Triumvirate, Part 1
This story was inspired by the Poussin painting: "The Martyrdom of St. Erasmus".
"What's all the excitement?"
"They've captured Davidius. Everyone's going to the castle to see him brought before the king."
The haggard woman dropped her sickle. "Does this mean the end of the revolt?"
"Their army was scattered by a surprise attack last night. Supposedly they were betrayed by a woman in their own camp. Glauken and some of his men escaped, but no one knows to where."
The woman grabbed her daughter's shoulders. "Does Davidius know where they are, Celeas?"
"I'm sure that's what the king wants to know."
"Then we must go to see if it's true. Glauken is our last hope to end this reign of terror. Davidius must hold out until Glauken's remaining army can attack."
Celeas and her mother left the wheat field where they had toiled all their lives and began the two-mile journey to the village. They arrived just in time to see Davidius being paraded amongst the throngs of people who had come to witness his capture. He was in a metal cage, which sat upon a cart being drawn by draft horses. Davidius' wrists were locked into metal rings attached to a board six inches wide and five feet long. The board was run through metal hooks on the roof of the cage, leaving the man's sandaled feet suspended a few inches from the floor of the cart. As he passed, the townspeople would spit or throw food at him to show their support for the king. Even those who secretly had backed the revolt now wanted the king's army to see their loyalty.
"These people change horses easily," the woman said to her daughter.
Nearly in tears, Celeas noticed, "They've removed his shirt, but I see no marks other than what our cowardly friends have hurled upon him."
"They're saving him for the king."
"He'll never tell," blurted the daughter. "He and Glauken have been best of friends since childhood. Davidius will never betray him."
"You, Celeas, have also been his friend since you were children. Try not to think about what might happen."
Soon the cart reached the drawbridge of the castle and crossed the moat into the castle courtyard. As the drawbridge was raised, the horses were unhitched and then the cart was pulled by six servants into the king's court, whereupon his throne he sat, waiting.
"Present him to me," boomed the king.
Two female servants entered the cage and placed metal rings connected by a single chain on Davidius' ankles. Other servants began to disassemble the cage as the two women released the board from the roof of the cart. Davidius was then led off the cart toward the throne as the board binding his wrists now rested on his shoulders. He stood before the king.
"So, you thought you could replace me, is that it?" the king inquired. "If not for your lust for women you might have succeeded. But that's all over with now. I only want to know one thing. Where is Glauken?"
Davidius stared directly at the king, but said nothing.
"I expected as much. I have prepared for this day. Balstok come here. How many men have you broken in your career?"
"Countless dozens, sire."
"Exactly. You see, slave, I have brought Balstok here all the way from Gaul because of his reputation. I am paying him many pieces of gold to extract the information I need. He will earn his keep by any means necessary because he has no intention of soiling his perfect record. Hopefully, he will start by cleaning you up, since you have spoiled my court with your foul odors."
Davidius still said nothing, but he expanded his chest and sneered at the king. It was his way of telling them he would not be broken easily.
Balstok and his assistants sprang into action. Grabbing each end of the board they dragged Davidius to the darkly lit stairwell leading to the bowels of the castle. At the bottom were holding cells and a large room filled with devices used to create pain. Davidius was laid face up on the floor in a corner of the room with the board several inches above his head. Balstok barked, "Strip him." And it was done. "Now clean him. Do not damage any part of his body."
Several of the king's servants entered with buckets of water, soap and brushes. They drenched the man with water and applied the soap with scrub brushes. One of Balstok's helper's stood on the board to make sure the prisoner wouldn't move. After he was thoroughly lathered and scrubbed down, the servants retrieved fresh water to rinse away the soap, dirt and odor. Then they turned him face down and repeated the process, drying him with linens.
The victim now clean, Balstok smirked, "Now we can get through this without becoming ill. Remove the chains on his feet and take him to the slab!"
The man from Gaul had brought his own torture instrument with him. It was a device he had perfected through years of torturing people for confessions or information. The slab was a solid block of wood two feet in height. It was four feet wide and five feet long. There was a metal wheel that locked into saw-tooth gears on one end. At that end on top were two metal rings two feet apart. These were opened and Davidius' ankles were placed inside as he sat on the slab. While the ankle locks were clamped shut, two other assistants grabbed the board, which had bound him since his capture and forced the man to lie face up on the slab. Now they stretched his arms past the other end of the slab and brought the board down towards the floor. Balstok's men had earlier bolted two cranks to the floor at this end of the slab. Attached to each crank was a chain, which the assistants wrapped around and locked to the board. Now they pulled the board away from the slab, stretching the man lengthwise. Turning the cranks, the chains pulled his bound wrists six inches from the floor.
The end of the slab stopped at Davidius' shoulder blades. His head was hanging off the edge and his arms were stretched above his head and down towards the floor.
Balstok was almost ready to begin his task. "Put something over his genitals. I don't want to have that thing pointing at me all day."
An assistant produced a handkerchief and laid it over the man's penis and testicles. The rest of his body was completely exposed.
