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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

“There’s something to be said for novelty,” offered Jesper.

Inej pressed her lips together. “Hopefully, it won’t come to that.”

“Those guns are there to stop invading armadas,” Jesper said confidently. “Good luck hitting a skinny little schooner cutting through the waves bound for fortune and glory.”

“I’ll quote you on that when a cannonball lands in my lap,” said Nina.

They slipped easily into the traffic of travelers and traders where the cliff road met the northern road that led to Upper Djerholm. The upper town was a rambling extension of the city below, a sprawling collection of shops, markets, and inns that served the guards and staff who worked at the Ice Court as well as visitors. Luckily, the crowds were heavy and motley enough that one more group of foreigners could go unnoticed, and Inej found herself breathing a bit easier. She’d worried that she and Jesper might be dangerously conspicuous in the Fjerdan capital’s sea of blonds. Maybe the crew from the Shu Han was relying on the jumbled crowd for cover, too.

Signs of Hringkälla celebrations were everywhere. The shops had created elaborate displays of pepper cookies baked in the shape of wolves, some hanging like ornaments from large, twisting trees, and the bridge spanning the river gorge had been festooned with ribbons in Fjerdan silver. One way into the Ice Court and one way out. Would they cross this bridge as victors tomorrow?

“What are they?” Wylan asked, pausing in front of a peddler’s cart laden with wreaths made of the same twisting branches and silver ribbons.

“Ash trees,” replied Matthias. “Sacred to Djel.”

“There’s supposed to be one in the middle of the White Island,” said Nina, ignoring the warning look the Fjerdan cast her. “It’s where the drüskelle gather for the listening ceremony.”

Kaz tapped his walking stick on the ground. “Why is this the first I’m hearing of it?”

“The ash is sustained by the spirit of Djel,” said Matthias. “It’s where we may best hear his voice.”

Kaz’s eyes flickered. “Not what I asked. Why isn’t it on our plans?”

“Because it’s the holiest place in all of Fjerda and not essential to our mission.”

“I say what’s essential. Anything else you decided to leave out in your great wisdom?”

“The Ice Court is a vast structure,” Matthias said, turning away. “I can’t label every crack and corner.”

“Then let’s hope nothing is lurking in those corners,” Kaz replied.

Upper Djerholm had no real center, but the bulk of its taverns, inns, and market stalls were clustered around the base of the hill leading to the Ice Court. Kaz steered them seemingly aimlessly through the streets until he found a run-down tavern called the Gestinge.

“Here?” Jesper complained, peering into the dank main room. The whole place stank of garlic and fish.

Kaz just gave a significant glance upward and said, “Terrace.”

“What’s a gestinge?” Inej wondered aloud.

“It means ‘paradise,’” said Matthias. Even he looked skeptical.

Nina helped secure them a table on the tavern’s rooftop terrace. It was mostly empty, the weather still too cold to attract many patrons. Or maybe they’d been scared away by the food—herring in rancid oil, stale black bread, and some kind of butter that looked distinctly mossy.