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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

Matthias clasped the boy’s hand. If this was real and not illusion, he’d escape whatever trap these creatures had set for him. He heard Nina release a long breath—was she relieved? Exasperated? He shook his head. He would deal with her later. The little bronze girl swept a cloak around Matthias’ shoulders and propped an ugly, beak-nosed mask on his head.

The passageway outside the cell was chaos. Costumed men and women surged past, screaming and pushing each other, trying to get away from the arena. Guards had their guns out, and he could hear shots being fired. He felt dizzy, and his side ached badly. His left arm was still useless.

Kaz signaled toward the far right archway, indicating that they should move against the flow of the crowd and into the arena. Matthias didn’t care. He could plunge through the mob instead, force his way up that staircase and onto a boat. And then what? It didn’t matter. There was no time for planning.

He stepped into the throng and was instantly hauled back.

“Boys like you weren’t meant to get ideas, Helvar,” said Kaz. “That staircase leads to a bottleneck. You think the guards won’t check under that mask before they let you through?”

Matthias scowled and followed the others through the crowd, Kaz’s hand at his back.

If the passage had been chaos, then the arena was a special kind of madness. Matthias glimpsed hyenas leaping and bounding over the ledges. One was feeding over a body in a crimson cape. An elephant charged the wall of the stadium, sending up a cloud of dust and bellowing its frustration. He saw a white bear and one of the great jungle cats from the Southern Colonies crouching in the eaves, its teeth bared. He knew there were snakes in the cages as well. He could only hope that this Jesper character hadn’t been foolish enough to set them free, too.

They plunged across the sands where Matthias had fought for privileges for the last six months, but as they headed toward the tunnel, the desert lizard came pounding toward them, its mouth dripping foaming white poison, its fat tail lashing the ground. Before Matthias could think to move, the bronze girl had vaulted over its back and dispatched the creature with two bright daggers wedged beneath the armor of its scales. The lizard groaned and collapsed on its side. Matthias felt a pang of sadness. It was a grotesque creature, and he’d never seen a fighter survive its attack, but it was also a living thing. You’ve never seen a fighter survive until now, he corrected himself. The bronze girl’s daggers merit watching.

He’d assumed they’d cross the arena and head back up into the stands to avoid the crowds clogging the passageway, possibly just storm the stairs and hope to make it through the guards who must be waiting at the top. Instead, Kaz led them down the tunnel past the cages. The cages were old cells that had been turned over to whatever beasts the masters of the Hellshow had gotten their hands on that week—old circus animals, even diseased livestock in a pinch, creatures culled from forest and countryside. As they raced past the open doors, he glimpsed a pair of yellow eyes glaring at him from the shadows, and then he was moving on. He cursed his deadened arm and lack of weapon. He was virtually defenseless. Where is this Kaz leading us? They wended past a wild boar feeding on a guard and a spotted cat that hissed and spit at them but did not draw near.