Caines law, p.1
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       Caine's Law, p.1

           Matthew Woodring Stover
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Caine's Law


  Caine’s Law is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,

  and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are

  used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales,

  or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  A Del Rey Trade Paperback Original

  Copyright © 2012 by Matthew Woodring Stover

  Published in the United States by Del Rey,

  an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group,

  a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

  DEL REY is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is

  a trademark of Random House, Inc.

  Stover, Matthew Woodring.

  Caine’s law / Matthew Stover.

  pages cm.—(Acts of Caine. Act of atonement; book two)

  eISBN: 978-0-345-53254-1

  I. Title.

  PS3569.T6743C33 2012

  813′.54—dc23 2011048289

  www.delreybooks.com

  Cover design: Faceout Studio, Charles Brock

  Cover photograph: © Nara Osga

  v3.1

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Author’s Note

  Epigraph

  One Thin Slice of Forever

  Beloved of God

  Introduction

  Fear by Definition

  The Whole Story

  Scars and Scars

  Beginning of the End

  Bound

  The Now of Always

  What Dreams May Come

  Premise

  Times that Bind

  The Now of Always 2

  Powerful Enough

  End of the Beginning

  Mister Good-Bye

  The Now of Always 3

  Complicated

  End of the Beginning 2

  Assbitch of the Gods

  The Horse-Witch

  Feral

  The Horse-Witch 2

  Professionals

  The Horse-Witch 3

  Propositions

  The Now of Always 4

  Enter Hero

  Yesterday’s Tomorrow

  Meat Puppets

  Yesterday’s Tomorrow

  Intervention

  The Now of Always 5

  Love Absolute

  Middle of the End

  The Mockingbird Test

  Raining Weird

  Good and Evil

  Raining Weird 2

  All About the Girl

  Raining Weird 3

  Reliable Sources

  The Now of Always 6

  Consider Insanity

  Tomorrow’s Yesterday

  Elfshot

  Tomorrow’s Yesterday 2

  Truth to Power

  Tomorrow’s Yesterday 3

  Father Issues

  The Now of Always 7

  The Art of Unhappening

  Devices and Maneuvers

  Run and Gun

  The Now of Always 8

  A Darkling Wood

  Devices and Maneuvers 2

  Justice

  The Now of Always 9

  Fuck God

  The Horse-Witch 4

  Horse Time

  The Now of Always 10

  Reasons for Peasants

  The Happiest of all the Infinite Possible Endings

  Poke the Bear

  Afterword

  To the Masters of Earth

  Prologue

  Dedication

  Other Books by This Author

  About the Author

  author’s note

  Several parts of this story take place before the events depicted in Act of Atonement Book I, Caine Black Knife.

  Other parts of this story take place after. Still other parts take place before and after both. Some parts may be imaginary, and some were real only temporarily, as they have subsequently unhappened.

  Around the hero everything becomes a tragedy; around the demigod everything becomes a satyr-play; and around God everything becomes—what? perhaps a “world”?

  — FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, Beyond Good and Evil

  A powerful-enough metaphor grows its own truth.

  — DUNCAN MICHAELSON

  “The gods exist beyond the reach of time. When we draw Their Eyes, They brush us with Their Power.”

  — ANGVASSE, LADY KHLAYLOCK, 463RD CHAMPION OF KHRYL

  And in this My Dream, Beloved, you know Me.

  Through your eyes I watch your blunt and broken hands scrabble upon the marble stair: spiders maimed and bleeding on frosted glass. The blood in your beard and hair carries a hint of the peat from the incendiary brew spewed from the ragged gape of your late friend Tyrkilld’s throat when you took his head. As you creep up through the mouth of encircling stairwell, out upon the final spiral span that leads upward to the Purificapex of the Eternal Vaunt of the Knights of Khryl, I wish again—as I always have and always will—that I might make you look to the side here. You don’t, you never have and never will. Still, in My dream, you cast wide your gaze over the limitless slaughter that is the work of Our Hand, and find it to be good.

  The icy lash of sleet on your bare back. The reek of burning hair twisting up from the fires in Hell. Sawing of broken ribs in and out of your punctured lung. The blaze of the mines, the smoke and haze from the burning city, the storm of battle among the estates. Screams in the distance. Thousands in agony and terror. Tens of thousands to follow. Then millions. Perhaps billions, but We will never know; they will scream long after We have vanished into eternal nothing. After you take Us there, My demon of blessed grace.

  My angel of the damned.

  I dream this dream though I do not sleep. I have dreamed this dream though I have no past, and will dream this dream though I have no future. This I dream forever.

  I dream that you truly knew the bargain you offered. I dream you were willing, even happy, to pay the price of My Love. That you joyously offered up all you do as well as all done to you. As a gift. A wedding present.

