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Leaina and the Stone of Power
The Surprise Attack
|The Queen returned to the palace with just Maciste having sent Therapon off with the stone to Mount Melos. “There is not much time, Maciste,” said the Queen, “for the attack on Zelos will begin in a few days and Therapon must complete his task by the time you and my forces encounter Arkus. Go now to my generals and give them this message to wait till the fourth sunrise. If you are unable to reach them in time, join the battle to assist them as they will need all your strength. But first I have something for you that I have been working on for several weeks. It is a portion that should make you stronger than Arkus and his magic stone!” Maciste grew excited but cautioned “Lestra said the only way I could defeat the stone was to find a more powerful one.” “I know what she said,” answered Leaina. “But I have many more spells and books of sorcery than that old witch knows about and I have just needed time to perfect this. I tailored it just for you. It will multiply your great strength and should give you enough power to defeat Arkus. I have even added some of the dust from the stone itself which should strengthen it even more. But I have to warn you this potion will not be painless.” “What do you mean?” he asked.
“After you take it, you will feel ill and will be in unbelievable pain for several minutes. Can you withstand that?”
“I will do anything to become stronger and save you from Arkus,” said Maciste courageously. Just the response the Queen wanted and expected. She had made him devoted to her.
With that she poured what looked like a thick blue soup from a small cauldron into a goublet. She gave him the cup and said “Now you must quaff all of it.” Maciste looked at the liquid. It smelled putrid. So he held his breath and swallowed it in one gulp. Leaina took the cup and waited a few minutes. “How do you feel?” she asked. Maciste replied, “Warm. My insides seem to be warming up.” Soon Maciste began to sweat. “Good,” said the Queen. Maciste felt as if he was on fire and started to feel weak. A high fever overcame him. Then suddenly he grabbed his abdomen and shouted “Oh the pain has started” and he quickly fell to the floor. The pain was intense. He felt as if his whole body---his bones, his muscles---was being pulled apart. The pain spread everywhere throughout his arms, legs even his neck. He gritted his teeth and cried in agony. He rolled around on the floor hoping that would ease it but it did not. Meanwhile, his muscles began to enlarge all over. His biceps grew ---to 20, then 21 inches. His chest to 55 inches. His quads grew as well, along with his pecs, lats---everything. He continued to moan. After about 30 minutes the pain started to subside but he continued to sweat. Gradually his temperature returned to normal and the Queen helped the sweat-soaked man up off the floor and over to a bathing pool where he rested in the water. Then he gradually climbed out of the pool and looked at himself. He was naked as all his clothes had been ripped off during the growth. He was the same height as before but he had gained about 30 pounds of additional muscle. He was now far bigger than Arkus was and felt an incredible power in his now larger muscles. He did a double bicep pose to admire his new musculature. He touched his now domed pecs. “Arkus is going to be surprised when he realizes he isn’t the strongest anymore,” said Maciste. The Queen rubbed the arms and chest of her now even larger champion. And she kissed him passionately to motivate him to fight for her. “I will not fail you this time, my love, no matter what,” said Maciste and he left for the battlelines.
Meanwhile, the Vaslos tribes were secretly gathering and hiding their forces led by Arkus. They were not going to wait for the Dorians to attack them for they had planned a surprise attack in return with the aim of destroying the generals’ camp and cutting off the head of the Queen’s army. The Queen did not realize it but she did not have four days.
Therapon rode as fast as he could toward Mount Melos. He abandoned his horse and slid into Zelos as a beggar. From there on foot, he moved to the outskirts of the city and traveled slowly up the footpaths toward the famous springs of Mount Melos. The paths were steep, rocky and difficult, particulary for an out of shape man such as himself. He thought about the task before him. What if he did not succeed? Would it be the end of the Queen as she feared? He traveled far but he quickly grew weary and decided to camp on the mountain side for the night.
The next day at dawn, the herdsmen launched their surprise attack. Arkus led the way, slaughtering hundreds of the Queen’s forces in the morning. The generals seeing the onslaught slowly retreated and called for reinforcements. During the battle, Maciste arrived and saw that he was too late to deliver his message and joined the Queen’s warriors in attempt to stop the advancing army of herdsmen.
Maciste fought ferociously, moving quickly on his horse through many of the herdsman. However, his horse was ultimately injured in the battle and he was forced to advance on foot. As Maciste fought through the advancing enemy, he eventually spotted Arkus and confronted him.
