Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)
He let himself relax slightly, grudgingly, beneath her palms. She flipped over and pulled his arm back around her. “You’re welcome, you big idiot.”
He’d lied. He did like the way she talked.
* * *
He still did. He could hear her yammering to Inej somewhere behind him, trying to teach her Fjerdan words. “No, Hring-kaaalle. You have to hang on the last syllable a bit.”
“Hringalah?” tried Inej.
“Better but—here, it’s like Kerch is a gazelle. It hops from word to word,” she pantomimed. “Fjerdan is like gulls, all swoops and dives.” Her hands became birds riding currents on the air. At that moment, she looked up and caught him staring.
He cleared his throat. “Do not eat the snow,” he counseled. “It will only dehydrate you and lower your body temperature.” He plunged forward, eager to be up the next hill with some distance between them. But as he came over the rise, he halted dead in his tracks.
He turned around, holding out his arms. “Stop! You don’t want to—”
But it was too late. Nina clapped her hands over her mouth. Inej made some kind of warding sign in the air. Jesper shook his head, and Wylan gagged. Kaz stood like a stone, his expression inscrutable.
The pyre had been made on a bluff. Whoever was responsible had tried to build the fire in the shelter of a rock outcropping, but it hadn’t been enough to keep the flames from dying out in the wind. Three stakes had been driven into the icy ground, and three charred bodies were bound to them, their blackened, cracked skin still smoldering.
“Ghezen,” swore Wylan. “What is this?”
“This is what Fjerdans do to Grisha,” Nina said. Her face was slack, her green eyes staring.
“It’s what criminals do,” said Matthias, his insides churning. “The pyres have been illegal since—”
Nina whirled on him and shoved his chest hard. “Don’t you dare,” she seethed, fury burning like a halo around her. “Tell me the last time someone was prosecuted for putting a Grisha to the flames. Do you even call it murder when you put down dogs?”
“Do you have a different name for killing when you wear a uniform to do it?”
They heard it then—a moan, like a creaking wind.
“Saints,” Jesper said. “One of them is alive.”
The sound came again, thin and keening, from the black hulk of the body on the far right. It was impossible to tell if the shape was male or female. Its hair had burned away, its clothing fused to its limbs. Black flakes of skin had peeled away in places, showing raw flesh.
A sob tore from Nina’s throat. She raised her hands but she was shaking too badly to use her power to end the creature’s suffering. She turned her tear-filled eyes to the others. “I … Please, someone…”
Jesper moved first. Two shots rang out, and the body fell silent. Jesper returned his pistols to their holsters.
“Damn it, Jesper,” Kaz growled. “You just announced our presence for miles.”