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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

The drüskelle seemed ready to burst with pride. As soon as Brum exited the hold, they were knocking each other affectionately on the shoulders, laughing in relief and satisfaction.

“Good work is right,” one said in Fjerdan. “Fifteen Grisha to deliver to the Ice Court!”

“If this doesn’t earn us our teeth—”

“You know it will.”

“Good, I’m sick of shaving every morning.”

“I’m going to grow a beard down to my navel.”

Then one of them reached through the bars and snatched Nina up by her hair. “I like this one, still nice and round. Maybe we should open that cage door and hose her down.”

The boy with the burnished hair smacked his comrade’s hand away. “What’s wrong with you?” he said, the first time he’d spoken since Brum had vanished. The brief rush of gratitude she’d felt withered when he said, “Would you fornicate with a dog?”

“What does the dog look like?”

The others roared with laughter as they headed above. The golden one who’d likened her to an animal was the last to go, and just as he was about to step into the passage, she said in crisp, perfect Fjerdan, “What crimes?”

He stilled, and when he’d looked back at her, his blue eyes had been bright with hate. She refused to flinch.

“How do you come to speak my language? Did you serve on Ravka’s northern border?”

“I’m Kaelish,” she lied, “and I can speak any language.”

“More witchcraft.”

“If by witchcraft, you mean the arcane practice of reading. Your commander said we’d be tried for our crimes. I want you to tell me just what crime I’ve committed.”

“You’ll be tried for espionage and crimes against the people.”

“We are not criminals,” said a Fabrikator in halting Fjerdan from his place on the floor. He’d been there the longest and was too weak to rise. “We are ordinary people—farmers, teachers.”

Not me, Nina thought grimly. I’m a soldier.

“You’ll have a trial,” said the drüskelle. “You’ll be treated more fairly than your kind deserve.”

“How many Grisha are ever found innocent?” Nina asked.

The Fabrikator groaned. “Don’t provoke him. You will not sway his mind.”

But she gripped the bars with her bound hands and said, “How many? How many have you sent to the pyre?”

He turned his back on her.

“Wait!”

He ignored her.

“Wait! Please! Just … just some fresh water. Would you treat your dogs like this?”

He paused, his hand on the door. “I shouldn’t have said that. Dogs know loyalty, at least. Fidelity to the pack. It is an insult to the dog to call you one.”

I’m going to feed you to a pack of hungry hounds, Nina thought. But all she said was, “Water. Please.”

He vanished into the passage. She heard him climb the ladder, and the hatch closed with a loud bang.

“Don’t waste your breath on him,” the Fabrikator counseled. “He will show you no kindness.”

But a short while later the drüskelle returned with a tin cup and a bucket of clean water. He’d set it down inside the cell and slammed the bars shut without a word. Nina helped the Fabrikator drink, then gulped down a cup herself. Her hands were shaking so badly, half of it sloshed down her blouse. The Fjerdan turned away, and with pleasure, Nina saw she’d embarrassed him.