The two muscle gods faced off against each other. Arkus scrutinized Maciste. This was the man who had ambushed him. He seemed much larger and more muscular now. In fact, whereas before, they were of about equal size, Maciste was now larger than Arkus. “Odd,” Arkus thought but no matter. “It appears you did not learn anything from our last encounter,” said Arkus. Maciste stared at Arkus and said “I am much more powerful now than when we last met. I am going to humiliate you, Arkus. Just watch me.” Maciste picked up a large boulder lying on the pasture and threw it at Arkus. Arkus merely stepped aside as the boulder crashed onto the ground near him. “Oh look how strong you are!” teased Arkus. “Trying to hurt me with a rock! Maybe you would like to pay ball?” Arkus picked up an even larger boulder and hurled it at Maciste who also dodged it. “Enough of these games. Let’s settle this hand to hand without weapons or help from anyone,” Arkus said confidently. “The sooner the better,” replied Maciste “Clearly Therapon has not destroyed the stone for Arkus was strong as ever,” thought Maciste. “So be it,” Arkus called to Maciste and they put down their swords, removed their armor and approached each other wearing just their shorts and sandals.
Therapon slept late that morning from the exhaustion of his journey up the mountain. When he awoke he would see in the distance the clash of the two armies. He climbed higher past the hot springs toward the lava pits.
Arkus leapt at Maciste but Maciste moved sideways and kicked the strongman who landed on the ground. Arkus was though back on his feet before Maciste turned around. They circled each other with their ripped arms extended like two Greco-Roman wrestlers looking for an opening. Arkus made his move and locked hands with Maciste. The two pressed. The veins in their arms exploded. Their forearms and triceps swelled. Maciste knew he would have to work quickly if he was to overcome Arkus’s endurance. He accelerated his force. Arkus’s hands began to move down. Maciste smiled and applied even more force. He began to force Arkus down. The elixir Leaina had given him was working. He was stonger! Maciste grew excited at this overpowering and wanted to sow doubt in Arkus and said “So Arkus, you are not the strongest anymore!” Arkus was surprised at Maciste’s strength. It was stronger than even the last time they met. “What sorcery or power was this?” he wondered. Men did not overcome Arkus’s strength. But it seemed Maciste was increasing his power faster than Arkus could. Arkus worked harder. But with every increase in power, Maciste seemed to best him. Soon Arkus was on one knee as his hands moved lower again. Arkus was now in shock at Maciste’s strength. He called out to the stone with his mind. The stone responded and his hard taut muscles began to swell. He concentrated more and soon the downward movement stopped. Then slowly Arkus began to move their hands higher and he was back on both feet. Arkus continued to press. Soon their hands were at equality. Maciste again applied more strength but now they seemed equally opposed. Maciste began to have doubts. He was strong but not strong enough perhaps. The men both kept applying more force. Soon though Maciste’s arms began to tremor. Arkus could see they still did not have his strength and endurance even if they were larger than Arkus’s. Maciste was in trouble and thought he needed to throw Arkus off. So he stopped resisting and fell on his back, pulling Arkus onto Maciste’s feet and catapulted him over his head. Arkus landed on his back.
Both men quickly rose and Maciste swung his fist toward Arkus’s jaw. Arkus caught it with his hand and the two hands pressed against each other but this time Arkus pressed harder and quickly hit Maciste’s abs with his other fist knocking the wind out the Queen’s lover. It was followed by a quick doubled fisted slam to Maciste’s back sending the man to the ground. “Get back on your feet!” Arkus cocked. “I want to do that again!” Maciste rose quickly and threw a fist at Arkus but Arkus blocked it and punched Maciste in the jaw knocking him on his ass. “Did you really think you could match me?” Arkus taunted him. Maciste realized that his additional strength was not enough. He wanted to give up. He did not want another beating at the hands of Arkus. But he knew he had to try to stop Arkus if he wanted to save his love so he kept fighting. He prayed in his mind that Therapon would complete his task soon and it would work.
Therapon stood before the lava pit, Steam rose around him making it look as if he was standing in a swampy mist. The smell of sulfur was everywhere and almost overcame him. The heat was intense making him sweat profusely. He pulled the power stone from the bag. Holding it in the palm of his hand, he examined it. He wished its magic could be his. He thought it was terrible to destroy such powerful magic if it could be destroyed. But he knew the stone’s magic could not be his while Arkus lived so the stone was of no value to him. Besides, it was better for him if Leaina remained the Queen. “Well here goes.” he whispered to the stone. “Let’s see if you survive this,” and he dropped it into the lava pit. The stone landed with a plop into the burning thick molten pool. Then slowly it sank out of view.