Now Balstok sat on a stool in front of the man's face and spoke. "Here you have no name. To me you are nothing but a slave and I will address you accordingly. I call this device the slab as a nickname, but officially it is known as the back-breaker stretch rack."
Davidius flexed his chest and tried to raise his arms, testing the strength of the torture device.
"I know you can't see, but those rings holding your feet are adjustable. I can turn a wheel and move them toward either end of the slab. Then at this end your crucifixion board can now be raised or lowered as I please. I've added little additional procedures that we can apply while you're stretched out here. There's only one way for you to avoid all this and that is to tell me the whereabouts of this man named Glauken. Do you want to tell me now or will I need to persuade you?"
Davidius was already struggling to breathe. Being stretched like this compressed his diaphragm so that his stomach could hardly rise to receive air. He glared at his tormentor with defiance. "Do what you must."
"Start with the 20 blows!" boomed Balstok. Two henchman approached the slab. Each was carrying a leather strap two inches in width. Davidius lifted his head to watch them take their position on either side of the slab. Allowing his head to fall back, he smiled at the interrogator still sitting on his stool. Balstok smiled in return and gave the order, "Whip him."
The men began alternating blows with the straps, each one whipping their leather across the man's chest. Davidius' arms bulged as he struggled against the board stretching him. This made his chest expand even bigger as it received the blows--one from his left, then from his right.
"Cover the entire chest," barked Balstok. The straps struck with accuracy, striking from his armpits to the end of his rib cage. One struck his sternum, another across his nipples. The leather was too wide to draw blood, but red marks began to form upon his skin. Each man silently counted 10 blows and the whipping stopped.
"Where is your friend?" Davidius' eyes were closed as he relaxed his arms and chest. Balstok raised a finger and pointed towards the victim's feet. One of his assistants turned the wheel and the ankle locks moved toward the end of the slab. Davidius gave a slight murmur as he was stretched. Balstock raised his hand and the wheel was locked.
"You have only begun to feel the power of my beautiful invention, slave. Now tell me, where is Glauken?"
Davidius opened his eyes but said nothing.
"20 more blows." And the whipping of his chest resumed. Ten from each side creating more marks before it stopped. "Are you ready to talk? Where is Glauken hiding?" There was no answer. "You gambled and you lost. There is no one here to help you now. You are the only one who can stop this. You must talk."
Now the man's chest was heaving as he tried to regain oxygen and recover from the chest whipping. With one gulp of air he blurted, "None of your tortures will break me."
Balstok was becoming annoyed. "We'll see about that." He turned the cranks on either side of his stool and the chains pulled the victim's arms one inch closer to the floor. As it did his back arched and chest raised even higher. Now the only parts of Davidius' body touching the slab were his heels, calves and shoulder blades. Balstok sneered. "Feel better, slave?" Turning to an assistant he pointed to the stairwell. "Tell Brutheim I'm ready for him."
Davidius could see Brutheim as he walked down the stairwell to the dungeon. He was a huge hulking man with powerful chest and arms. He was completely nude and Davidius watched his penis swinging side to side as Brutheim descended the stairs. Then Davidius noticed something even more alarming. Resting on the man's shoulder was a wooden club. Rounded at one end, it was three inches thick. The club tapered its four-foot length to a one-inch point. Brutheim now stood beside his master.
"This man is not yet ready to talk so I will turn him over to you. You must persuade him to change his mind. We've tried the 20 blows, now it's time for the 10 blows."
"Yes, sir." The beast scanned the victim's terribly stretched body with his eyes. He stalked around the slab scrutinizing every inch of Davidius' powerful form. It was as if he had been given quarry to hunt down and destroy. Licking his lips, his eyes finally stopped. Davidius lifted his head best he could to see what was happening. Brutheim was staring at the man's belly. He started to drool and reached down to clutch the tightly stretched muscles with his thick fingers. He was kneading the muscles on either side of the man's navel as though they were a loaf of bread. Davidius dropped his head and whispered, "Oh, my god."
Suddenly Brutheim lifted the club high into the air and brought it down full bore onto the man's belly. Then another blow. Davidius grunted with each pounding, flexing his belly muscles as his only defense. The beast was masterful in his accuracy, making sure each pounding of the club only struck muscle. He worked the area from his victim's navel to just above the pelvic bone until ten blows were given.
Now Balstok stood up and kicked the stool away. He climbed on the slab and kneeled on the chest of his victim. Then he grabbed him by his hair and pulled up, bringing them face-to-face. "Where is Glauken? Give him up now!"
Brutheim joined Balstok on the slab and stood over the victim's belly. He took the small end of the club and placed it just below the navel. Leaning on the club, he began grinding the point into the tortured belly muscles. Davidius's feet were writhing, curling his toes as he strained to withstand the belly torture.
"Why don't you talk? Your friend would have given you up long ago. Where is he now?"
Davidius jutted out his lower jaw. "I'll...never...tell."
"You will, damn it." Balstok released Davidius' head and leaped from the slab. Brutheim continued grinding the club into the man's belly. "Brutheim, come here and use your other club on him."
