Concealing herself in the coffin with the desiccated corpse of the Night Mother was unpleasant, to be sure, but Katnys had had to do unpleasant things before in order to protect her family; this was no different. Sure enough, Cicero entered the room and began gibbering to someone, but it soon became clear that he was muttering to the Night Mother herself. In and of itself, this was harmless nuttery, but he then began to suggest that some in the Brotherhood were "coming around" to his point of view. Could this be the treachery Astrid suspected?
Katnys would have little time to ponder the question. Gradually illuminated by some dim, unwholesome light, the Night Mother spoke directly to Katnys:
|More like iron womb, amirite? Also, enjoy your nightmares.|
Katnys was not a particularly devout Dunmer, but it's hard to ignore a talking corpse. The unearthly conversation with the bride of Sithis served to confirm something Katnys had already begun to suspect: she was destined to restore this family. She did not yet fully understand what being the Listener meant or why she needed to meet with Amaund Motierre, but in some strange, deep way, her communion with the Night Mother felt more real, more vital than any of the Greybeards' lofty ramblings.
Once she shared her epiphany with Cicero and Astrid, Katnys deferred to Astrid's judgement; after all, Katnys may be the new Listener, but Astrid was still the head of the family -- and the head of the family needed time to think about this Amaund Motierre business. In the meantime, Astrid ordered Katnys to get new contracts from Nazir. Honestly, Katnys was relieved; Astrid wasn't the only one who needed time to process.
As it turned out, however, both of the contracts brought new complications. The first, an Orc bard named Lurbuk, presented a even greater moral challenge than Nilsine Shatter-Shield. The contract on Lurbuk came with no story other than the fact that he was the worst bard in Skyrim -- surely not a capital offense. Even if she imagined that there might be more to his background, Nazir pointed out that multiple people had put out contracts on Lurbuk, presumably for his musical incompetence. Killing the Orc would be a pure act of cold-blooded murder -- no vengeance, no dark justice, no putting someone out of his misery, no preemptive end to a conflict that might spill out into the community...just murder.
Whatever her misgivings, the reality of the situation was this: Katnys was now the Listener of the Dark Brotherhood, and Astrid had ordered her to fulfill Nazir's contracts. How could she say no to the Black Sacrament? She was in far too deep, and this family was far too important to her for Katnys to turn back now. Besides, who was the Orc to her or her people? No one. Not her concern. Regardless of the reason, her family wanted him dead. Thus ended poor Lurbuk, with a single, well-placed arrow in the back.
The second contract was on Hern the miller who, unbeknownst to the general population, was a vampire, along his wife Hert. After the moral conundrum Katnys faced with Lurbuk, killing a murderous vampire almost felt like a vacation. Katnys and Jenassa approached Half-Moon Mill very stealthily, and kept their distance while waiting for an opportunity. They decided to wait until nightfall; even though the target might be stronger at night, breaking into the house would place them in a confined space where Katnys's bow would not be of much use. Soon after the sun went down, Hern emerged from the house as Hert was about to go back inside...and that's when everything went south.
Apparently, the happy couple had been tipped off about the hit; before Katnys could get a bead on Hern, she heard a commotion behind her, followed by Jenassa's battle cry. Before she could turn around, Katnys felt something -- a force of a kind she hadn't felt before -- hit her. She wheeled around to see another vampire and his two thralls descending on her and Jenassa. Even though she hadn't been wounded yet, Katnys's whole body suddenly ached, but there was no time to wonder what was happening; both Hern and Hert were now converging on what had obviously been a trap. While Jenassa kept the ambush party at bay, Katnys ducked to the side and Shouted at Hern and Hert to buy herself some time. With their attack disrupted, she quickly fired an arrow into Hert, killing her instantly. Hern, unfazed by is wife's death, rushed at Katnys. Before he could land a blow, she smashed his face with her bow and, while he staggered, lodged a shaft into his heart, putting him down for good. Katnys then turned her attention back to Jenassa, who had been holding her own: the thralls were down, and she had almost finished the third vampire. Katnys waited for Jenassa to stagger her opponent before dispatching him with her bow.
Once the dust settled, Katnys took stock of the situation. The contract had gone wrong -- really wrong -- but they managed to finish the job anyway. It was time to return to the Sanctuary, both to report back to Nazir, but also to see if Astrid had come to any conclusions about Amaud Motierre. Katnys felt uneasy, but she couldn't exactly figure out why. She had been named Listener, she had been taken into the confidence of both Astrid and the Night Mother herself, and she had upheld the Brotherhood under difficult circumstances. So what was this new, unsettling sensation coursing through her veins?