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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

As the men moved off in the opposite direction, Kaz gestured his group forward. The door in the rock was solid iron, broken only by a narrow slot through which to pass the prisoner’s meals. Kaz bent to the lock.

Nina eyed the crude iron door. “This place is barbaric.”

“Most of the better fighters sleep in the old tower,” Kaz replied. “Keeps them away from the rest of the population.”

Nina glanced left and right to where bright light spilled from the arena entryways. There were guards standing in those doorways, distracted maybe, but all one needed to do was turn his head. If they were caught here, would the guards bother giving them over to the stadwatch for trial or would they simply force them into the ring to be eaten by a tiger? Maybe something less dignified, she thought bleakly. A swarm of angry voles.

It took Kaz a few quick heartbeats to pick the lock. The door creaked open and they slipped inside.

The cell was pitch-black. A brief moment passed, and the cold green glow of a bonelight flickered to life beside her. Inej held the little glass sphere aloft. The substance inside was made from the dried and crushed bodies of luminous deep-sea fishes. They were common among crooks in the Barrel who didn’t want to get caught in a dark alley, but couldn’t be bothered to lug around lanterns.

At least it’s clean, Nina thought, as her eyes adjusted to the gloom. Barren and icy cold, but not filthy. She saw a pallet of horse blankets and two buckets placed against the wall, one with a bloody cloth peeking over the rim.

This was what the men of Hellgate competed for: a private cell, a blanket, clean water, a bucket for waste.

Matthias slept with his back to the wall. Even in the dim illumination of the bonelight, she could see his face was starting to swell. Some kind of ointment had been smeared over his wounds—calendula. She recognized the smell.

Nina moved toward him, but Kaz stopped her with a hand on her arm. “Let Inej assess the damage.”

“I can—” Nina began.

“I need you to work on Muzzen.”

Inej tossed Kaz the crow-headed cane she must have been hiding beneath her Gray Imp costume, and knelt over Matthias’ body with the bonelight. Muzzen stepped forward. He removed his cloak and shirt and the Madman’s mask. His head was shaved, and he wore prison-issue trousers.

Nina looked at Matthias then back to Muzzen, grasping what Kaz had in mind. The two boys were about the same height and the same build, but that was where the similarities ended.

“You can’t possibly mean for Muzzen to take Matthias’ place.”

“He isn’t here for his sparkling conversation,” Kaz replied. “You’ll need to reproduce Helvar’s injuries. Inej, what’s the inventory?”

“Bruised knuckles, chipped tooth, two broken ribs,” Inej said. “Third and fourth on the left.”

“His left or your left?” Kaz asked.

“His left.”