Maciste rose slowly to his feet. Arkus laughed and mocked “So you still want more?” As he rose, Maciste swung his fist at Arkus who had grabbed it but this time he held it out at his side and began to squeeze his fingers around it. Maciste swung his other fist, which was also caught by Arkus and again Arkus began to squeeze that fist as well. The pressure on Maciste’s hands was incredible. The two muscle giants stood there with their arms wide. Neither could move their arms as they equally applied their strength. Arkus, however, was focusing his power into his hands. Maciste could feel Arkus crushing the muscles in his hand but he could not withdraw them. Their pecs quivered as Arkus applied more pressure to Maciste’s fists while he held Maciste’s arms outstretched. As Arkus began to crush Maciste’s fingers, pain surged through Maciste’s arms and he closed his eyes to concentrate. It was excruciating but Maciste’s still tried to resist his smaller but stronger conqueror. Then the pressure seemed to ease. Maciste opened his eyes, Arkus was still holding Maciste’s fists but his arms seemed to be shaking. Arkus then released Maciste’s fists and shoved Maciste to the ground. Maciste looked up and thought Arkus looked uneasy on his feet as if he was going to faint. Maciste jumped to his feet and swung his fist at Arkus but again Arkus caught it, Maciste swung his left again and Arkus caught that one. Once again the two warriors’ fingers were locked in a battle of strength. Each one pressed against the other. Their triceps, delts, traps and rhomboids bulged and striations danced across them. Maciste pressed harder and Arkus matched his strength. The two were equal again so Maciste focused more power but this time he did not feel Arkus respond with more power. Was this a trick? Why was Arkus holding back? Maciste looked into Arkus’s face which looked strained unlike before. Maciste applied more muscle and slowly Arkus’s hands began to lower. Maciste’s confidence grew and Arkus’s face showed even more wrinkles as he tried to match Maciste’s strength. But Maciste was winning and Arkus knew it. Arkus called out in his mind to the stone for more power but the stone did not answer. Maciste’s muscles continued to swell with blood as did Arkus’s. But Arkus’s did not swell as large as before. Slowly his hands lowered and soon Arkus was on one knee still struggling to resist Maciste’s surge of strength which he could no longer match. His strength was failing him. Arkus was in pain and Maciste bent back Arkus’s hands further. “The magic of your stone has been destroyed. You are nothing compared to my strength now,” said Maciste commandingly. Arkus, now on his knees, looked up to Maciste in shock. What did he know about his stone? How could it be destroyed? Was that why his strength was failing him? Arkus kept calling to stone in his mind. As Arkus weakened more, Maciste shoved him down. “Our contest is not over yet,” said Maciste and he ordered Arkus to stand up. As Maciste raised his fist toward Arkus , Arkus quickly hit Maciste in his abs. Though the blow kicked the wind out of Maciste, his abs held firm and Maciste returned the blow. But Arkus’s abs did not hold up as well and his head came forward. Maciste quickly followed up with repeated punches to Arkus’s abs. His abs quickly turned from a wall of steel to putty as Maciste pounded them. Maciste then with both fists struck Arkus on his back sending his face into the dirt.
As Arkus rose from the ground, Maciste hit him again with a powerful punch to his abs knocking the giant forward followed by a knee into Arkus’s chest sending him upright with more fists to his head, finally knocking Arkus down again. Maciste smiled seeing the muscleman on the ground before him bloody and weak. Maciste said, “Beg for your life, Arkus, and I may spare you.” Arkus dejected looked up to him and said “Yes, spare me. You have won.” “Say Maciste is the strongest, now.” Arkus repeated it weakly as he was told. “Louder!” Arkus said it louder as best he could. Maciste signaled to Arkus to rise from his feet. Arkus struggled up. Maciste looked at Arkus before him who focused his eyes on the ground. He still looked like a powerful man but his muscles though ripped were clearly somewhat smaller than before. The fight had drained his strength and stone did not replenish it. Maciste then brought his arm around Arkus’s neck in a choke hold. Arkus cried, “You said you would spare me,” but he quickly lost his voice as Maciste applied his bulging bicep onto to Arkus’s throat. “You begged me to spare you. I never said I would,” he answered as Arkus tried to pull Maciste’s arm away from his throat with both his arms. Once again Arkus called on the stone one more time. Arkus’s triceps sprung into action. They swelled again but then did not enlarge as much as before while Maciste’s bicep grew to 22 inches engorged. Slowly Arkus lost conscientiousness but Maciste keep up his choke hold until Arkus’s breathing stopped completely and then he dropped the now dead warrior to the ground.
Seeing the Queen’s champion out muscle and kill their Arkus lowered the spirits of the herdsman army. They had been so dependent on their champion for the last ten years. They grew despondent and fearful. Slowly the Queen’s army was able to route them once word spread of the humiliating defeat of their superstrong warrior. The evil Queen’s plan had succeeded and Maciste had saved his love.
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