Immediately after the fight…
Mirabelle and Leonora were asleep when Miska crept back into their shared room. It was so normal, somehow, that it seemed unreal. Since the fight in the street the world had a strange clarity to it that Miska hadn’t expected, a clarity that she found both unsettling and addictive. It was both like and unlike what she felt during a match. She felt like she could see everything, even the tiniest bit of motion. She didn’t feel tired any more, and she thought she could feel even the tiniest bit of motion, controlling her body like a master puppeteer.
But even more than that, another thought stuck with her. It nagged at her, worrying at the corners of her too-clear mind like a rat chewing through a sack. She needed to share it with someone, to try and make sense of it.
She lit the candle stub in its reflective holder, setting it on top of the old dresser she shared with her sisters, and crept across the room to their bunks.
“Leonora, Mirabelle,” she hissed and shook their shoulders, “wake up. Please, wake up.”
In her strange state, the room seemed even brighter than usual.
“Come on, come one.” She prodded and tugged at her sisters as they made groggy noises of protest.
“Miska,” Leonora muttered, “what is it, what’s wrong?” She rubbed at her face.
“I was attacked in the street.”
Mirabelle lay on her lower bunk, staring up at Miska in the candlelight and blinking slowly. “You’re obviously doing fine. Tell us about it in the morning like a civilized person.” She rolled back over and tried to bury her face in her pillow. Leonora started to do the same until Miska grabbed at their shoulders again.
“No, there was something weird about it.”
“You mean, like my little sister waking me up in the middle of the night?” Leonora frowned.
“No, they said they’d been paid to do it!” In her excitement Miska spoke louder than she’d meant to. She cautiously looked at the wall to their parents’ bedroom. When no noise was forthcoming, she continued in a whisper, “Someone paid three people to attack me. How weird is that?”
Mirabelle was looking up at her with frustration. “Miska, I know you like your fighting these days. You’ve certainly never been this excited about sewing or something more useful like that. But please,” she screwed her eyes shut, “don’t wake us up to tell us you got mugged.”
“No, Mirabelle,” Leonora was leaning over the edge of her bunk now, looking down at her sisters. “That’s actually pretty weird.” She looked at Miska, slightly less sleepy now. “Do you think they were sent by a competitor?” When Miska looked blank, she continued, “I mean, your next opponent in a match or something.”
Miska sat back on her heels. Her rush of clarity was slowly fading, and she was left with a feeling of loss. “No,” she said, pondering. “I don’t think so.” She grabbed at her fingers while she tried to reason her way through the puzzle. “I just won a week ago. I don’t have another match for two more weeks. If they wanted to put me out of the running, make sure I couldn’t fight… they should have waited until sooner before the next match.”
“What if it were revenge?” Leonora seemed interested now. Mirabelle rolled her eyes and covered them with an upflung arm.
Miska frowned, her brow furrowed in thought. “That doesn’t seem likely.” She shrugged. “I just don’t feel like the people I’ve beaten would have enough money to pay three people to attack me.”
Eyes still covered, Mirabelle butted in. “It probably doesn’t cost very much to convince a mugger to mug someone, sis.”
Miska blew air out between her lips. “Yeah. I guess not.”
“So it could have been revenge then.” Leonora looked back and forth between her sisters.
“I guess.” Miska sat down on the floor, wrapping her arms around herself. “But if it were, it’s a weird way to get revenge. He, the one I asked, didn’t say anything about being paid to hurt me. Just that they could keep any money they took.” She shook her head slowly. “Wouldn’t someone who wanted revenge be more specific about wanting me hurt?” She shivered a little at the thought. Fighting in the ring was one thing, the idea of people sending muggers and cutthroats after her was another entirely. “Who’d just want to take my money? Who would pay to have someone take my money?”
Mirabelle pulled her arm away from her face and rolled over to stare at her sister. “Mistress Mariselle would. That’s who.” She didn’t sound very sleepy anymore.
Miska and Leonora both stared at their older sister.
“Miska,” she sounded urgent and awake, “can you find them again? Would they still be there?” Miska started scrambling to her feet. “You need to ask who hired them, who paid them. Find out if Mistress Mariselle was behind it. Maybe it could void the whole loan, if you can prove it.”
It seemed like a stretch, but Miska was willing to take anything at this point. She rose to her feet, and was startled when Leonora started clambering out of bed.
“What? I’m coming too. I want to help.”
Miska blinked. “Thanks.” She turned back to the door, grabbing the warm things she’d discarded on her way in. “But hurry. They might not be there any more.”
Cursing under her breath, Mirabelle pulled herself out of bed as well and started dressing hurriedly.
“Alright, come on. Let’s go.”
The three sisters hurried down the cobbled streets in the middle of the night, moving by the light of the few street lamps and the moon. They didn’t pass any other travelers in the little time it took them to reach the spot where Miska remembered being attacked. There was no one there.
“Shit.” Miska muttered.
“You’re sure it was here?” Mirabelle pulled her shawl more tightly around herself against the night chill. Miska nodded. Mirabelle frowned, “Son of a goat.”
Leonora was stalking across the cobbles, searching them carefully. “Come on, help me.” She waved to her sisters.
Reluctantly, Miska joined in. She couldn’t imagine what it was that Leonora thought she was going to find, but it felt better to be doing something instead of standing there feeling lost.
The search was fruitless. They found nothing that they could tie to the people who’d tried to mug Miska, and they turned back for home. By the time that Miska finally crawled into bed, she felt like she would drop dead on her feet. The energy and excitement from before was gone, replaced with a exhaustion and a looming sense of dread.