Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)
“How?” Nina whispered, not even sure if they could hear her through the door.
“Did you really believe I’d turn against my nation?” Matthias’ voice was thick with disgust. “That I’d give up the cause I devoted my life to? I came to warn Brum as soon as I could.”
“But you said—”
“Country before self, Zenik. It’s something you’ve never understood.”
Nina pressed a hand to her mouth.
“I may never be drüskelle again,” he said. “I may live always with the charge of ‘slaver’ around my neck, but I’ll find another way to serve Fjerda. And I’ll get to see you dosed with jurda parem. I’ll get to see you mow down your own kind and beg for the next fix. I’ll get to see you betray the people you love as you asked me to betray my own.”
He slammed his fist against the window. “Do not speak my name.” Then he smiled, a smile as cold and unforgiving as the northern sea. “Welcome to the Ice Court, Nina Zenik. Now our debt is paid.”
From somewhere outside, the bells of Black Protocol began to ring.
“She’s beautiful,” Brum said, “in an exaggerated way. You were strong not to be lured by her.”
I was lured, though, thought Matthias. And it wasn’t just her beauty.
“The alarm—” Matthias said.
“Her compatriots, no doubt.”
“Matthias, my men will take care of it. The Ice Court is secure.” He glanced back at Nina’s cell. “We could press the button right now.”
“Won’t she be a threat?”
“We’ve combined the jurda parem with a sedative that makes them more biddable. We’re still working out the correct ratios, but we’ll get there. Besides, by the second dose, the addiction does the work of controlling them.”
“Not the first dose?”
“Depends on the Grisha.”
“How many times have you done this?”
Brum laughed. “I haven’t counted. But trust me, she’ll be so desperate for more jurda parem, she won’t dare act against us. It’s a remarkable transformation. I think you’ll enjoy it.”
Matthias’ stomach clenched. “You’ve kept the scientist alive then?”
“He’s done his best to replicate the process of creating the drug, but it’s a complicated thing. Some batches work; others are no better than dust. As long as he can be of service, he lives.” Brum placed his hand on Matthias’ shoulder, his harsh gaze softening. “I can scarcely believe you’re really here, alive, standing before me. I thought you were dead.”
“I believed the same of you.”
“When I saw you in that ballroom, I barely recognized you, even in that uniform. You are so changed—”
“I had to let the witch tailor me.”
Brum’s revulsion was obvious. “You allowed her to—”
Somehow, seeing that response in someone else made Matthias ashamed of the way he’d reacted to Nina.
“It had to be done,” he said. “I needed her to believe I was committed to her cause.”