Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)
No one said a word, but they were watching, waiting.
“Tell them, Nina,” he demanded. “They should know how you treat your friends.”
Nina swallowed, then forced herself to meet their gazes. “I told the Kerch that he was a slaver and that he’d taken me prisoner. I threw myself on their mercy and begged them to help me. I had a seal I’d taken from a slaving ship we’d raided near the Wandering Isle. I used it as proof.”
She couldn’t bear to look at them. Kaz knew, of course. She’d had to tell him the charges she’d made and tried to recant when she was begging for his assistance. But Kaz had never probed, never asked why, never chastised her. In a way, telling Kaz had been a comfort. There could be no judgment from a boy known as Dirtyhands.
But now the truth was there for everyone to see. Privately, the Kerch knew slaves moved in and out of the ports of Ketterdam, and most indentures were really slaves by another name. But publicly, they reviled it and were obligated to prosecute all slavers. Nina had known exactly what would happen when she’d branded Matthias with that charge.
“I didn’t understand what was happening,” said Matthias. “I didn’t speak Kerch, but Nina certainly did. They seized me and put me in chains. They tossed me in the brig and kept me there in the dark for weeks while we crossed the sea. The next time I saw daylight was when they led me off the ship in Ketterdam.”
“I had no choice,” Nina said, the ache of tears pressing at her throat. “You don’t know—”
“Just tell me one thing,” he said. There was anger in his voice, but she could hear something else, too, a kind of pleading. “If you could go back, if you could undo what you did to me, would you?”
Nina made herself face them. She had her reasons, but did they matter? And who were they to judge her? She straightened her spine, lifted her chin. She was a member of the Dregs, an employee of the White Rose, and occasionally a foolish girl, but before anything else she was a Grisha and a soldier. “No,” she said clearly, her voice echoing off the endless ice. “I’d do it all over again.”
A sudden rumble shook the ground. Nina nearly lost her footing, and she saw Kaz brace himself with his walking stick. They exchanged puzzled glances.
“Are there fault lines this far north?” Wylan asked.
Matthias frowned. “Not that I know of, but—”
A slab of earth shot up from beneath Matthias’ feet, knocking him to the ground. Another erupted to Nina’s right, sending her sprawling. All around them, crooked monoliths of earth and ice burst upward, as if the ground were coming to life. A harsh wind whipped at their faces, snow spinning in flurries.
“What the hell is this?” cried Jesper.
“Some of kind of earthquake!” shouted Inej.