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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

The witchhunter’s head snapped up as Matthias stepped forward. “Do I know you?”

“You did once, though I looked a bit different. Hje marden, Lars?”

“Helvar?” he asked. “They … they said you were dead.”

“I was.”

Lars looked from Matthias to Nina. “This is the Heartrender Brum brought to the treasury.” Then he took in Kuwei’s presence, and understanding struck. “Traitor,” he snarled at Matthias.

Nina raised her hand to drop Lars’ pulse, but as she did, she caught movement in the shadows to her right. She cried out as something struck her. When she looked down, she saw loops of cable closing over her, binding her upper arms tight to her body. She couldn’t raise her hands. She couldn’t use her power. Matthias grunted, and Kuwei screamed as cables lashed from the darkness, snapping around their torsos, binding their arms.

“This is what we do, bloodletter,” sneered Lars. “We hunt filth like you. We know all of your tricks.” He kicked Matthias’ legs from beneath him. Matthias went to his knees and sucked in a breath. “They told us you were dead. We mourned you, burned boughs of ash for you. But now I see they were protecting us from something worse. Matthias Helvar, a traitor, aiding our enemies, consorting with unnaturals.” He spat in Matthias’ face. “How could you betray your country and your god?”

“Djel is the god of life, not death.”

“Are there others here for Yul-Bayur besides you and this creature?”

“No,” lied Nina.

“I didn’t ask you, witch,” said Lars. “It doesn’t matter. We’ll get the information from you our own way.” He turned to Kuwei. “And you. Don’t think there won’t be repercussions.”

He made a signal in the air. From the shadows of the colonnade a row of men and boys emerged: drüskelle, hoods drawn up over long golden hair that glinted at their collars, dressed in black and silver, like creatures born from the dark crevasses that split the northern ice. They fanned out, surrounding Nina, Matthias, and Kuwei.

Nina thought of the white prison cells, the drains in the floors. Had all of the parem been destroyed with Kuwei’s lab? How long would it take him to make another batch, and what would they subject her to before that? She cast a last desperate look into the darkness, praying for some sign of Kaz. Had someone gotten him, too? Had he just abandoned them there? She was meant to be a warrior. She needed to steel herself against what was to come.

One of the drüskelle came forward with what looked like a long-handled whip attached to the cables that bound them, and handed it to Lars.

“Do you recognize this, Helvar?” Lars asked. “You should. You helped with its design. Retractable cables for controlling multiple captives. And the barbs, of course.”

Lars flicked his finger over one of the cables, and Nina gasped as stinging little barbs jabbed into her arms and torso. The drüskelle laughed.

“Leave her be,” Matthias growled in Fjerdan, the words bristling with rage. For the briefest second, she saw a flash of panic in his former compatriots. He was bigger than all of them, and he’d been one of their leaders, one of the best of these murderous boys. Then Lars gave another cable a hard flick. The barbs released, and Matthias let out a pained huff of breath, doubling at the waist, human once more.