I know I’m super late, but here it is! <3 Part 6. I apologize for the quality.
“What the hell do you mean?” snapped Felix, dark eyes narrowed at the guard who blocked the early-dawn light streaming through his doorway. Somehow, that made the light even more difficult to bear.
“Your father went to great lengths, Count Malrais. He aims to ensure your safety, and this was the best way he knew to–”
“To what?” Felix flew up from the pallet that served as his prison bed, and began dressing, unabashedly naked in front of the guard. “To spare himself the humiliation? Where does he plan to send me, exactly? We both know he won’t be accepting me back into the family household.”
The guard shifted uncomfortably. “I don’t have the details of your new location–”
The young count snorted in mock amusement, arms folding over his chest as he glared at the guard. “Get out. I’ll be out when I’ve eaten breakfast.”
“You’ll eat in the wagon,” stated the guard, his patience for Felix’s spoiled attitude wearing thin. “I’ll bind you if I have to, Count Malrais. You’re on our time, now.”
Felix shoved his feet into his boots, his face furiously red as he fought the urge to speak. This was growing tiresome. “I’d rather face the gallows.” He muttered, grunting in shock as he was seized by the back of his collar and yanked to his feet, all but flailing like a child against the sudden tug. Set down again, the guard shoved him, palm to his back, toward the door.
“Fine,” he snapped, and trudged in a miniature tantrum out the door. Sure enough, there was a wagon waiting, the back doors open only feet from the door. “There… there are bars on this wagon.”
Felix’s stomach sank, and, hesitating, he hoisted himself into the back. A wagon with bars; his father sent a message that he was to be spared death, but in favor of what?
The gallows didn’t seem like such a terrible idea all of a sudden.
Three days in the back of that wagon, thrown scraps of whatever the guards were eating, Felix was beginning to wonder if his father’s compassion wasn’t actually a ploy to make an example of him. Maybe drag him out to the highway and have him strung up to be pecked at by the birds and boiled in the sun. Lying on that floor, unbound, but still a prisoner, the gallows were a welcoming thought, almost warming.
All at once, the wagon lurched to a stop and the double doors were thrown open, sunlight streaming in as Felix all but curled in on himself, shielding his eyes from the light.
“Out,” snapped the guard standing at the mouth of the wagon, tapping Felix’s cheek with the muzzle of his rifle to drive the point home.
Shoving himself to his feet, the Count groaned as every muscle in his body gave protest. As his eyes adjusted, they settled on the gun, and he heaved a sigh. Outstanding, he thought, stretching as he fought to gain feeling back in his legs.
“I’m not certain that’s necessary,” he muttered, eying the weapon irritably.
“We’re doing your father a favor, Count Malrais,” the guard all but barked. “If you get out of hand, it is within our power to gun you down.”
Felix stiffened, and his gaze faltered, dropping momentarily. “Of course it is….” He grimaced, and stepped out of the wagon, taken by the arms as he hopped to the ground. “Now, what is this ‘favor’ you’re doing my father? Sparing my life? Yes, that’s wonderful. Take me away from the gallows, throw me into a wagon, and dump me in a fenced off mud pit.” He motioned to the vast expanse of land before him as the gates, wound in knots of barbed wire, were pulled open to accept them inside.
“Welcome to Blackford Hill.” The guard lifted his gun, and struck Felix in the center of the back, giving his backside a kick at the same time. Gasping, Felix grunted and stumbled forward, heading through the gates, looking around as the panic rose inside him. That hollow, nervous feeling only grew as his steps became a trudge, the realization slowly welling in him.
“A detention camp…” he whispered, a cold pit forming in his stomach.
“Walk!” That gun struck him once again, and he toppled onto his hands and knees, mud splattering as he hit the ground.
“This is my father’s idea of sparing me?” He snapped, pulling himself from the sludge and shaking his arms off. “Has he lost his mind?” He laughed in shock, hands lifting, pressing to his temples as he fought back the hysteria building in him.
The guard once again marched forward, lifting his gun. “I said–”
“WALK! YES, I HEARD YOU!” Felix shouted at him, and the rifle caught him across the face. He didn’t recall falling, but as the explosion of stars behind his eyes cleared a moment later, he was staring up at the sky. Turning onto his side, he pushed himself into a sitting position, looking out over the rows of wooden huts, dozens of people, men and women, all peeking out at the ruckus. All dressed in rags. Filthy. Starving. Some bandaged or splinted. He tried to push himself to his feet, looking stunned.
“Now. Walk.” The guard muttered, a bit more calmly this time.
Felix did as he was told, his eye flowering into a bruise, blood leaking from the corner of his lips. Why hadn’t his father just let him be executed? Anything was better than a detention camp. Death was better than a detention camp. Turning around, Felix looked at the guard with the gun, and the other two that had been following along came around the sides of him.
“Why this place?” he asked, trying to look around while his head was still spinning.
Felix grunted incredulously, and glared at the guard.
“Undress him,” snapped the guard and the other two closed in on the Count, even as he tried to back away. They seized his arms, and managed to strip him bare in seconds, discarding the rags they made of his clothing a moment later.
Shielding himself, Felix ducked his head as two boys approached with buckets of water, and before he could react, he gasped as the frigid water was splashed on him, washing the mud away. Thrown a threadbare towel, he cringed and dried himself, shaking violently as his body tried to adjust to the cold. Brought up onto a deck, he was given clothes, and forced to dress in the same drab rags everyone else seemed to be wearing. Humiliated and freezing, he turned to the guards, refusing to be beaten down… he lifted his chin.
“I’m writing a letter to my father. He can’t possibly have approved of this,” he snapped, but even the tone of his voice was a bit more subdued. The butt of that rifle hurt like hell.
“Your father demanded we bring you here!” The guard snapped, and gave him a shove. “Enough insolence. You belong to us now.”
Felix glared harder. “And if I refuse to take your asinine orders?”
He knew the answer to that. Sure enough, that rifle came down across his face, and as the stars exploded behind his eyes once again, Felix found himself wishing it had been a bullet.