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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

The trick is in getting back up. He kept her voice in his head, repeating those words, again and again, as he stripped off his boots, his clothes, and finally his gloves.

He saw that Jesper was staring at his hands. “What were you expecting?” Kaz growled.

“Claws, at least,” Jesper said, shifting his gaze to his own bony bare feet. “Possibly a spiny thumb.”

The guard returned from dumping their clothes in a bin that would no doubt be taken to the incinerator. He tilted Kaz’s head back roughly and forced his mouth open, feeling around with fat fingers. Black spots bloomed in Kaz’s sight as he fought to remain conscious. The guard’s fingers passed over the spot between Kaz’s teeth where he’d wedged the baleen, then pinched and prodded the interior of his cheeks.

Ondetjärn!” the guard exclaimed. “Fellenjuret!” he shouted again as he pulled two slender pieces of metal from Kaz’s mouth. The lockpicks hit the stone floor with a plink-plink. The guard shouted something at him in Fjerdan and cuffed him hard across the face. Kaz fell to his knees, but forced himself back up. He registered Wylan’s panicked expression, but it was all he could do to stay on his feet as the guard shoved him into line for an ice-cold shower.

When he emerged, soaked and shaking, another guard handed him colorless, prison-issue trousers and a tunic from the stack beside him. Kaz pulled them on, then limped to the holding area with the rest of the prisoners. In that moment, he would have given up half his share of the thirty million kruge for the familiar heft of his cane.

The holding cells looked much more like the prison he had anticipated—no white stone or glass displays, just dank gray rock and iron bars.

They were herded into an already crowded cell. Helvar sat down with his back to the wall, surveying the pacing men, eyes slitted. Kaz rested against the iron bars, watching the guards depart. He could sense the movements of the bodies behind him. There was space enough, but they still felt too close. Just a little longer, Kaz told himself. His hands felt impossibly bare.

Kaz waited. He knew what was coming. He’d sussed out the others as soon as they entered the cell, and he knew it would be the burly Kaelish with the birthmark who came for him. He was twitchy, nervous, and he’d taken obvious notice of Kaz’s limp.

“Hey, cripple,” the Kaelish said in Fjerdan. He tried again in Kerch, his lilt heavy. “Hey, crip.” He needn’t have bothered. Kaz knew the word for cripple in plenty of languages.

The next second, Kaz felt the air move as the Kaelish reached for him. He stepped left, and the Kaelish lurched forward, carried by his own momentum. Kaz helped him along, seizing the man’s arm and driving it through the space between bars, all the way up to the shoulder. The Kaelish let out a loud grunt as his face smashed up against the iron bars.