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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

Jesper picked up his rifle, braced himself at a slit in the stone wall overlooking the courtyard, and prepared for all hell to break loose.

 

 

 

33

 

INEJ

 

TEN BELLS AND HALF CHIME

 

“Just how long are we going to be kept waiting?” a man in wine-colored velvet asked. The guards ignored him, but the other guests clustered by the entry with Inej grumbled their frustration. “I came here at great expense,” he continued, “and it was not so I could spend all my time hovering by the front door.”

The guard closest to them recited in a bored monotone, “The men at the checkpoint are dealing with other guests. As soon as they’re free, you’ll be taken back through the ringwall and detained at the checkpoint until your identification can be cleared.”

Detained,” said the man in velvet. “Like criminals!”

Inej had heard variations on the same exchange for the better part of an hour. She glanced out at the courtyard that led to the embassy’s ringwall gate. If she was going to make this plan work, she had to be smart, stay calm. Except this wasn’t quite the plan, and she definitely didn’t feel calm. The certainty and optimism she’d felt only a short while ago had all but evaporated. She waited as the minutes ticked by, eyes scanning the crowd. But when the three-quarters chime sounded, she knew she could wait no longer. She had to act now.

“I’ve had enough,” Inej said loudly. “Take us to the checkpoint or let us go.”

“The guards manning the checkpoint—”

Inej thrust herself to the front of the group and said, “We’re all sick of that speech. Take us through the gate and get on with it.”

“Be silent,” commanded the guard. “You are guests here.”

Inej jabbed a finger into his chest. “So treat us like guests,” she said, mustering her best Nina imitation. “I demand to be taken to the gate immediately, you big blond lump.”

The guard grabbed her arm. “You’re so desperate to go to the gate? Let’s go. You won’t be coming back through.”

“I only—”

Then another voice echoed across the rotunda. “Stop! You there, I said stop!”

Inej smelled her perfume—lilies, rich and creamy, a dense golden smell. She wanted to gag. Heleen Van Houden, owner and proprietor of the Menagerie, the House of Exotics, where the world was yours for a price, was pushing her way through the crowd.

Hadn’t she said Tante Heleen loved to make an entrance?

The guard came to a startled halt as Heleen shoved in front of him. “Madam, your girl will be returned to you at night’s end. Her papers—”

“She is not my girl,” Heleen said, her eyes slitting viciously. Inej stood perfectly still, but not even she could vanish with nowhere to go. “That is the Wraith, right hand of Kaz Brekker and one of the most notorious criminals in Ketterdam.”

The people around them turned to stare.