Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)
The snickering that followed was furtive and cruel.
Lars gave the whip a sharp snap, and the cables contracted, forcing Nina, Matthias, and Kuwei to totter after him in an awkward parade.
“Do you still pray to our god, Helvar?” Lars asked as they passed the sacred tree. “Do you think Djel hears the mewling of men who give themselves over to the defilement of Grisha? Do you think—”
Then a sharp, animal yelp sounded. It took Nina and the others a long moment to realize it had come from Lars. He opened his mouth and blood gushed over his chin and onto the bright silver buttons of his uniform. His hand released the whip, and the hooded drüskelle beside him lunged forward to snatch it up.
A sharp pop pop pop came from the base of the sacred tree. Nina recognized that sound—she’d heard it on the northern road before they waylaid the prison wagon. When they’d brought the tree down. The ash creaked and moaned. Its ancient roots began to curl.
“Nej!” cried one of the drüskelle. They stood open-mouthed, gaping at the stricken tree. “Nej!” another voice wailed.
The ash began to tilt. It was too large to be felled by salt concentrate alone, but as it tipped, a dull roar emerged from the gaping black hole beneath it.
This was where the drüskelle came to hear the voice of their god. And now he was speaking.
“This is going to sting a bit,” said the drüskelle holding the whip. His voice was rasping, familiar. His hands were gloved. “But if we live, you’ll thank me later.” His hood slid off, and Kaz Brekker looked back at them. The stunned drüskelle lifted their rifles.
“Don’t pop the baleen before you hit bottom,” Kaz called. Then he grabbed Kuwei and launched them both into the black mouth beneath the roots of the tree.
Nina screamed as her body was yanked forward by the cables. She scrabbled over the stones trying to find purchase. The last thing she glimpsed was Matthias toppling into the hole beside her. She heard gunfire—and then she was falling into the black, into the cold, into the throat of Djel, into nothing at all.
ELEVEN BELLS AND THREE-QUARTERS CHIME
Kaz had considered trying to eavesdrop on Matthias and Brum in the ballroom, but he didn’t want to lose sight of Nina when there were so many drüskelle around. He’d gambled on Matthias’ feelings for Nina, but he’d always liked those odds. The real risk had been in whether or not someone as honest as Matthias could convincingly lie to his mentor’s face. Apparently the Fjerdan had hidden skills.
Kaz had tracked Nina and Brum across the grounds to the treasury. Then he’d taken cover behind an ice sculpture and focused on the miserable task of regurgitating the packets of Wylan’s root bombs he’d swallowed before they’d ambushed the prison wagon. He’d had to bring them up—along with a pouch of chloropellets and an extra set of lockpicks he’d forced down his gullet in case of emergency—every other hour to keep from digesting them. It hadn’t been pleasant. He’d learned the trick from an East Stave magician with a fire-breathing act that had run for years before the man had accidentally poisoned himself by ingesting kerosene.