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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

It isn’t up to you any longer, little lynx, Tante Heleen’s voice crooned in her head. How long have you been holding on to nothing?

The heat of the incinerator wrapped around Inej like a living thing, a desert dragon in his den, hiding from the ice, waiting for her. She knew her body’s limits and knew she had no more to give. She’d made a bad wager. It was as simple as that. The autumn leaf might cling to its branch, but it was already dead. The only question was when it would fall.

Let go, Inej. Her father had taught her to climb, to trust the rope, the swing, and finally, to trust in her own skill, to believe that if she leapt, she would reach the other side. Would he be waiting for her there? She thought of her knives, hidden away aboard the Ferolind—maybe they could go to some other girl who dreamed of being dangerous. She whispered their names: Petyr, Marya, Anastasia, Vladimir, Lizabeta, Sankta Alina, martyred before she could turn eighteen. Let go, Inej. Should she jump now or simply wait for her body to give out?

Inej felt wetness on her cheeks. Was she crying? Now? After everything she’d done and had done to her?

Then she heard it, a soft patter, a gentle drum that had no real rhythm. She felt it on her cheeks and face. She heard the hiss as it struck the coals below. Rain. Cool and forgiving. Inej tilted her head back. Somewhere, she heard bells ringing the three-quarter hour, but she didn’t care. She only heard the music of the rain as it washed away the sweat and soot, the coal smoke of Ketterdam, the face paint of the Menagerie, as it bathed the jute strands of the rope, and hardened the rubber on her suffering feet. It felt like a blessing, though she knew Kaz would just call it weather.

She had to move now, quickly, before the stones grew slick and the rain became an enemy. She forced her muscles to flex, her fingers to seek, and pulled herself up one foot, then another, again and again, murmuring prayers of gratitude to her Saints. Here was the rhythm that had eluded her before, buried in the whispered cadence of their names.

But even as she gave thanks, she knew that the rain was not enough. She wanted a storm—thunder, wind, a deluge. She wanted it to crash through Ketterdam’s pleasure houses, lifting roofs and tearing doors off their hinges. She wanted it to raise the seas, take hold of every slaving ship, shatter their masts, and smash their hulls against unforgiving shores. I want to call that storm, she thought. And four million kruge might be enough to do it. Enough for her own ship—something small and fierce and laden with firepower. Something like her. She would hunt the slavers and their buyers. They would learn to fear her, and they would know her by her name. The heart is an arrow. It demands aim to land true. She clung to the wall, but it was purpose she grasped at long last, and that carried her upward.