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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

There was no sound but their breathing, the slosh of the water, the roll of the waves. He kept them moving—though they might well have been paddling in a circle—and she kept both of them breathing. Which one of them would give out first, he didn’t know.

“Why did you save me?” he asked finally.

“Stop wasting energy. Don’t talk.”

“Why did you do it?”

“Because you’re a human being,” she said angrily.

Lies. If they did make land, she’d need a Fjerdan to help her survive, someone who knew the land, though clearly she knew the language. Of course she did. They were all deceivers and spies, trained to prey on people like him, people without their unnatural gifts. They were predators.

He continued to kick, but the muscles in his legs were tiring, and he could feel the cold creeping in on him.

“Giving up already, witch?”

He felt her shake off her exhaustion, and blood rushed back into his fingers and toes.

“I’ll match your pace, drüskelle. If we die, it will be your burden to bear in the next life.”

He had to smile a little at that. She certainly didn’t lack for spine. That much had been clear even when she was caged.

That was the way they went on that night, taunting each other whenever one of them faltered. They knew only the sea, the ice, the occasional splash that might have been a wave or something hungry moving toward them in the water.

“Look,” the witch whispered when dawn came, rosy and blithe. There, in the distance, he could just make out a jutting promontory of ice and the blessed black slash of a dark gravel shore. Land.

They wasted no time on relief or celebration. The witch tilted her head back, resting it against his shoulder as he drove forward, inch by miserable inch, each wave pulling them back, as if the sea was unwilling to relinquish its hold. At last, their feet touched bottom, and they were half swimming, half crawling to shore. They broke apart, and Matthias’ body flooded with misery as he dragged himself over the black rocks to the dead and frozen land.

Walking was impossible at first. Both of them moved in fits and starts, trying to get their limbs to obey, shuddering with cold. Finally he made it to his feet. He thought about just walking off, finding shelter without her. She was on her hands and knees, head bent, her hair a wet and tangled mess covering her face. He had the distinct sense that she was going to lie down and simply not get back up.

He took one step, then another. Then he turned back. Whatever her reasons, she’d saved his life last night, not once, but again and again. That was a blood debt.

He staggered back to her and offered his hand.

When she looked up at him, the expression on her face was a bleak map of loathing and fatigue. In it, he saw the shame that came with gratitude, and he knew that in this brief moment, she was his mirror. She didn’t want to owe him anything, either.