  A dowry.

  All this is to be savored. It is well that We will share eternity.

  When the stone stair gives way to the vast cap of platinum, when you find the summit of the Eternal Vaunt to be icebound under half a span of freeze, when another man would be defeated by unclimbable ice, by a punctured lung, a broken hand, and a compound fracture of the leg … you reach down for your last dagger—the one you had used to secure the tourniquet above your knee—and with your one half-working arm you chip handholds to pull yourself up.

  And so, here at the end of days, you are as you have always been. Willing to die. Not willing to quit.

  And this is the death for which you were chosen, Beloved. From this place you cannot flee, and there is no life for you beyond Our Consummation; not even I can save you now, should I somehow decide your life outweighs My death.

  No, Beloved. Never. I have waited a thousand years for this—and each second of these My thousand years outlasts the age of the universe. Here it ends. Here you give your life to take Mine. Our own private suicide pact.

  My infinite millennium forever ends with Our lovers’ leap.

  I feel the lick of flame along your nerves, and I feel the shreds of discipline that no longer entirely lock this pain outside your consciousness. I feel the numb burn of frostbite settling into the toes on your good leg, and the fingers of your broken hand. I feel the seductive chill of the ice you climb, how it cools the fire in your nerves, and I feel your overpowering lust to let go, to lie flat and sleep, to fall forever …

  But you won’t. You never do. You never have, and thus you never will.

  And now you struggle to the platinum altar and try
to rise, to go out on your feet. The effort gathers darkness in your eyes and you sag back down, helpless. Hopeless.

  Defeated at last.

  With your final exertion of will, you reach up to the hilt of the Accursèd Blade and ignite its power within the altar. With the touch of your hand, the Accursèd Blade becomes again the Sword of Man, and now the first spastic twitch of your tattered arm will slash the Sword free from its platinum grave, to bring the Eternal Vaunt itself crashing into ruin that destroys My Body as well as your own—to make of yourself and Me an ending that cannot be unmade.

  It is for this I have created you, Beloved. To set me free.

  It is for this I Called you here to Me with dreams of Black Knives and murder. It is for this I created the Smoke Hunt and unleashed its hunger upon the innocent.

  It is for this I brought you down from the cross.

  With your hand on the Sword, the moment stretches ever closer to the infinite, an agonizing extension of eternity. Have you always waited so long to do what you were born for? Has it ever been thus … or …?

  Is this—against all possibility, against the weight of Reality itself—somehow new?

  And here then, now, for the first time forever, you cough your throat clear of the blood from your punctured lung. Scarlet sprays across your useless legs. You gasp against the ripping within your chest, and now, impossibly—

  “I know … what You are … fucker.” Your voice is rusted barbwire, yanked up your throat one word at a time. “Who You are. You … hear me … fucker? You understand? I know.”

  You know Me—? O Beloved, is this yet merely My Dream …?

  It must be. You don’t say this. You don’t say anything. You never have, and thus you never will.

  You can’t.

  “Dunno … if You understand. Dunno if You can … even hear me … uh. Fucking listen … anyway. I know You’re not just … the Smoke God. I know how Panchasell Mithondionne Bound You to this place, and I know why. I know You chose me for Your Unbinding … and there’s something I gotta say.”

  Had I breath, it would be held for this …

  “No.”

  What?

  “You hear …? Y’understand? No, fucker. No. Terms … terms of my bargain … a universe of pain … our own Caine Show … uh. Nothing in there says I have to … kill you. Not like this. Not at all.”

  This is not possible. This does not happen. This cannot happen. This has never happened and it never will.

  “It’s not … the people who died here. The Pratts. T’Passe. Kierendal. Not the people I murdered. Khlaylock. Tyrklld. It’s not even that I … shot Angvasse in the face … blew her fucking head off … when all she was trying to do was help …”

  How should I care why you choose to defy Me? How can you even delude yourself that you have choice at all?

  “It’s just …” You shake your head, and now tears roll free from your shuttered eyes. “It’s everything. It’s the fucking world. It’s that slave woman in County Faltane … the one who died in the fire …”

  I set My Will upon you: Draw the Sword. Give your life to Unbind the prison that is My Body. Now and forever, My Will be done.

  And beyond reason, instead of the clench of hand and arm to Draw the Sword, I feel your lips pull back from your blood-salted teeth. “I felt that …” you murmur. “So You’re listening after all. Well, all right, then.”

  Impossibly now strength returns to your shattered limbs, and you use the Sword to pull yourself upright, and climb to your feet, balancing on your unbroken leg. “Pirichanthe: by Name I conjure Thee: Hear my word. Pirichanthe: twice by Name I conjure Thee: Understand my word. Pirichanthe: by Name thrice I conjure Thee: Believe my word.”

