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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

Matthias pressed his forehead once, briefly, against Brum’s. He knew his mentor could not hear him, but he spoke the words anyway. “The life you live, the hate you feel—it’s poison. I can drink it no longer.”

Matthias locked the cell door and hurried down the passage toward Nina, toward something more.

 

 

 

36

 

JESPER

 

ELEVEN BELLS

 

Jesper waited by the slit in the wall, a sniper’s bolt, the perfect place for a boy like him. What did we just do? he wondered. But his blood was alive, his rifle was at his shoulder, the world made sense again.

So where were the guards? Jesper had expected them to rush into the courtyard as soon as he and Wylan triggered Black Protocol.

“I’ve got it!” Wylan called from behind him.

Jesper hated to give up the high ground before they knew what they were up against, but they were short on time, and they needed to get to the roof. “All right, let’s go.”

They raced down the stairs. As they were about to burst from the gatehouse archway, six guards came running into the courtyard. Jesper stopped short and held out his arm.

“Turn back,” he said to Wylan.

But Wylan was pointing across the courtyard. “Look.”

The guards weren’t moving toward the gatehouse; all their attention was focused on a man in olive drab clothing standing by one of the stone slabs. That uniform …

A woman walked through the wall, a figure of shimmering mist that solidified beside the stranger. She wore the same olive drab.

“Tidemakers,” Wylan said.

“The Shu.”

The guards opened fire, and the Tidemakers vanished, then reappeared behind the soldiers and lifted their arms.

The guards screamed and dropped their weapons. A red haze formed around them. The haze grew denser as the guards shrieked, their flesh seeming to shrink against their bones.

“It’s their blood,” Jesper said, bile rising in his throat. “All Saints, the Tidemakers are draining their blood.” They were being squeezed dry.

The blood formed floating pools in the vague shapes of men, slick shadows that hovered in the air, the wet red of garnets, then splashed to the ground at the same time as the guards collapsed, flaccid skin hanging from their desiccated bodies in grotesque folds.

“Back up the stairs,” whispered Jesper. “We need to get out of here.”

But it was too late. The female Tidemaker disappeared. In the next breath, she was on the stairs. She balanced her weight on the banisters with her hands and planted her boots against Wylan’s chest, kicking him backward into Jesper. They tumbled onto the black stone of the courtyard.

The rifle was jerked from Jesper’s arms and tossed aside with a clatter. He tried to stand, and the Tidemaker cuffed him on the back of his head. Then he was lying next to Wylan as the Tidemakers towered above them. They lifted their hands, and Jesper saw the faintest red haze appear over him. He was going to be drained. He felt his strength start to ebb. He looked to the left but the rifle was too far away.