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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

He reached down and tossed one of the rifles to Wylan. They stood over the guards’ bodies, panting, weapons raised, waiting for more Fjerdan soldiers to flood out of the gatehouse. No one came. Maybe the fourth guard had been pulled away for Yellow Protocol.

“Is that how you shut up and stay out of the way?” Jesper whispered as they dragged the guards’ bodies out of view behind one of the stone slabs.

“Is that how you say thank you?” Wylan retorted.

“What the hell was that song?”

“National anthem,” Wylan said smugly. “Schoolroom Fjerdan, remember?”

Jesper shook his head. “I’m impressed. With you and your tutors.”

They liberated two of the guards’ uniforms, leaving their own prison clothes in a tidy bundle, then bound the hands and feet of the guards who still had pulses and gagged them with torn pieces of their prison clothes. Wylan’s uniform was far too big, and Jesper’s sleeves and pants looked ridiculously short, but at least the boots were a reasonable fit.

Wylan gestured to the guards. “Is it safe to leave them, you know—”

“Alive? I’m not big on killing unconscious men.”

“We could wake them up.”

“Pretty ruthless, merchling. Have you ever killed anyone?”

“I’d never even seen a dead body before I came to the Barrel,” Wylan admitted.

“It’s not something to be embarrassed about,” Jesper said, surprising himself a little. But he meant it. Wylan needed to learn to take care of himself, but it would be nice if he could do it without getting on friendly terms with death. “Make sure the gags are tight.”

They took the extra precaution of securing the bound guards to the base of a stone slab. The poor nubs would probably be discovered before they managed to get loose.

“Let’s go,” Jesper said, and they crossed the courtyard to the gatehouse. There were doors to the right and left of the arch.

They took the right side, climbing the stairs cautiously. Though Jesper didn’t think anyone would be lying in wait, some guard might be charged with protecting the gate mechanism at all cost. But the room above the arch was empty, lit only by a lantern set on a low table where a book lay open next to a little pile of whole walnuts and cracked shells. The walls were lined with racks of rifles—very expensive rifles—and Jesper assumed the boxes on the shelves were filled with ammunition. No dust anywhere. Tidy Fjerdans.

Most of the room was taken up by a long winch, handles at each end, thick loops of chain spooled around it. Near each handle, the chains extended in taut spokes through slots in the stone.

Wylan cocked his head to the side. “Huh.”

“I don’t like that sound. What’s wrong?”

“I was expecting rope or cables, not steel chains. If we’re going to make sure the Fjerdans can’t get the gate open, we’re going to have to cut through the metal.”

“But then how do we trigger Black Protocol?”