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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

She never saw the auction block. When they’d finally dropped anchor, Inej was led on deck and handed over to one of the most beautiful women she’d ever seen, a tall blonde with hazel eyes and piles of golden hair.

The woman had held her lantern up and examined every inch of Inej—her teeth, her breasts, even her feet. She’d tugged on the matted hair on Inej’s head. “This will have to be shaved.” Then she’d stepped back. “Pretty,” she said. “Scrawny and flat as a pan, but her skin is flawless.”

She’d turned away to barter with the sailors as Inej stood there, clutching her bound hands over her chest, her blouse still open, her skirt still hiked around her waist. Inej could see the glint of moonlight off the waves of the cove. Jump, she’d thought. Whatever waits at the bottom of the sea is better than where this woman is taking you. But she hadn’t had the courage.

The girl she’d become would have jumped without a second thought, and maybe taken one of the slavers down with her. Or maybe she was kidding herself. She’d frozen when Tante Heleen had accosted her in West Stave. She’d been no stronger, no braver, just the same frightened Suli girl who’d been paralyzed and humiliated on the deck of that ship.

Nina was still singing, something about a sailor who’d abandoned his sweetheart.

“Teach me the chorus,” Inej said.

“You should rest.”

“Chorus.”

So Nina taught her the words, and they sang together, fumbling through the verses, hopelessly out of key, until the lanterns burned low.

 

 

 

17

 

JESPER

 

Jesper felt about ready to hurl himself overboard just for a change in routine. Six more days. Six more days on this boat—if they were lucky and the wind was good—and then they should make land. Fjerda’s western coast was all perilous rock and steep cliffs. It could only be safely approached at Djerholm and Elling, and since security at both harbors was tight, they’d been forced to travel all the way to the northern whaling ports. He was secretly hoping they’d be attacked by pirates, but the little ship was too small to be carrying valuable cargo. They were an unworthy target and they passed unmolested through the busiest trade routes of the True Sea, flying neutral Kerch colors. Soon, they were in the cold waters of the north, moving into the Isenvee.

Jesper prowled the deck, climbed the rigging, tried to get the crew to play cards with him, cleaned his guns. He missed land and good food and better lager. He missed the city. If he’d wanted wide open spaces and silence, he would have stayed on the frontier and become the farmer his father had hoped for. There was little to do on the ship but study the layout of the Ice Court, listen to Matthias grumbling, and annoy Wylan, who could always be found laboring over his attempts to reconstruct the possible mechanisms of the ringwall gates.