Cato stood straight. This is insanity,
he thought. After all the Thalmor had done, to him personally, never would he allow a contract from those bastards to slip through. Something was wrong with this, very wrong. He felt the mark of the Legion burning like a brand on his arm, a permanent reminder of the life he lost. He never imagined his life would end up like this, a servant to an evil spirit, killing people for the turn of coin. No
, he corrected himself, not a servant, a slave.
Memory soon took over him, memories from two years before, a job for the Guild gone wrong, an assassin dead by his hand. Next thing he knew Astrid had captured him, trapped him in an abandoned shack and forced him to join her organization or die. He had no choice, and when the Night Mother began to speak to him he knew that he was trapped for life. He had killed the Emperor. He had killed Astrid when she'd revealed herself a traitor. It was he who had rebuilt the Dark Brotherhood anew, in the hope that it would bring itself some
sort of honor. But there was no honor to be gained in the life of a slave, even a skilled one.
"No," he growled, breaking his silence. He tore his hood from his face, allowing the Dragonborn. "I tell you this," the Listener said slowly, "on my honor, the Dark Brotherhood has never accepted a contract from the Thalmor."
The Dragonborn scowled, his blade still hovering in Cato's direction. "Explain yourself then," he said with malice. The Dragonborn was exactly what Cato had expected him to be. The Nord was large and built like a stone wall. He wore fine steel armor, and a horned helm rested on his head, blocking his face and making any attempts to read his expression impossible. His blade was thin and slightly curved; very odd looking indeed. Cato had only seen a blade like that once before, the Blade, Delphine. Yet, despite his obvious rage, the Dragonborn seemed controlled, his body was calm, his actions decisive and calculated. The Dragonborn was a force to be reckoned with, and Cato was not eager to cross blades with him.
Cato shook his head. "The Dark Brotherhood would not willingly deal with the Thalmor," he said, keeping his voice level, "I would never allow it."
The Dragonborn's blade lowered a fraction. "Since when can the Dark Brotherhood choose their contracts? If the ritual is done," his voice trailed.
"The Dark Brotherhood has changed over the last few years," he explained further, "all contracts are decided upon. You have my word, Dragonborn; no contracts from the Thalmor have been accepted." He frowned, "But trust me, they have tried, and been denied at every turn."
"And what of the attempt on my life?"
"That was not a Thalmor contract," Cato said, shaking his head. "I can't tell you who called for the contract, but I can tell you that someone in Whiterun does not like you very much."
"And what of your most recent attempt on my allies?" the Dragonborn growled.
"Allies?" Cato said in confusion. His brow furrowed. "Where?"
"Close by, Dawnstar," the Nord answered curtly. "I will have you know that the assassin failed."
That made no sense. They did not work in Dawnstar as a general rule. The hold was simply too close to their Sanctuary in general and working there would bring too much attention to their residence there. "Who was it?" Cato asked, genuinely curious as to who would be daring enough to encroach upon Dark Brotherhood territory.
"A Dunmer, middle aged," the Dragonborn described, "and dead."
Cato shook his head. "None of this makes any sense," he said furiously, "there are no Dunmer in the Brotherhood, there haven't been in more than two years." They tend to avoid us due the Dark Brotherhood's former rivalry with the Morag Tong
, he said to himself.
"He was wearing the same armor as the Argonian in Riverwood," the Dragonborn added, "either you are not as knowledgeable as you think of your own Family as you should be, or this assassin was an imposter."
Or what I was worried about years ago is happening,
Cato thought with a chill. The Morag Tong have returned, and are working with the Thalmor.
It was the only possible answer. But why wear Brotherhood armor? The better question was, how did they get Brotherhood armor? Someone in the Brotherhood was supplying these imposters with armor, betraying the trust of the Family, and endangering them all; a betrayal worthy of death. He had been wondering where the missing funds had disappeared to.
What was he to do? Conducting an investigation would be almost as dangerous as letting the traitor go free. The Brotherhood hated him as much as he hated them; save for the damn fool. They knew he resented his position, and they in turn resented the changes he made. Many thought Astrid a better leader, even though her actions led to the near extinction of the organization. There was only one way to ensure that the link to the Thalmor was destroyed, the Rite of Purification.
But to do the Rite on the Dawnstar Sanctuary? It was the only one left in the world. It was the resting place of the Night Mother herself! To set fire to it would eradicate the Brotherhood completely, it would cease to exist.
He would be free.
"Have you returned to your silence?" the Dragonborn barked.
He is impatient when angered
. "No," Cato said quickly, "there is only one answer to this impersonator. There is a traitor within the Dark Brotherhood." Cato held back a smile, he didn't care who the traitor was at this point, and it gave him the excuse he needed to eradicate his slavers. And what can the Night Mother or Sithis do? I am sworn to Nocturnal, and so far she's watched over me.
