Jerkily Maciste felt the rope on his wrists straightening his arms. That suspension on the cross had exhausted his upper body. Every muscle his chest .. joints in his shoulders .. strength in his upper arms .. all had protested when this beating had thrown him forwards. Clawing pitiless at tortured limbs.
When his knees had broken under him from that torture to his muscled belly, his upper body had screamed back .. forced into taking the weight of his muscled physique. It had been more than manly pride that had made him call back to his feet. His body had needed the pain to stop.
Now the guards hauling him up, up off his feet. Pulling the rope .. jerkily pulling it over the beam above. They had his arms at full stretch. Maciste gritted his teeth. A couple of more tugs and his feet would leave the ground. Up in the air. The strains on muscle battered and bruised .. his weakened shoulders joints taking all his weight …… his upper body would be getting the torture all over again.
Still the crowd
out there bawled their threats. Maciste’s
vision had blurred. But their
menace .. unseeable
… was just as intense. Still insatiable cries for his pain burst out
from the mob. For now the threat of the
horde breaking free and taking the law into their own hands had seemed to have eased.
This captain was feeding their
bloodlust. Giving the seething mob what
they wanted. Agony. Revenge.
But the overcrowding in the square had the atmosphere buzzing. Each call for his suffering only spawning another more drastic demand. It would take little for things to turn nasty.
Maciste heard Tiradates curse. A pained cursing as his foe lifted off the steps .. moments before Maciste’s own feet were jerked off the ground. He bit on his lower lip, eyes creased with the pain. Tortured muscle protested. A groan escaped as Maciste fought to manage the grinding pain. Bruised bones. Injured flesh. Tortured joints. All screaming back as jerkily his whole body came under Parthian strain. Strain that greedily clawed at every pained muscle in his upper body.
Pains reached down .. taking an agonizing hold of his whole being. Muscle in his belly .. viciously caned .. screamed for the pain to stop. The battered muscle of his back .. submitted to a barrage of breath-taking blows .. stretched, tortured. Swaying up off this feet .. dangling, tortured in the air .. agony clawed open his mouth in a silent cry.
Vologases had planned this well. The mob was fed on the traitors’ pain. The emperor knew well how to feed his people’s demands. A roar went up. The rags around Maciste’s waist had been tugged off. He hung in his agonies. Strung up. Naked for all to see. Shamed. Nakedness forced on him. One more cruel move to grind down the fight for his strength of will.
In Hellgate he’d spent days without clothes. But strung up like this was an act of deliberate shaming. Not just being naked. It was Vologases’ sign of his helplessness, a public humiliation of his powerlessness. Of Parthian domination over him. Stripped naked .. forcibly .. no choice. Vologases was displaying the traitors for their worthlessness. Not even worthy of rags that could give them the smallest shred of dignity.
Maciste heard the mob. The spark had set the fires alight. Their nakedness only seemed to inflame their cries for more. As if reading the signs, the captain nodded to his men. For the beatings to begin again.