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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

Then one day, the drüskelle had crowded into the hold dressed in freshly pressed uniforms of black and silver, the white wolf’s head on their sleeves. They’d fallen into orderly ranks and stood at attention as their commander entered. Like all of them, he was tall, but he wore a tidy beard, and his long blond hair showed gray at the temples. He walked the length of the hold, then came to a halt in front of the prisoners.

“How many?” he asked.

“Fifteen,” replied the burnished gold boy who had captured her. It was the first time she had seen him in the hold.

The commanding officer cleared his throat and clasped his hands behind his back. “I am Jarl Brum.”

A tremor of fear passed through Nina, and she felt it reverberate through the Grisha in the cell, a warning call none of them were free to heed.

In school, Nina had been obsessed with the drüskelle. They’d been the creatures of her nightmares with their white wolves and their cruel knives and the horses they bred for battle with Grisha. It was why she’d studied to perfect her Fjerdan and her knowledge of their culture. It had been a way of preparing herself for them, for the battle to come. And Jarl Brum was the worst of them.

He was a legend, the monster waiting in the dark. The drüskelle had existed for hundreds of years, but under Brum’s leadership, their force had doubled in size and become infinitely more deadly. He had changed their training, developed new techniques for rooting out Grisha in Fjerda, infiltrated Ravka’s borders, and begun pursuing rogue Grisha in other lands, even hunting down slaving ships, “liberating” Grisha captives with the sole purpose of clapping them back in chains and sending them to Fjerda for trial and execution. She’d imagined facing Brum one day as an avenging warrior or a clever spy. She hadn’t pictured herself confronting him caged and starving, hands bound, dressed in rags.

Brum must have known the effect his name would have. He waited a long moment before he said in excellent Kaelish, “What stands before you is the next generation of drüskelle, the holy order charged with protecting the sovereign nation of Fjerda by eradicating your kind. They will bring you to Fjerda to face trial and so earn the rank of officer. They are the strongest and best of our kind.”

Bullies, Nina thought.

“When we reach Fjerda, you will be interrogated and tried for your crimes.”

“Please,” said one of the prisoners. “I’ve done nothing. I’m a farmer. I’ve done you no harm.”

“You are an insult to Djel,” Brum replied. “A blight on this earth. You speak peace, but what of your children to whom you may pass on this demonic power? What about their children? I save my mercy for the helpless men and women mowed down by Grisha abominations.”

He faced the drüskelle. “Good work, lads,” he said in Fjerdan. “We sail for Djerholm immediately.”