I’d been to the desert before, but last time I traveled in “style”. A whole convoy arranged by my father, with gallons of ice water in every car. Enough for me and my bodyguards three times over. Not to mention the diplomats, politicians, and brown-nosers who followed Bradley-the-great-and-powerful all over Omnaesia. A good deal more comfortable than stowed away in the back of a truck driven by two soldiers I barely know on an undercover mission to find the people who tried to have me kidnapped (or possibly killed), but really I prefered this.

I warmed my hands on the crackling fire, working to keep of the chill. The chill! In the desert! That’s something you don’t learn about in a cozy convoy: It gets cold at night. Ben sat down across from me, warming his own hands against the fire he built, and I studied him carefully. He wasn’t looking at me, but it wasn’t the same way most of Father’s soldiers avoided my eyes. He just didn’t seem to care that I was there. The light from the fire mirrored across his eyes. I felt like I should say something.

“I never got the chance to thank you.”

He finally looked up at me. “Hmm?”

“Back in the alley.” The chill from the night seemed to wrap itself a little tighter around me as I recalled everything that happened. Fire, smoke, debris. “Who knows what could’ve happened if you hadn’t put yourself on the line like that. I appreciate it.”

The young soldier paused for a moment, then shrugged. “Don’t mention it, princess. It’s just part of the job. If I hadn’t been there I’m sure Captain Dwarness would’ve thought of something.”

“Eriza.”

“Wha- er… pardon?”

“It’s Eriza.” I looked directly into his eyes. “Not Princess, not Your Majesty. Just Eriza.”

“Um…”

“Also when someone is offering you gratitude, it’s just plain rude not to accept.”

His mouth only hung open for a few seconds more, and he grinned. “Whatever you say… Liza.”

I rolled my eyes.

“You guys talking about me?” The other soldier, Tom, I think his name was, was back from his “call of nature.”

“Oh yeah, we were just trying to figure out where that smell was coming from.”

Ben roared with laughter at his friend’s expense, which made me feel good. I leaned back, staring up at the giant stone formation which loomed over us, and the stars winking out above it. You couldn’t see this from a convoy. They looked so much bigger from here, and there were so many. They stretched on forever, disappearing into the night, boundless.

 

Hello everyone, sorry I missed yesterday! I’m getting bogged down with dissertation work, but it’s nearly over! The Mud Rat Case Files are part creative outlet, part shameless promotion for my book, Mud Rat. They’ll be scenes from different perspectives, backstory for characters, or just stories that didn’t make it into the book. If you enjoy the stories, check out the book at the link. It’s free! 

Also, what do you guys think of the name? Mud Rat Case Files? I’m not too sure on it yet, let me know what you think in the comments! Or let me know if you think of a better name! 

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