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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

 

 

 

34

 

NINA

 

TEN BELLS AND HALF CHIME

 

Nina prayed her panic didn’t show. Did Brum recognize her? He looked exactly the same: long gold hair touched by gray at the temples, the lean jaw marked by a tidy beard, the drüskelle uniform—black and silver, the right sleeve emblazoned with the silver wolf’s head. It had been more than a year since she’d seen him, but she would never forget that face or the resolute blue of his eyes.

The last time she’d found herself in Jarl Brum’s company, he’d been strutting for Matthias and his drüskelle brethren in the hold of a ship. Matthias. Had he seen Brum, his old mentor, alive and talking to Nina? Was he watching them right now? She resisted the urge to scour the crowd for some sign of him and Kaz.

Still, the ship’s hold had been dark, and she’d been one of a group of prisoners—filthy and frightened. Now she was clean, perfumed. Her hair was a different color; her skin was powdered. She was suddenly grateful for her absurd costume. Brum was a man, after all. Hopefully, Inej was right, and he would just see a redheaded Kaelish with a very low neckline.

She curtsied deeply and looked up at him through her lashes. “A pleasure.”

His gaze roved over her figure. “It just might be. You’re from the House of Exotics, are you not? Kep ye nom?

Nomme Fianna,” she replied in Kaelish. Was he testing her? “But you can call me anything you like.”

“I thought Kaelish girls with the Menagerie wore the red mare cloak.”

She plumped her lips into a sulk. “Our Zemeni stepped on it and tore the hem. I think she did it on purpose.”

“Cursed girl. Shall we find her and punish her?”

Nina forced a giggle. “How would you set about it?”

“They say the punishment should fit the crime, but I feel it should suit the criminal. Were you my prisoner, I’d make it my business to learn your likes and dislikes—and your fears, of course.”

“I am fearless,” she said with a wink.

“Truly? How intriguing. Fjerdans value courage greatly. How are you finding our country?”

“It’s a magical place,” Nina gushed. If you like ice and more ice. She steeled herself. If he knew who she was, then she might as well find out now. And if he didn’t, well, then she still needed to locate Bo Yul-Bayur—and what a pleasure it would be to trick the legendary Jarl Brum out of the information. She drew closer. “Do you know where I’d truly like to visit?”

He matched her conspiratorial tone. “I’d love to know all your secrets.”

“Ravka.”

The drüskelle’s lip curled. “Ravka? A land of blasphemers and barbarism.”

“True, but to see a Grisha? Can you imagine the thrill?”

“I assure you. It’s hardly a thrill.”

“You only say that because you wear the sign of the wolf. This means you are a … drüskelle, yes?” she asked, pretending to struggle with the Fjerdan word.