  Panting, coughing, hacking up gouts of blood into the storm winds and thunder, your voice is scarcely a whisper, but I hear, and I understand, and I believe …

  “You want me to draw this Sword and send you back to whateverthefuck Outside nonplace you came from? Okay. I can kill you. Happy to. But I’m a professional, fucker. I get paid for this shit.”

  Paid …

  Your hand upon the Sword to Bind Us in the permanent now, you lift your blood-smeared wolfen grin to the burning sky.

  “I want to make a deal.”

  “What the life you’ve chosen to lead will cost you, I can’t begin to imagine.”

  — DELIANN, THE MITHONDIONNE, 2ND ANKHANAN EMPEROR AND 3RD PATRIARCH OF THE ELKOTHAN CHURCH

  Blade of Tyshalle

  Simon Faller adjusted his tie for the hundredth time. All his collars were too big for him now; his appearance had become a compromise between leaving his collar half-open like a drunk and cinching it tight like a Temp in secondhand clothes. His image in the palmpad’s default mirror grimaced back at him. Swipes of exhaustion black as dried blood underlined his eyes. His hair—where he still had hair—straggled behind his ears. His lips had gone grey as his suit. When the door beside him slid open, he flinched and almost dropped the palmpad.

  The aide was barely a third his age. “Professional? The Director will see you now.”

  Faller tucked the palmpad securely into one armpit and followed the aide through three layers of outer office. The new Director’s personal office was unimpressive, as was the new Director, a small nervous man with a permanent frown who was directing that frown toward his deskscreen. He made a shooing motion with one hand without looking up. The aide discreetly evaporated.

  “Professional Faller. Don’t bother to sit.”

  Faller forbore to mention that the Director occupied the only chair. “Yes, Administrator. Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, sir.”

  “And don’t bother toadying.” The Director turned that frown toward Faller. “You were born Professional, I take it.”

  “I, ahh, I mean, yes. Yes, sir.”

  “My family have been Artisans for more than a hundred years,” the Director said severely. “I was the first elevated to Professional. I am the sole member of my family, ever, to rise as high as Administration. Ordinarily I enjoy obsequy as much as the next Administrator, but this is not an ordinary day.”

  “Yes, sir. That’s why I asked to see you.” Faller licked his lips and extended the palmpad like a serving tray. “This—I mean, have you seen this? What I’m supposed to show him?”

  “Of course.”

  “Please, Administrator, you must understand—this will not persuade him. Or intimidate him. It’s exactly the opposite of how—”

  “Only a moment ago I was onscreen with the Board of Governors making precisely that argument. The Board isn’t interested in argument. They aren’t interested in our opinions. They’re interested in our obedience, and they will have it.”

  “Administrator—” Faller almost dropped the palmpad for the second time in five minutes. He set it on the Director’s desk and backed away. “I’m not sure I can do this.”

  “And I’m sure you will.”

  “But—please, sir. I thought you knew him. I can’t threaten his family—do you know what happens to people who threaten his family?”

  “You won’t threaten his family. Neither will I. Our task is to convey information. Specific information, conveyed as specifically directed.”

  “That’s a—” Faller thought he was about to laugh; what came from his mouth was instead more of a despairing bleat. “Do you think he’ll care about fine distinctions?”

  “You’re frightened.”

  “Of course I’m frightened,” Faller said. “Have you not seen footage of the fire at Marc Vilo’s estate? Have you never cubed For Love of Pallas Ril?”

  The Director lifted a hand as though to massage a headache. The hand trembled, just a bit, and instead he wiped away pale sweat that had beaded above his eyebrows. For a long moment he sat, eyes closed, resting his head against his sweaty hand, then abruptly huffed a sigh and rose. “Professional Faller, the analysis I am about to share with you is speculation, nothing more. Despite it being nothing more than speculation, sho
uld you repeat this conversation in any context whatsoever, I will not only deny it, I will see you downcasted for corporate slander. Do you understand me?”

  “I, ah—yes, sir. I mean, I understand, Administrator.”

  The new Director rounded his desk and perched himself informally on one corner. “I was a porter and part-time nurse’s aide when Arturo Kollberg came to be Director of St. Luke’s Ecumenical in Chicago. I found ways of bringing myself to his attention, and made myself useful in any and every manner he might so much as mention. He found me sufficiently useful that when he was hired by the Studio, he brought me with him, and sponsored my upcaste to Professional to serve as his private secretary, which I did for more than a decade. After Chairman Kollberg’s breakdown, I served in the same capacity under the new Chairman, Administrator Hari Michaelson. Because the Board of Governors considered Chairman Michaelson to be unreliable and potentially treasonous, they requested I provide periodic updates on the Chairman’s activities. My compliance with their orders led me to find myself this close—”

 

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