He couldn't do this before, not on his own, the Brotherhood would have overpowered him, but with the Dragonborn at his side he could do it.
"And what do you plan to do about it?"
Cato took a few steps toward the Dragonborn. "Purification, the Brotherhood must be cleansed. Though you must understand, this is the last
Sanctuary in the Brotherhood. If this is done, the Brotherhood will no longer exist."
The Dragonborn looked taken aback. "You seriously would do this?" he asked, shocked.
"I never wished to become the Listener," Cato said, grating his teeth in frustration as he did. "I am a slave."
"You need help," the Dragonborn said, it wasn't a question.
"Yes," Cato said, nodding, "there are too many to handle alone."
the Dragonborn answered, a faint smile flashing beneath his helm. He sheathed his sword. "Let me gather some friends. You won't be alone in this."
The Dragonborn's friends were an impressive group. There was a Nord woman, she walked with a limp, but the determined look on her face spoke that her condition did not hinder her abilities. According to the Dragonborn she was his houscarl. The other Nord was very skeptic of assisting him. He was a Stormcloak, and the target of the false Brotherhood assassin. The final member was a giant Khajiit that wielded two equally large battle axes. The Dragonborn had advised him that the Khajiit did not need to come, but the Khajiit just smiled and said he needed some practice anyways. Since their group was large enough they could cover all the exits. Cato posted the two Nords at the secret entrance just south of the city.
They made their way to the Sanctuary. They stopped at the door. The Khajiit raised his brows at the image on the door. "Not very welcoming is it?" he commented, not taking his eyes off the grisly image of Sithis devouring his children.
"The Dark Brotherhood has a different meaning of that word," Cato said with a scowl turning from the entrance to the Dragonborn and his Khajiit companion. "There are nine in there total," he said, briefing the two. "Most are recruits, the main three you need to worry about are masters; a jester, a Redguard, and a child. But everyone there are murderers."
"A child?" the Dragonborn said in shock.
"She's a vampire."
The Dragonborn shook his head in disgust. "Malik," he said, addressing the Khajiit, "stay here at the entrance. Should one make it past me and our
friend here, make sure they don't get far."
"Of course," the behemoth Khajiit said, dipping his head, "come back soon though. It is cold out here."
The Dragonborn smiled. "Then maybe you shouldn't have a bare chest," he said with a light laugh.
"It looks much more intimidating though," the Khajiit said with a pointed grin.
, that's what it looks like," the Dragonborn chuckled with a shake of his head. Turning away from his companion he laid his sight on Cato. "We're ready when you are, Listener," he said attaching his shield to his left arm.
Cato nodded as he made his way to the door. A familiar disembodied voice filled the air, "WHAT IS LIFE'S GREATEST ILLUSION?"
"Innocence, my brother," Cato answered, resting his hand on the Nightingale Blade.
the voice said as the door unlatched itself and swung open.
"The sins of the wicked must be baptized in blood and fear," Cato whispered as they descended into the Dawnstar Sanctuary.
"Listener, you return. Stop now, before you regret your decision, my child."
I'm not your child!
Cato responded silently.
I can't betray what I was never part of.
When they reached the bottom they were greeted by one of the newer recruits. His name was Toret, and he had joined a mere three months ago, a murderer from Solitude. Judging by the expression on Toret's face he hadn't seen the Dragonborn behind Cato. "You're back," Toret said, "what happened, you ran out of here like you saw a ghost." Cato didn't say anything as he drew his blade. "What are you doing?" Toret said, taking a step back. Cato stepped aside, revealing the Dragonborn stepping from the shadows behind him. Toret's eyes grew wide as he saw him.
Cato closed the distance between himself and the amateur assassin with only a few steps. "The sins of the wicked must be baptized in blood and fear," he said, swinging his blade easily through the assassin's neck. The body landed on the floor with a sickening crash. Cato and the Dragonborn stepped over Toret's headless body as they made their way to the main hall, where they found a small group of lower ranking assassins. No sign of Nazir, Cicero or Babette.
They stood, seeing Cato and the Dragonborn with drawn weapons. One brave Breton stepped forward in an attempted to greet the Listener. Cato greeted him in return by driving his sword through the recruit's belly. The recruit gasped as Cato drew his blade away and kicked his body aside. The others, realizing that Cato was not here to visit, drew their blades, a motley assort of swords and daggers.
