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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

“It feels like magic,” Anya said with that same eerie smile.

“She didn’t touch him,” marveled the captain.

“Anya,” said Hoede. “Listen closely. We’re going to tell the guard to perform the next test now.”

“Mmm,” hummed Anya.

“Sergeant,” said Hoede. “Cut off the boy’s thumb.”

The boy howled and started to cry again. He shoved his hands beneath his legs to protect them.

I should stop this, Joost thought. I should find a way to protect her, both of them. But what then? He was a nobody, new to the stadwatch, new to this house. Besides, he discovered in a burst of shame, I want to keep my job.

Anya merely smiled and tilted her head back so she was looking at the sergeant. “Shoot the glass.”

“What did she say?” asked the merchant.

“Sergeant!” the captain barked out.

“Shoot the glass,” Anya repeated. The sergeant’s face went slack. He cocked his head to one side as if listening to a distant melody, then unslung his rifle and aimed at the observation window.

“Get down!” someone yelled.

Joost threw himself to the ground, covering his head as the rapid hammer of gunfire filled his ears and bits of glass rained down on his hands and back. His thoughts were a panicked clamor. His mind tried to deny it, but he knew what he’d just seen. Anya had commanded the sergeant to shoot the glass. She’d made him do it. But that couldn’t be. Grisha Corporalki specialized in the human body. They could stop your heart, slow your breathing, snap your bones. They couldn’t get inside your head.

For a moment there was silence. Then Joost was on his feet with everyone else, reaching for his rifle. Hoede and the captain shouted at the same time.

“Subdue her!”

“Shoot her!”

“Do you know how much money she’s worth?” Hoede retorted. “Someone restrain her! Do not shoot!”

Anya raised her hands, red sleeves spread wide. “Wait,” she said.

Joost’s panic vanished. He knew he’d been frightened, but his fear was a distant thing. He was filled with expectation. He wasn’t sure what was coming, or when, only that it would arrive and that it was essential he be ready to meet it. It might be bad or good. He didn’t really care. His heart was free of worry and desire. He longed for nothing, wanted for nothing, his mind silent, his breath steady. He only needed to wait.

He saw Anya rise and pick up the little boy. He heard her crooning tenderly to him, some Ravkan lullaby.

“Open the door and come in, Hoede,” she said. Joost heard the words, understood them, forgot them.

Hoede walked to the door and slid the bolt free. He entered the steel cell.

“Do as you’re told, and this will soon be over, ja?” Anya murmured with a smile. Her eyes were black and bottomless pools. Her skin was alight, glowing, incandescent. A thought flickered through Joost’s mind—beautiful as the moon.

Anya shifted the boy’s weight in her arms. “Don’t look,” she murmured against his hair. “Now,” she said to Hoede. “Pick up the knife.”