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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

“Talk,” she said to Nina.

“Your eyelids are drooping. You should sleep.”

“Don’t like boats. Bad memories.”

“Me too.”

“Sing something, then.”

Nina laughed. “Remember what I said about wishing you were dead? You do not want me to sing.”

“Please?”

“I only know Ravkan folk tunes and Kerch drinking songs.”

“Drinking song. Something rowdy, please.”

Nina snorted. “Only for you, Wraith.” She cleared her throat and began. “Mighty young captain, bold on the sea. Soldier and sailor and free of disease—

Inej started to giggle and clutched her side. “You’re right. You couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.”

“I told you that.”

“Go on.”

Nina’s voice really was terrible. But it helped to keep Inej on this boat, in this moment. She didn’t want to think about the last time she’d been at sea, but the memories were hard to fight.

She wasn’t even supposed to be in the wagon the morning the slavers took her. She’d been fourteen, and her family had been summering on the coast of West Ravka, enjoying the seaside and performing in a carnival on the outskirts of Os Kervo. She should have been helping her father mend the nets. But she’d been feeling lazy, and she’d allowed herself another few minutes to sleep in, drowsing beneath the thin cotton covers and listening to the rush and sigh of the waves.

When a man had appeared silhouetted in the door to the caravan, she hadn’t even known to run. She’d simply said, “Five more minutes, Papa.”

Then they had her by the legs and were dragging her out of the wagon. She banged her head hard on the ground. There were four of them, big men, seafarers. When she tried to scream, they gagged her. They bound her hands and wrists, and one of them threw her over his shoulder as they plunged into a longboat they’d moored in the cove.

Later, Inej learned that the coast was a popular location for slavers. They’d spotted the Suli caravan from their ship and rowed in after dawn when the camp was all but deserted.

The rest of the journey was a blur. She was thrown into a cargo hold with a group of other children—some older, some younger, mostly girls but a few boys, too. She was the only Suli, but a few spoke Ravkan, and they told their own stories of being taken. One had been snatched from his father’s shipyard; another had been playing in the tide pools and had strayed too far from her friends. One had been sold by her older brother to pay off his gambling debts. The sailors spoke a language she didn’t know, but one of the other children claimed they were being taken to the largest of Kerch’s outer islands, where they would be auctioned to private owners or pleasure houses in Ketterdam and Novyi Zem. People came from all over the world to bid. Inej had thought slaving was illegal in Kerch, but apparently it still happened.