You betray me! YOU BETRAY YOUR FAMILY!
screamed the Night Mother in his ear as the first recruit charged Cato, his sword high above his head. Cato sidestepped, causing the recruit to run directly into the Dragonborn's shield. He was knocked back, stunned. The Dragonborn took the opportunity to slice the recruit's throat. With the assistance of the Dragonborn at his side, Cato cleared the room. He did the math in his head, Four left
They descended further into the Sanctuary, finding the training area empty they went deeper into the dormitories. Cato smiled when he looked down the long hall to find both Nazir and Cicero waiting for him, both of them ha their blades drawn. "Have you gone insane?!" the Redguard yelled.
"No," Cato said, ever closing the distance between himself and Nazir, as he drew his silver dagger with his left hand.
"You're a traitor! I knew you were! I knew you weren't to be trusted! And now you die for it!" Nazir cried as he charged. They were a flurry of blades, until Cato suddenly disappeared. Nazir cursed, "Coward!"
Cicero spun, giggling as he tried to find Cato, but to no effect. Instead he turned to the Dragonborn, sprinting forward and leaping with his daggers ready to strike. The Dragonborn caught both the blades on his shield.
Meanwhile, Cato reappeared, this time behind Nazir. He grabbed the Redguard from behind, and thrust the Nightingale Blade through his chest. Nazir sputtered, spraying blood. "You," he gasped, "bastard."
Cato watched in shock as the Redguard fell. He was elated, but empty. The dead man before him had followed him for years, and though they hated each other, it was an odd feeling staring down at the dead man. It was a sour feeling of relief. Shaking himself from his emotions, Cato turned his attention to the fool, who was happily hopping back and forth and stabbing at the Dragonborn in absolutely no pattern whatsoever. So far, Cicero had done nothing more than annoy the Nord it seemed, as every time the Dragonborn stabbed forward with his sword the jester would happily dance away.
Finally the Dragonborn seemed to have enough of it and he took in a deep breath and Shouted. A wave of energy burst forth from the Dragonborn, sending the knife-happy little fool flying past Cato. The jester end up sprawled on his back halfway down the hall in a daze. The Dragonborn made a move to finish the fool off, but Cato stepped in front of him. "This one is mine
," he growled. He looked down at the jester, who still had a stunned grin on his face as Cato drove his sword through Cicero's heart.
The Dragonborn gave Cato a look. "You have no idea how long I've been waiting to do that," Cato explained. Then he cursed. Where was Babette? "Look for a little girl," he announced to the Dragonborn, "she looks about ten years old, brown hair, evil red eyes." The Dragonborn nodded, but they searched the entirety of the Sanctuary, coming to no avail. The little she-demon was not there, causing a stream of curses to flow freely from Cato as he and the Dragonborn ascended the stairs to make their way back to the surface.
Along the way Cato stopped before the corpse of the Night Mother, who was surprisingly quiet now, when before she'd been a constant buzzing in the back of his head. The Dragonborn, seeing nodded and left, leaving Cato alone one last time with the bride of Sithis. "It's over," he said, a faint smile on his face. "I'm no longer your slave."
"You will regret crossing me! I am the Night Mother, the Bride of the Void, mistress of-
"Yeah," Cato said, interrupting her, "I'm done listening to you."
Nothing but blessed silence.
As he made his way up the stairs to the main door he couldn't escape the feeling of being watched. He reached the alcove and turned, unable to shake that feeling. It felt like a chill going down his back. He drew his silver dagger, and out of pure instinct stabbed into the corner, and was shocked to find he'd actually stabbed
Immediately, Babette's tiny form appeared around the dagger, which was buried deep in the center of her chest. The little she-vampire stares at her chest and the silver dagger protruding from it. "How?" she gasps as she sinks to the floor.
Cato stared at her, his smile concealed beneath his hood. "Nocturnal's luck." He watches as Babette struggles trying to staunch the bleeding wound as Cato pulls the dagger away with a twist.
"You destroyed us," she breathes.
Cato kneels in front of her, removing his hood and meeting her blood red eyes with his green ones. "Not entirely," he said softly, "but luck is a fickle lady, whose side do you think she's on?"
Babette gaped as he rose and left her where she sat fighting for her existence, already feeling herself crumble.
When Cato returned to the surface he felt like a new man, a man free from the shackles of an opposing evil that had been weighing him down for two years. He found the Dragonborn waiting for him, as well as his Khajiit companion. Cato removed his hood and smiled. "It's over," he said, almost not believing his own words.
The Dragonborn smiled back at him. "Indeed it is," he said with a smile.
"What will you do now?"
"I think I will keep a promise I made to someone not too long ago," he said with a coy smile. "Which means I'll be going with you."
"Wait," the Dragonborn said, surprised, "what?"
"Who do you think helped Delphine find her Blade friend?"
The Dragonborn smiled wider. "It looks like we have much to talk about," the Dragonborn laughed as he offered Cato his hand. Cato shook it with a smile. "Revak."