Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)
Matthias had described the layout of the Ice Court in detail, but he’d said little about the way it actually looked. Kaz had expected something old and damp—grim gray stone, battle-hard. Instead, he was surrounded by marble so white it almost glowed blue. He felt as if he’d wandered into some dreamlike version of the harsh lands they’d traveled in the north. It was impossible to tell what might be glass or ice or stone.
“If this isn’t Fabrikator craft, then I’m the queen of the wood sprites,” muttered Nina in Kerch.
“Tig!” one of the guards commanded. He slammed his rifle into her gut, and she doubled over in pain. Matthias kept his head turned, but Kaz didn’t miss the tension in his frame.
The Fjerdan guards were gesturing over their papers, trying to make the numbers and identities of the prisoners match up to the group before them. This was the first real moment of exposure, one Kaz would have no control over. It would have been too time-consuming and dangerous to pick and choose the prisoners they’d replaced. It was a calculated risk, but now Kaz could only wait and hope that laziness and bureaucracy would do the rest.
As the guards moved down the line, Inej helped Nina to her feet.
“You okay?” Inej asked, and Kaz felt himself drawn toward her voice like water rolling downhill.
Slowly, Nina unbent herself and stood upright. “I’m fine,” she whispered. “But I don’t think we have to worry about Pekka Rollins’ team anymore.”
Kaz tracked Nina’s gaze to the top of the ringwall, high above the courtyard, where five men had been impaled on spikes like meat skewered for roasting, backs bent, limbs dangling. Kaz had to squint, but he recognized Eroll Aerts, Rollins’ best lockpick and safecracker. The bruises and welts from the beating they’d given him before his death were deep purple in the morning light, and Kaz could just make out a black mark on his arm—Aerts’ Dime Lion tattoo.
He scanned the other faces—some were too swollen and distorted in death to identify. Could one of them be Rollins? Kaz knew he should be glad another team had been taken out, but Rollins was no fool, and the thought that his crew hadn’t made it past the Ice Court gates was more than a little nerve-racking. Besides, if Rollins had met his death at the end of a Fjerdan pike … No, Kaz refused that possibility. Pekka Rollins belonged to him.
The guards were arguing with the wagon driver now, and one of them was pointing at Inej.
“What’s happening?” he whispered to Nina.
“They’re claiming the papers are out of order, that they have a Suli girl instead of a Shu boy.”
“And the driver?” asked Inej.
“He just keeps telling them it’s not his problem.”
“That’s the way,” Kaz murmured encouragingly.
Kaz watched them go back and forth. That was the beauty of all these fail-safes and layers of security. The guards always thought they could rely on someone else to catch a mistake or fix a problem. Laziness wasn’t as reliable as greed, but it still made a fine lever. And they were talking about prisoners—chained, surrounded on all sides, and about to be dumped into cells. Harmless.