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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

“Where the tree talks to you.”

Matthias resisted the urge to shove him into the water. “Where we hope to hear the voice of Djel. But that’s the final step. First, we have to cross the ice moat undetected. If we are judged worthy, Djel shows us the path.”

In truth, elder drüskelle simply passed the secret of the crossing along to aspirants they wished to see enter the order; it was a way of culling the weak or those who had simply not meshed successfully with the group. If you’d made friends, if you’d proven yourself, then one of the brothers would take you aside and tell you that on the night of the initiation, you should go to the shore of the ice moat and run your hand along the wall of the drüskelle sector. At its center, you would find an etching of a wolf that marked the location of another glass bridge—not grand and arching like the one that spanned the moat from the embassy wing, but flat, level, and only a few feet wide. It lay just under the frozen skin of the surface, invisible if you didn’t know to look for it. Commander Brum himself had been the one to tell Matthias how to find the secret bridge, as well as the trick for crossing it undetected.

It took Matthias two passes along the wall before his fingers found the carved lines of the wolf. He rested his hand there briefly, feeling the traditions that connected him to the order of drüskelle, as old as the Ice Court itself.

“Here,” he said.

Kaz shuffled over and squinted across the moat. He leaned out and Matthias yanked him back.

He pointed to the guard towers on the top of the wall surrounding the White Island. “You’ll be visible,” he said. “Use this.”

He scraped his hand along the wall and his palm came away white. The night of his initiation, Matthias had rubbed his clothes and hair with the same chalky powder. Camouflaged from the view of the guards in their towers, he’d crossed the slender path to the island to meet his brothers.

Now he and Kaz did the same, though Matthias noticed Kaz tucked his gloves neatly away first. Inej must have returned them.

Matthias stepped onto the secret bridge, then heard Kaz hiss when the icy waters of the moat closed over his feet.

“Chilly, Brekker?”

“If only we had time for a swim. Get moving.”

Despite his taunts to Kaz, by the time they were halfway to the island, Matthias’ feet had gone almost completely numb, and he was keenly aware of the guard towers high above the moat. Drüskelle would have come this way earlier tonight. He’d never heard of any aspirant being spotted or shot at on the bridge, but anything was possible.

“All this to be a witchhunter?” Kaz said behind him. “The Dregs need a better initiation.”

“This is only one part of Hringkälla.”

“Yes, I know, then a tree tells you the secret handshake.”