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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

Wylan ducked down, and the tank veered west.

“It’s the warehouse district,” Matthias explained. “Deserted at night.”

The tank clattered and clanked over the cobblestones, swinging right and left over curbs and back again to avoid the few pedestrians, then sped into the harbor district, past taverns and shops and shipping offices.

Kuwei tilted his head back, his face bright with joy. “I can smell the sea,” he said happily.

Nina could smell it, too. The lighthouse gleamed in the distance. Two more blocks and they’d be at the quay and freedom. Thirty million kruge. With her share and Matthias’ they could go anywhere they wanted, live any life they chose.

“Almost there!” cried Wylan.

They rounded a corner, and Nina’s stomach dropped.

“Stop!” she shouted. “Stop!”

She needn’t have bothered. The tank jolted to a halt, nearly flinging Nina from her perch. The quay lay directly before them, and beyond it the harbor, the flags of a thousand ships snapping in the breeze. The hour was late. The quay should have been empty. Instead, it was crowded with troops, row after row of them in gray uniforms, two hundred soldiers at least—and every barrel of every gun was pointed directly at them.

Nina could still hear the bells of the Elderclock. She looked over her shoulder. The Ice Court loomed over the harbor, perched on the cliff like a sullen gull with feathers ruffled, its white stone walls lit from below, glowing against the night sky.

“What is this?” Wylan asked Matthias. “You never said—”

“They must have changed deployment procedure.”

“Everything else was the same.”

“I’ve never seen Black Protocol engaged,” Matthias growled. “Maybe they always had troops stationed in the harbor. I don’t know.”

“Be quiet,” Inej said. “Just stop.”

Nina jumped as a voice echoed over the crowd. It spoke first in Fjerdan, then Ravkan, then Kerch, and finally Shu. “Release the prisoner Kuwei Yul-Bo. Put down your weapons and step away from the tank.”

“They can’t just open fire,” said Matthias. “They won’t risk hurting Kuwei.”

“They don’t have to,” said Nina. “Look.”

An emaciated prisoner was being led through the rows of soldiers. His hair was matted to his forehead. He wore a ragged red kefta and was clutching the sleeve of the guard closest to him, lips moving feverishly as if imparting some desperate wisdom. Nina knew he was begging for parem.

“A Heartrender,” Matthias said grimly.

“But he’s so far away,” protested Wylan.

Nina shook her head. “It won’t matter.” Had they kept him down here with whatever troops were posted in lower Djerholm? Why not? He was a weapon better than any gun or tank.

“I can see the Ferolind,” murmured Inej. She pointed down the docks, just a little way off. It took Nina a moment, but then she picked out the Kerch flag and the cheery Haanraadt Bay pennant flying beneath it. They were so close.

Jesper could shoot the Heartrender. They could try barreling through the troops with the tank, but they would never make it to the ship. The Fjerdans would gladly risk Kuwei’s life before they ever let him fall into anyone else’s hands.