Hours earlier .. was it really only hours? .. it now seemed a lifetime …. back then at dawn when the guards had shoved the pair of them onto those low crosses, Maciste had chosen not to fight them off. He’d save his strength for when he’d need it. Almost smugly he’d watched as Tiradates took hard punches thrown for not following Maciste’s lead.
He’d not fought get them off back then. Mistake? Look where that had got him! He’d recovered some of his strength by the time the guards had fought their way through that seething throng of crazed hostility. He was as good as walking under his own steam .. but weakly .. the slightest unevenness in the ground had him tottering. His powers of recovery had come to his help by the time they were outside the city walls .. his escort still breathing down his neck .. the mob following, jeering. But Maciste didn’t have to be carried now .. approaching the place where the death fields loomed.
He’d chosen not to fight back before. When he was slung to the ground and grabbed
by hands on all four limbs, instincts kicked in. He struggled. He knew what was going to happen. From a distance he’d spotted empty cross
framed against the sky. Thrown to the
floor, grabbed … for no reason at all except instinct, Maciste
Rightly he suspected he could do nothing about this, he couldn’t win. But pride had the upper hand. Dragged across the dirt, he kicked .. he lurched .. he threw the last of his reserves of strength into fighting back. Hauled over to a cross lain down on the earth. Lifted and then he got slung onto it on his back. His back jarred. Injured muscle contorted. But as soon as a hand let go a wrist, Maciste’s punch landed on a guard’s jaw.
Pain exploded the length of his arm. Blinding pain crumpled his armpit together. His fist exploded in fiery pain. Tortured shock exploded behind his eyes. Since suspended off that other cross earlier .. later
battered, beaten, bruised .. Maciste had forgotten how agony had suffused
every sinew in his upper body.
The cry of pain was out before he knew. And he earned two stunning punches from the guard he’d caught. And more as his mates let the stinking rebel have it. They didn’t take anything from the likes of scum like him.
Maciste head slammed back against the dense wood of the cross. And a punishing heel from a military boot stomped down on his belly. Emptying him of wind. Leaving him stunned.
By the time he was getting his head back, the damage was
done. On his back, lying outstretched on
a cross. Roped by the wrists to the
crossbar. Maciste remembered Menander
telling him .. how his older brother had been crucified
before his own people. Roped and not
nailed. Prolonging the dying. Grinding agony .. a
display of Parthian ruthlessness to his own people .. an
agonised dying that had gone on for days.
Was that Maciste’s fate?
Roped to the cross, not nailed. Vologases had ordered the worst dying for his traitor-general. And Vologases had pronounced the sentence on the rebel. Maciste, the also-ran …. he got whatever Tiradates deserved!
Suspicions warned him. His legs grabbed. Forced down either side of the upright. Still on his back on the cross, not yet lifted .. Maciste craned his head up. What now? His heart missed a beat. A Parthian thug stood by his hip .. a huge mallet in his hand. Had Maciste been wrong about the nailing?
Worse … the burly soldier went down on one knee. A metal spike in his other hand. Maciste caught the sun glinting evil off the
end. It had been newly ground ..
into a cruel point. It was a
giant nail, two fingers thick, the length of a forearm. Maciste bit on a bottom lip ..
seeing where the thug’s eye was directed. At Maciste’s crotch. Surely not?
Could even Vologases be that evil!
Maciste’s pulse had lifted. He knew the answer. With Tiradates, Vologases’ anger knew no end. Maciste imagined Vologases grin at the thought. Tiradates nailed to the upright through his balls? Yes, Maciste could believe the Parthian emperor capable of that.
Maciste almost gasped out in relief when the evil point was placed a few inches below his balls. And the Parthian gave it a hefty swipe. A metallic clanging drove the spike into the wood. The reverberations shot through the wood. Beating at Maciste’s sore back. Another hefty swipe. Another shuddering jarred through the upright at Maciste’s back. Hurting. But he wasn’t getting it in the balls!
A good dozen swipes. The Parthian tested the spike for firmness. Sticking upright, straight out of the wood. He nodded to the soldiers holding down Maciste’s legs. Instantly, they started pulling him down. A few inches scraping the sore flesh of Maciste’s back along the rough wooden upright. Until his bare balls jarred up against the spike.
In a flash, Maciste saw this for what it was. He struggled against the hands gripping his legs. But it took no time for the soldiers to finish their work. His feet tied to the sides of the upright. Bound tight, no give, no pulling his crotch away from the spike. When the cross was hauled upright …….?