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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

“What will happen when we get there?” he’d asked Jordie.

“I’ll get a job as a runner at the Exchange, then a clerk. I’ll become a stockholder and then a proper merchant, and then I’ll make my fortune.”

“What about me?”

“You will go to school.”

“Why won’t you go to school?”

Jordie had scoffed. “I’m too old for school. Too smart, too.”

The first few days in the city were all Jordie had promised. They’d walked along the great curve of the harbors known as the Lid, then down East Stave to see all the gambling palaces. They didn’t venture too far south, where they’d been warned the streets grew dangerous. They let rooms in a tidy little boarding house not far from the Exchange and tried every new food they saw, stuffing themselves sick on quince candy. Kaz liked the little omelet stands where you could choose what you liked to put in them.

Each morning, Jordie went to the Exchange to look for work and told Kaz to stay in his room. Ketterdam wasn’t safe for children on their own. There were thieves and pickpockets and even men who would snap up little boys and sell them to the highest bidder. So Kaz stayed inside. He pushed a chair up to the basin and climbed on it so he could see himself in the mirror as he tried to make coins disappear, just as he’d seen a magician do, performing in front of one of the gambling halls. Kaz could have watched him for hours, but eventually Jordie had dragged him away. The card tricks had been good, but the disappearing coin kept him up at night. How had the magician done it? It had been there one moment, gone the next.

The disaster began with a wind-up dog.

Jordie had come home hungry and irritable, frustrated after another wasted day. “They say they have no jobs, but they mean they have no jobs for a boy like me. Everyone there is someone’s cousin or brother or best friend’s son.”

Kaz hadn’t been in a mood to try to cheer him up. He was grouchy after so many hours indoors with nothing but coins and cards to keep him company. He wanted to go down to East Stave to find the magician.

In the years after, Kaz would always wonder what might have happened if Jordie hadn’t indulged him, if they’d gone to the harbor to look at boats instead, or if they’d simply been walking on the other side of the canal. He wanted to believe that might have made the difference, but the older he got, the more he doubted it would have mattered at all.

They’d passed the green riot of the Emerald Palace, and right next door, in front of the Gold Strike, there’d been a boy selling little mechanical dogs. The toys wound up with a bronze key and waddled on stiff legs, tin ears flapping. Kaz had crouched down, turning all the keys, trying to get all the dogs waddling at the same time, and the boy selling them had struck up a conversation with Jordie. As it turned out, he was from Lij, not two towns over from where Kaz and Jordie had been raised, and he knew a man with jobs open for runners—not at the Exchange, but at an office just down the street. Jordie should come by the next morning, he said, and they could go chat with him together. He’d been hoping to land a job as a runner, too.