Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)
“Kaz?” called Jesper from inside the tank. “This would be a really good time to say you saw this coming.”
Kaz looked out over the sea of soldiers. “I didn’t see this coming.” He shook his head. “You told me one day I’d run out of tricks, Helvar. Looks like you were right.” The words were for Matthias, but his eyes were on Inej.
“I’ve had my fill of captivity,” she said. “They won’t take me alive.”
“Me neither,” said Wylan.
Jesper snorted from inside the tank. “We really need to get him more suitable friends.”
“Better to go out with fists swinging than let some Fjerdan put me on a pike,” said Kaz.
Matthias nodded. “Then we agree. We end this here.”
“No,” Nina whispered. They all turned to her.
The voice echoed out from the Fjerdan ranks once more. “You have a count of ten to comply. I repeat: Release the prisoner Kuwei Yul-Bo and surrender yourselves. Ten…”
Nina spoke to Kuwei rapidly in Shu.
“You don’t understand,” he replied. “A single dose—”
“I understand,” she said. But the others didn’t. Not until they saw Kuwei produce a little leather pouch from his pocket. Its rim was stained with rust-colored powder.
“No!” Matthias shouted. He grabbed for the parem, but Nina was faster.
The Fjerdan voice droned on: “Seven…”
“Nina, don’t be stupid,” said Inej. “You’ve seen—”
“Some people don’t get addicted after the first dose.”
“It isn’t worth the risk.”
“Kaz is out of tricks.” She plucked open the pouch. “But I’m not.”
“Nina, please,” Matthias begged. She’d seen the same anguish on his face that day in Elling when he thought she’d betrayed him. In a way, she was doing the same thing now, abandoning him once more.
The first dose was the strongest, wasn’t that what they’d said? The high and the power could never be replicated. She’d be chasing it for the rest of her life. Or maybe she’d be stronger than the drug.
She touched Matthias’ cheek briefly. “If it gets bad, find a way to end it, Helvar. I’m trusting you to do the right thing.” She smiled. “Again.”
Then she tossed her head back and poured the parem into her mouth, downing it in a single hard swallow. It had the sweet, burnt taste of the jurda blossoms she knew, but there was another flavor, too, one she couldn’t quite identify.
She stopped thinking.
Her blood began to thrum, and her heart was suddenly pounding. The world broke up into tiny flashes of light. She could see the true color of Matthias’ eyes, pure blue beneath the flecks of gray and brown she’d put there, the moonlight gleaming off every hair on his head. She saw the sweat on Kaz’s brow, the nearly invisible pinpricks of the tattoo on his forearm.
She looked out over the lines of Fjerdan soldiers. She could hear their hearts beating. She could see their neurons firing, feel their impulses forming. Everything made sense. Their bodies were a map of cells, a thousand equations, solved by the second, by the millisecond, and she knew only answers.