste fought through his confusion.
It was one thing piled on top of another. So fast, so extreme. Deprived of water, scorched by the sun. Every muscle and joint strained beyond bearing. Confronted by mass hatred .. the threat of mob violence breaking through. All that .. grinding down his strength of will. Al that within a few hours.
Then a good dozen strikes .. pitilessly thwacked across his back .. knocking him off his feet. The throbbing din in his head made worse by the howls of a blood-crazed mob screaming for his pain.
That thrashing across his belly had knocked the stuffing out
of him. No amount of muscle-flexing
fended off the brutality of the shocks. Doubling
him up. That soldier in front had joined in. Thrashed across his back, followed by stinging
blows across his waist. Hard,
biting. A springy cane. Knocking the wind out of him. Already knocked off his feet, suspended, Maciste
sagged off the rope on his wrists, knees buckled under him. That cane biting cruelly into his extended
No idea how many hits he’d taken. With Tiradates he’d counted a dozen across his back. Every one emptying his lungs of air, every one exiting in a fiery bawl.
A dozen thwacks brutally smacked into his back? It felt like many more. Maciste too had let go his pain. No keeping anything in check. No holding it back. The captain had ordered Tiradates first worked
over. Then he’d order them to start on
Maciste. Giving Tiradates a chance to
catch his breath. Before savagely it was
knocked out of him again. Pleasing the
Before they started on him, Maciste had heard the mob cheer. Every time Tiradates had crumpled together in the belly .. body contoured .. his pain yelled out with tortured cries .. the mob had jeered. Mocked the general who could fail their lord emperor.
Once his own beating had started, though, Maciste heard no cheers. Only the searing pain.
In the changeover
.. when the mob saw Maciste’s
whipmaster stride forward with his springy cane
.. taunting howls had gone
“Give it the fucker!”
“No holding back.”
A pack on hounds close on the heels of its prey. Cornering it in the shape of the rebel Maciste.
After two blows across his muscled waist ..
quickly it became clear flexed muscle was little protection against a
stinging bite nipped out of his flesh. Soon
how many hits Maciste had taken no longer mattered. He hung tortured off his bonds ..
savagely thwacked in his back
.. viciously yells thrashed out
of his gut.
The emperor had summoned this mob. He’d promised them traitors’ agony. Assembled to witness the weight of an emperor’s wrath. How many hits did not matter. The emperor would keep his word. The mob would get delivered their pain.
“If any are in doubt ……”
The captain of the guard stood between the pair of traitors. He’d ordered them revived, a bucket of water each in the face. Both now stood swinging on their own feet .. chests heaving .. bodies swaying .. heaving air into their lungs. Fine muscular specimens of masculinity. Broken by an emperor’s word.
The mob had cheered at the shocked cries as water brought the pair reluctantly round. They had booed with glee when Tiradates had failed in his efforts to stand. Mocked in cruel jeers when he was painfully dragged to his feet by the twist of a hand in his hair. Taking a punch in the neck for the effort it cost.
It had taken time against jeering and booing before the
captain could get the attention.
“If any has thoughts about rebelling ….”
His hand gestured backwards at Maciste. Directing where the mob should target their hate.
“ … thoughts of putting against the lord emperor ….’
The captain’s gesture worked. Quickly his words were drowned out by threatening cries.
“Nail the fucker!”
“Dying’s too good!”
Dutifully the lord emperor’s mob showed their hatred for those who threatened the security of the realm.
Maciste felt the tide of hatred crash at him like powerful
surf. Like it could knock him off his feet
again. In Hellgate he’d suffered hours
of endless torture. That Yothin had been
out to break him. But Vologases had got
impatient. He’d wanted to cripple the “rebel
Maciste’s confession of his identity had robbed the emperor of that right. They had the wrong man. But it hadn’t weakened Vologases’ cruel intent. He’d spat his frustration back in Maciste’s face. He’d thrown Maciste’s lot in with his anger against Tiradates. He’d get his revenge.
Vologases had summoned this mob. He’d promised them pain. He had vowed this crowd an emperor’s retribution. He had given the mob his word. This crowd could trust him. Their lord emperor would keep his faith with them.
Hours on the cross had done the trick. Hellgate had often exhausted Maciste. But there’d been recovery time, nights on his
hole. Here Maciste was fighting to find
his strength. Struggling to come to
terms with this weakness. Fighting even
to stand on his own two feet.
Vologases had promised the mob victims crippled by an emperor’s might. Damn him! Maciste’s pride did not want to show weakness. But he was struggling to find the strength to deny the mob that prize.
Eventually the captain had the quiet to carry on.
“Let any who dares disappoint your emperor take note.”
The sternness of the captain’s denunciation turned on Tiradates
“Honoured by our lord emperor to conquer a province. This traitor threw it away. Wasted.”
Tiradates did not have the strength to argue back. The mob knew nothing of the politics. And they didn’t care. Their lord emperor had denounced this traitor .. good enough for them.
“Soldiers’ lives wasted. Your sons. Your husbands.”
Wildfire broke out. A
seething volcano of disgust swelled in the square. Threatening to rush forward and do the job
“String ‘em up!”
“A stake up the arse!”
“Death’s too good for ‘em!”