Brutheim jumped off the slab and stood in front of Davidius' inverted head. Then he took his big penis and started slapping the man's face with it. Davidius became enraged as the brute started to laugh. He tried to grab the huge slab of meat with his teeth, but he couldn't catch it. Brutheim's penis was growing larger with each blow to Davidius' face and pre-cum started to ooze and land on the victim's cheeks.
Just then Balstok turned the floor cranks and lowered the man's arms another inch. Now Davidius screamed as his back was nearly broken in two. Motioning to Brutheim, Balstok pointed to the slab. Dribbling pre-cum as he swaggered back to the center of the slab, he swung his wooden club in a full circle and brought it down with a devasting blow to the belly. The hapless man groaned in agony each time the club reigned down on his defenseless belly. Balstok grabbed him by the throat and demanded, "Talk. Talk now damn you!"
As the tenth blow pulverized the man's belly the king and his entourage descended the stairs. He saw Davidius stretched horrendously and listened to the groaning and gasping of the tortured man. He circled the slab inspecting the heaving chest and belly, noting that the man was bathed in sweat. The king reached down and scooped a sample of the liquid from Davidius' navel, then licked his finger to taste his prisoner's suffering.
"I finally heard screaming. Has he talked?"
"Well, ask him again!"
Balstok grabbed one of the leather straps and struck the man's chest. "Where is Glauken?" Brutheim jumped up onto the slab. He stood with both feet in the pit of the man's stomach and ground the pointed club directly into his navel. Balstok whipped the chest three more times, aiming for his reddened nipples. "Where is he hiding?"
Davidius raised his head and looked over his tortured chest at Balstok. His face was clenched as he summoned every ounce of strength to withstand the punishment. He could see Brutheim's hairy buttocks as the tip of the club was driven like a stake into his stretched navel. He was suffocating from the weight of the hulk standing on his stomach. After one quick glare at the king, Davidius let out a mighty groan and dropped his head.
"That's enough!" shouted the king. He waved Balstok to the far end of the room for a private conversation. "You're taking more time than I anticipated, Balstok."
"Sire, I've never seen any man withstand torture such as this. How much more can this man take?"
"How would I know? This is your area of expertise not mine. I've paid you well and I expect results soon."
"He will be broken. Soon."
Balstok stormed toward the slab barking orders. "Turn the wheel." Davidius' feet moved closer to the end of the slab, stretching him tighter. "Turn those cranks." The arms inched closer to the floor. Now the man cried out in agony as his back and chest arched even higher. "Give him the 20 plus 10!"
The leather straps came down upon his chest. Brutheim swung the club into action as Balstok crouched in front of the victim's anguished face. Davidius was being assaulted simultaneously as his chest was whipped and belly pummeled. "Where is Glauken? Give him up now."
Davidius' face was clenched in agony. Sweat flew from his body as the straps struck his chest and club pounded his belly. He shook his head side to side. "No...Never...NO."
As each count reached the halfway mark, Balstok grabbed the man's hair and began shaking his head. "Where is Glauken? Talk now. Where is he hiding?"
As the counts were concluded and the beatings stopped, Balstok realized that his victim was not responding. The only movement came from the rapid rise and fall of his chest and belly. Mercifully, Davidius had become unconscious.
"You fool!" boomed the king. "You are going to kill him. Look at his powerful body. Don't you see that you'll never break him that way? Apparently where you come from the men are physical weaklings and give in easily. The subjects in my kingdom are strong in body, but weak in mind. You have failed me Balstok. We are running out of time. Release him from his chains and stop this torture. I will deal with this problem myself."
The king motioned to his servants to remove Davidius' limp body from the slab as Balstok's men unchained him. The vertebrae in his back snapped and popped as he was released from his ungodly stretching. "You are fortunate he didn't die. Then I'd have you put on that horrible rack. I will pay you in full, but you must leave your torture device here. I might need it someday. I suggest you stay here tomorrow to witness my methods of breaking a man. Hopefully you will learn something."
Davidius, still unconscious, was placed on a plank for transport as the servants awaited the king's orders. The handkerchief had fallen from him and he lay on the plank naked with arms outstretched. His skin glistened from the sweat he had produced enduring the horrific torture. The king gazed upon him with a degree of admiration. He tried to imagine himself surviving the punishment this man had endured and he shuddered at the thought of it. "Take him to a cell and revive him. I want him fed well and pampered. Attend to the wounds on his chest and massage his belly back to health. Bathe and moisturize his skin. I want the marks on his body healed by tomorrow."
"Balstok, I have changed my mind. You and your henchmen must leave immediately. The amount we agreed upon is in this pouch. Count it and get out. If you are ever seen in my kingdom again I will have you put through what this man has suffered on your slab, which I am keeping here with me."
And so it was done. That evening Davidius was given tender loving care. It seemed the king was taking pity on him and being merciful. He was more than impressed with the man's powerful body and how he had withstood such horrendous torture. The king was finding it difficult to hide his excitement over what was planned for the next day's activities.
End of part 1