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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

They’d stared at her for a long moment, lit only by silvery moonlight.

“Oh thank goodness,” she’d said in lilting Kaelish. “I’m traveling with my family, and I got turned around in the woods. Can one of you help me find the road?”

“I think she’s lost,” one of them translated in Fjerdan for the others.

Another rose, a lantern in his hand. He was taller than the others, and all her instincts screamed at her to run as he drew closer. They don’t know what you are, she reminded herself. You’re just a nice Kaelish girl, lost in the woods. Don’t do anything stupid. Lead him away from the others, then take him down.

He raised his lantern, the light shining over both of their faces. His hair was long and burnished gold, and his pale blue eyes glinted like ice beneath a winter sun. He looks like a painting, she thought, a Saint wrought in gold leaf on the walls of a church, born to wield a sword of fire.

“What are you doing out here?” he asked in Fjerdan.

She feigned confusion. “I’m sorry,” she said in Kaelish. “I don’t understand. I’m lost.”

He lunged toward her. She didn’t stop to think, but simply reacted, raising her hands to attack. He was too quick. Without hesitation, he dropped the lantern and seized her wrists, slamming her hands together, making it impossible for her to use her power.

Drüsje,” he said with satisfaction. Witch. He had a wolf’s smile.

The attack had been a test. A girl lost in the woods cowered; she reached for a knife or a gun. She didn’t try to use her hands to stop a man’s heart. Reckless. Impulsive.

This was why Zoya hadn’t wanted to bring her. Properly trained Grisha didn’t make these mistakes. Nina had been a fool, but she didn’t have to be a traitor. She pleaded with them in Kaelish, not Ravkan, and she didn’t cry out for help—not when they bound her hands, not when they threatened her, not when they tossed her in a rowboat like a bag of millet. She wanted to scream her terror, bring Zoya running, beg for someone to save her, but she wouldn’t risk the others’ lives. The drüskelle rowed her to a ship anchored off the coast and threw her into a cage belowdecks full of other captive Grisha. That was when the real horror had begun.

Night blended into day in the dank belly of the ship. The Grisha prisoners’ hands were kept tightly bound to keep them from using their power. They were fed tough bread crawling with weevils—only enough to keep them alive—and had to ration fresh water carefully since they never knew when they might have it next. They’d been given no place to relieve themselves, and the stink of bodies and worse was nearly unbearable.

Occasionally the ship would drop anchor, and the drüskelle would return with another captive. The Fjerdans would stand outside their cages, eating and drinking, mocking their filthy clothes and the way they smelled. As bad as it was, the fear of what might await them was much more frightening—the inquisitors at the Ice Court, torture, and inevitably death. Nina dreamed of being burned alive on a pyre and woke up screaming. Nightmare and fear and the delirium of hunger tangled together so that she stopped being certain of what was real and what wasn’t.