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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

She thought she would leap from her skin as the minutes burned away. The others watched the next fight—Muzzen avidly, flexing his fingers and speculating on the outcome, Inej silent and still as a statue, Kaz inscrutable as always, scheming away behind that hideous mask. Nina slowed her own breathing, forced her pulse lower, trying to calm herself, but she could do nothing to mute the riot in her head.

Finally, Kaz gave her a nudge. “Ready, Nina? The guard first.”

She cast a glance at the prison guard standing by the archway.

“How down?” It was a Barrel turn of phrase. How badly do you want him hurt?

“Shut eye.” Knock him out, but don’t actually hurt him.

They followed Kaz to the arch through which they’d entered. The rest of the crowd took little notice, eyes focused on the fighting below.

“Need your escort?” the guard asked as they approached.

“I had a question,” said Kaz. Beneath her cape, Nina lifted her hands, sensing the flow of blood in the guard’s veins, the tissue of his lungs. “About your mother and whether the rumors are true.”

Nina felt the guard’s pulse leap and sighed. “Never can make it easy, can you, Kaz?”

The guard stepped forward, lifting his gun. “What did you say? I—” His eyelids drooped. “You don’t—” Nina dropped his pulse, and he toppled forward.

Muzzen grabbed him before he could fall as Inej swept him into the cloak Kaz had been wearing just moments before. Nina was only mildly surprised to see that Kaz was wearing a prison guard’s uniform beneath it.

“Couldn’t you have just asked him the time or something?” Nina said. “And where did you get that uniform?”

Inej slid the Madman’s mask down over the guard’s face, and Muzzen threw his arm around him, holding him up as if the guard had been drinking too much. They deposited him on one of the benches pressed against the back wall.

Kaz tugged on the sleeves of his uniform. “Nina, people love to give up authority to men in nice clothes. I have uniforms for the stadwatch, the harbor police, and the livery of every merch mansion on the Geldstraat. Let’s go.”

They slipped down the passageway.

Instead of turning back the way they’d come, they moved counterclockwise around the old tower, the wall of the arena vibrating with voices and stomping feet to their left. The guards posted at each archway paid them little more than a glance, though a few nodded at Kaz, who kept a brisk pace, his face buried in his collar.

Nina was so deep in thought that she nearly missed it when Kaz held up a hand for them to slow. They’d rounded a bend between two archways and were in the cover of deep shadow. Ahead of them, a medik was emerging from a cell accompanied by guards, one carrying a lantern. “He’ll sleep through the night,” the medik said. “Make sure he drinks something in the morning and check his pupils. I had to give him a powerful sleeping draft.”