Home > Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1)(3)

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1)(3)
Leigh Bardugo

“It’s alright, sergeant,” said Hoede. “Let her heal him.”

Anya leaned forwards, taking the boy’s hand gently. “Shhhh,” she said softly. “Let me help.”

“Will it hurt?” the boy gulped.

She smiled. “Not at all. Just a little itch. Try to hold still for me?”

Joost found himself leaning closer. He’d never actually seen Anya heal someone.

Anya removed a handkerchief from her sleeve and wiped away the excess blood. Then her fingers

brushed carefully over the boy’s wound. Joost watched in astonishment as the skin slowly seemed to re-form and knit together.

A few minutes later, the boy grinned and held out his arm. It looked a bit red, but was otherwise smooth and unmarked. “Was that magic?”

Anya tapped him on the nose. “Of a sort. The same magic your own body works when given time

and a bit of bandage.”

The boy looked almost disappointed.

“Good, good,” Hoede said impatiently. “Now the parem.”

Joost frowned. He’d never heard that word.

The captain signalled to his sergeant. “Second sequence.”

“Put out your arm,” the sergeant said to the boy once again.

The boy shook his head. “I don’t like that part.”

“Do it.”

The boy’s lower lip quivered, but he put out his arm. The guard cut him once more. Then he placed a small wax paper envelope on the table in front of Anya.

“Swallow the contents of the packet,” Hoede instructed Anya.

“What is it?” she asked, voice trembling.

“That isn’t your concern.”

“What is it? ” she repeated.

“It’s not going to kill you. We’re going to ask you to perform some simple tasks to judge the drug’s effects. The sergeant is there to make sure you do only what you’re told and no more, understood?”

Her jaw set, but she nodded.

“No one will harm you,” said Hoede. “But remember, if you hurt the sergeant, you have no way

out of that cell. The doors are locked from the outside.”

“What is that stuff?” whispered Joost.

“Don’t know,” said Rutger.

“What do you know?” he muttered.

“Enough to keep my trap shut.”

Joost scowled.

With shaking hands, Anya lifted the little wax envelope and opened the flap.

“Go on,” said Hoede.

She tipped her head back and swallowed the powder. For a moment she sat, waiting, lips pressed together.

“Is it just jurda?” she asked hopefully. Joost found himself hoping, too. Jurda was nothing to fear, a stimulant everyone in the stadwatch chewed to stay awake on late watches.

“What does it taste like?” Hoede asked.

“Like jurda but sweeter, it—”

Anya inhaled sharply. Her hands seized the table, her pupils dilating enough that her eyes looked nearly black. “Ohhh,” she said, sighing. It was nearly a purr.

The guard tightened his grip on her shoulder.

“How do you feel?”

She stared at the mirror and smiled. Her tongue peeked through her white teeth, stained like rust.

Joost felt suddenly cold.

“Just as it was with the Fabrikator,” murmured the merchant.

“Heal the boy,” Hoede commanded.

She waved her hand through the air, the gesture almost dismissive, and the cut on the boy’s arm sealed instantly. The blood lifted briefly from his skin in droplets of red then vanished. His skin looked perfectly smooth, all trace of blood or redness gone. The boy beamed. “That was definitely magic.”

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

“She didn’t touch him,” marvelled 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 clamour. 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 specialised 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.”

Kaz Brekker didn’t need a reason. Those were the words whispered on the streets of Ketterdam, in the taverns and coffeehouses, in the dark and bleeding alleys of the pleasure district known as the Barrel. The boy they called Dirtyhands didn’t need a reason any more than he needed permission – to break a leg, sever an alliance, or change a man’s fortunes with the turn of a card.

Of course they were wrong, Inej considered as she crossed the bridge over the black waters of the Beurscanal to the deserted main square that fronted the Exchange. Every act of violence was deliberate, and every favour came with enough strings attached to stage a puppet show. Kaz always had his reasons. Inej could just never be sure they were good ones. Especially tonight.

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