Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)
There was a long silence, and then, eyes trained on the notch they’d created in the link, Wylan said, “Just girls?”
Jesper restrained a grin. “No. Not just girls.” It really was a shame they were all probably going to die tonight. Then the Elderclock began to toll eleven bells. His eyes met Wylan’s. They were out of time.
Jesper leapt to his feet, trying to dust some of the metal bits from his face and shirt. Would the chain hold long enough? Too long? They’d just have to find out. “Get in position.”
Wylan took his spot at the right handle of the winch, and Jesper grabbed the handle on the left.
“Prepared to hear the sound of certain doom?” he asked.
“You’ve never heard my father mad.”
“That sense of humor is getting progressively more Barrel appropriate. If we survive, I’ll teach you to swear. On my count,” said Jesper. “Let’s let the Ice Court know the Dregs have come to call.”
He counted down from three, and they began to turn the winch, carefully matching each other’s pace, eyes on the weakened link. Jesper had expected some thunderous noise, but except for a few creaks and clanks, the machinery was silent.
Slowly, the ringwall gate began to rise. Five inches. Ten inches.
Maybe nothing will happen, thought Jesper. Maybe Matthias was lying, or all this stuff about Black Protocol is a fake to keep people from even trying to open the gates.
Then the bells of the Elderclock rang out, loud and panicked, high and demanding, an escalating tide of echoes, climbing one on top of another, booming over the White Island, the ice moat, the wall. The bells of Black Protocol had begun to sound. There was no turning back now. They released the handles of the winch in unison, letting the gate thunder down, but still the link didn’t give.
“Come on,” Jesper said, coaxing the stubborn metal. A better Fabrikator probably could have made quick work of it. A Fabrikator on parem probably could have turned the chain into a set of steak knives and had time for a cup of coffee. But Jesper was neither of those things, and he’d run out of finesse. He grabbed hold of the chain, hanging from it, using all his weight to try to put pressure on the link. Wylan did the same, and for a moment they hung, pulling on the chain like a couple of crazed squirrels who hadn’t mastered climbing. Any minute now guards would be storming into the courtyard, and they’d have to leave off this insanity to defend themselves. The gate would still be operational. They’d have failed.
“Maybe you should try singing at it,” Jesper said hopelessly.
And then, with a final shiver of protest, the link snapped.
Jesper and Wylan fell to the floor as the chain zipped through their hands, one end vanishing through the slot, the other sending the winch handles spinning.
“We did it!” Jesper shouted over the din of the bells, caught somewhere between excitement and terror. “I’ll cover you. Deal with the winch!”