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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

“A stubborn sky,” murmured Inej, squinting out toward Vellgeluk. She was right. There were no clouds on the horizon, but the air felt dense with moisture, as if a storm was simply refusing to form.

Jesper scanned the empty deck. He’d assumed Wylan would come up to see them off, but Nina couldn’t be left on her own.

“How is she?” he asked Matthias.

“Weak,” said the Fjerdan. “She’s been unable to sleep. But we got her to take some broth, and she seems to be keeping it down.”

Jesper knew he was being selfish and stupid, but some petty part of him wondered if Wylan had deliberately kept away from him on the journey back. Maybe now that the job was complete and he was on his way to his share of the haul, Wylan was done slumming with criminals.

“Where’s the other longboat?” Jesper asked as he, Kaz, Matthias, Inej, and Kuwei rowed out from the Ferolind with Rotty.

“Repairs,” said Kaz.

Vellgeluk was so flat it was barely visible once they were rowing through the water. The island was less than a mile wide, a barren patch of sand and rock distinguished only by the wrecked foundation of an old tower used by the Council of Tides. Smugglers called it Vellgeluk, “good luck,” because of the paintings still visible around the base of what would have been the obelisk tower: golden circles meant to represent coins, symbols of favor from Ghezen, the god of industry and commerce. Jesper and Kaz had come to the island before to meet with smugglers. It was far from Ketterdam’s ports, well outside the patrol of the harbor watch, with no buildings or hidden coves from which to stage an ambush. An ideal meeting place for wary parties.

A brigantine was moored off the island’s opposite shore, its sails hanging limp and useless. Jesper had watched it make slow progress from Ketterdam in the early dawn light, a tiny black dot that grew into a hulking blot on the horizon. He could hear the sailors calling to each other as they worked the oars. Now its crew lowered a longboat packed with men over the side.

When their own longboat made shore, Jesper and the others leapt out to pull it onto the sand. Jesper checked his revolvers and saw Inej touch her fingers briefly to each of her knives, lips moving. Matthias adjusted the rifle strapped to his back and rolled his enormous shoulders. Kuwei watched it all in silence.

“All right,” Kaz said. “Let’s go get rich.”

“No mourners,” Rotty said, settling down to wait with the longboat.

“No funerals,” they replied.

They strode toward the center of the island, Kuwei behind Kaz, bracketed by Jesper and Inej. As they drew closer, Jesper saw someone in a black mercher’s suit approaching, accompanied by a tall Shu man, dark hair bound at the nape of his neck, and followed by a contingent of the stadwatch in purple coats, all carrying batons and repeating rifles. Two men lugged a heavy trunk between them, staggering slightly with its weight.