Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)
Inej tensed, waiting for the signal. It didn’t come. Kaz was just standing there, staring into the wagon.
“What’s happening?” whispered Wylan.
“Maybe they aren’t hooded?” she replied. From the side, she couldn’t see. “I’ll go.” They couldn’t all bunch up around the back of the cart at once.
Inej climbed out of the gully and came up behind Kaz. He was still standing there, perfectly still. She touched his shoulder briefly, and he flinched. Kaz Brekker flinched. What was going on? She couldn’t ask him and risk giving anything away to the listening prisoners. She peered into the wagon.
The prisoners were all cuffed and had black sacks over their heads. But there were considerably more of them than in the wagon they’d seen at the checkpoint. Instead of being seated and chained to the benches at the sides, they were standing, pressed up against one another. Their feet and hands had been shackled, and they all wore iron collars that had been clipped to hooks in the wagon’s roof. Whenever one started to slump or lean too heavily, his or her breath would be cut off. It wasn’t pretty, but they were so tightly packed together it didn’t look like anyone could actually fall and choke.
Inej gave Kaz another little nudge. His face was pale, almost waxen, but at least this time he didn’t just stand there. He pushed himself up into the wagon, his movements jerky and awkward, and began unlocking the prisoners’ collars.
Inej signaled to Matthias, who leapt out of the gully to join them.
“What’s happening?” one of the prisoners asked in Ravkan, his voice frightened.
“Tig!” Matthias growled harshly in Fjerdan. A rustle went through the prisoners in the truck, as if they were all coming to attention. Without meaning to, Inej had straightened her spine, too. With that word, Matthias’ whole demeanor had changed, as if with a single sharp command he’d stepped back into the uniform of a drüskelle. Inej eyed him nervously. She’d started to feel comfortable with Matthias. An easy habit to fall into, but unwise.
Kaz unlocked six sets of hand and foot shackles. One by one, Inej and Matthias unloaded the six prisoners closest to the door. There wasn’t time to consider height or build or even if they’d freed men or women. They led them to the edge of the gully, all while keeping an eye on the progress of the guards on the road. “What’s happening?” one of the captives dared to ask. But another quick “Tig!” from Matthias silenced him.
Once they were out of view, Nina dropped their pulses, sending them into unconsciousness. Only then did Wylan remove the prisoners’ hoods: four men, one of them quite old, a middle-aged woman, and a Shu boy. It definitely wasn’t ideal, but hopefully the guards wouldn’t fret too much over accuracy. After all, how much trouble could a group of chained and shackled convicts be?
Nina injected the prisoners with a sleeping solution to prolong their rest, and Wylan helped roll them into the gully behind the trees.