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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

The crowd continued to boo as guards entered the arena to remove the prisoner’s remains, tendrils of smoke still curling from his ruined flesh.

“Why are they complaining?” Nina asked angrily. “Isn’t this what they came here for?”

“They wanted a fight,” said Kaz. “They were expecting him to last longer.”

“This is disgusting.”

Kaz shrugged. “Only disgusting thing about it is that I didn’t think of it first.”

“These men aren’t slaves, Kaz. They’re prisoners.”

“They’re murderers and rapists.”

“And thieves and con artists. Your people.”

“Nina, sweet, they aren’t forced to fight. They line up for the chance. They earn better food, private cells, liquor, jurda, conjugals with girls from West Stave.”

Muzzen cracked his knuckles. “Sounds better than we got it at the Slat.”

Nina looked at the people screaming and shouting, the barkers walking the aisles taking bets. The prisoners of Hellgate might line up to fight, but Pekka Rollins made the real money.

“Helvar doesn’t … Helvar doesn’t fight in the arena, does he?”

“We aren’t here for the ambience,” Kaz said.

Beyond slappable. “Are you aware that I could waggle my fingers and make you wet your trousers?”

“Easy, Heartrender. I like these trousers. And if you start messing with my vital organs, Matthias Helvar will never see sunshine again.”

Nina blew out a breath and settled for glowering at no one.

“Nina—” Inej murmured.

“Don’t you start in on me.”

“It will all work out. Let Kaz do what he does best.”

“He’s horrible.”

“But effective. Being angry at Kaz for being ruthless is like being angry at a stove for being hot. You know what he is.”

Nina crossed her arms. “I’m mad at you, too.”

“Me? Why?”

“I don’t know yet. I just am.”

Inej gave Nina’s hand a brief squeeze, and after a moment, Nina squeezed back. She sat through the next fight in a daze, and the next. She told herself she was ready for this—to see him again, to see him here in this brutal place. After all, she was a Grisha and a soldier of the Second Army. She’d seen worse.

But when Matthias emerged from the mouth of the cave below, she knew she’d been wrong. Nina recognized him instantly. Every night of the past year, she had fallen asleep thinking of Matthias’ face. There was no mistaking the gilded brows, the sharp cut of his cheekbones. But Kaz hadn’t lied: Matthias was much changed. The boy who looked back at the crowd with fury in his eyes was a stranger.

Nina remembered the first time she’d seen Matthias in a moonlit Kaelish wood. His beauty had seemed unfair to her. In another life, she might have believed he was coming to rescue her, a shining savior with golden hair and eyes the pale blue of northern glaciers. But she’d known the truth of him by the language he spoke, and by the disgust on his face every time his eyes lighted on her. Matthias Helvar was a drüskelle, one of the Fjerdan witchhunters tasked with hunting down Grisha to face trial and execution, though to her he’d always resembled a warrior Saint, illuminated in gold.