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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

Now he looked like what he truly was: a killer. His bare torso seemed hewn from steel, and though she knew it wasn’t possible, he seemed bigger, as if the very structure of his body had changed. His skin had been gilded honey; now it was fish-belly white beneath the grime. And his hair—he’d had such beautiful hair, thick and golden, worn long in the way of Fjerdan soldiers. Now, like the other prisoners, his head had been shaved, probably to prevent lice. Whichever guard had done it had made a mess of the job. Even from this distance, she could see the cuts and nicks on his scalp, and little strips of blond stubble in the places the razor had missed. And yet, he was beautiful still.

He glared at the crowd and gave the wheel a hard spin that nearly knocked it off its base.

Tick tick tick tick. Snakes. Tiger. Bear. Boar. The wheel ticked merrily along, then slowed and finally stopped.

“No,” Nina said when she saw where the needle was pointing.

“It could be worse,” said Muzzen. “Could have landed on the desert lizard again.”

She grabbed Kaz’s arm through his cloak and felt his muscles tense. “You have to stop this.”

“Let go of me, Nina.” His gravel-rough voice was low, but she sensed real menace in it.

She dropped her hand, “Please, you don’t understand. He—”

“If he survives, I’ll take Matthias Helvar out of this place tonight, but this part is up to him.”

Nina gave a frustrated shake of her head. “You don’t get it.”

The guard unbolted Matthias’ shackles, and as soon as the chains dropped into the sand, he leapt onto the ladder with the announcer to be lifted to safety. The crowd screamed and stamped. But Matthias stood silent, unmoving, even when the gate opened, even when the wolves charged out of the tunnel—three of them snarling and snapping, tumbling over one another to get to him.

At the last second, Matthias dropped into a crouch, knocking the first wolf into the dirt, then rolling right to pick up the bloodied knife the previous combatant had left in the sand. He sprang to his feet, blade held out before him, but Nina could sense his reluctance. His head was cocked to one side, and the look in his blue eyes was pleading, as if he was trying to engage the two wolves circling him in some silent negotiation. Whatever the plea might have been, it went unheard. The wolf on the right lunged. Matthias crouched low and spun, lodging his knife in the wolf’s belly. It gave a miserable yelp, and Matthias seemed to shudder at the sound. It cost him precious seconds. The third wolf was on him, knocking him to the sand. Its teeth sank into his shoulder. He rolled, taking the wolf with him. The wolf’s jaws snapped, and Matthias caught them. He wrenched them apart, the muscles of his arms flexing, his face grim. Nina squeezed her eyes shut. There was a sickening crack. The crowd roared.