As Architect dragged Cervato towards the inner city of Divinity's Reach, Cervato did her best to shake off the sudden sensation of nostalgia. The cloaked blonde annoyed her as she continued to weave between buildings, alleys, and all manners of paths instead of heading straight for the local headquarters near the palace for the Shining Blade.
Eventually, they were outside the main entrance. A pair of posted soldiers nodding to Architect as she displayed her badge, before permitting passage to her and Cervato. A shiver ran down her spine. A bustling office that lead deeper into the compound. The desire to stay away ran deep. Though curiosity also persisted. Would anyone beyond Architect recognize her? It'd been two years, but the sickening feeling sat within her stomach. Recalling first meeting Artemis and Exemplar Reed. Delilah and Rhett once more flashed across her mind. All dead. All dead because of her.
Architect brought her back to reality as she lead Cervato to a nearby adjacent interrogation room. She recalled seeing many people brought within these quarters, sometimes even she had to bring a suspect to be lead into questioning by a higher-up. However, there were no chains around her wrists. She was free. That thought kept her sane as she sunk into a chair in the room near a table. Architect made a quick exit, most likely to get her superior.
Looking to the side, she saw the mirrors lining the wall. Tempered. Resilient. No one had ever broken one before though she'd seen many try. On the other side, she wondered if anyone was watching, before realizing it didn't really matter if there was. She'd have no idea either way.
However, in the corner of her eye, she did see something. Someone. And her heart grew still.
Rhett's lazy gaze noted Cervato from his position standing within the corner, slightly hunched over. Staring at her. The same puncture marks and dried blood buried in his chest from when Artemis had killed him.
Quickly, she turned to look in the bare corner of the room behind her. Nothing.
When her gaze returned to the mirrored surface, he was gone.
The door opened, and a heavily armored woman of Krytan ancestry entered. With straight spine, she carried herself with the air of a worn soldier. Always ready to bid to the call of her Queen and country. As the soldier took a seat across from Cervato, Architect entered the room as well with one other male Blade member, in the standard uniform with hood drawn to mask their features, before taking post at the door, hands clasped behind their backs and eyes to the opposite wall.
"...Exemplar...?" Cervato stood out of habit, to which she cursed at herself, offering a quick awkward bow before descending into the chair again. Architect had mentioned a man earlier, before looking to the annoying mesmer near the door, she found the slightest of smiles on her lips. Another stupid game apparently, as she returned to study the woman before her.
The Exemplar's gray eyes studied Cervato. Scars marked across the woman's tanned skin near the corner of her mouth and escaping into her hair pulled tightly back. The woman gestured to Cervato, hand extended to shake that the Commander accepted with brevity.
"Exemplar Cortez. Pleasure. Architect was able to intercept you at the Pavilion. Forgive me, but I've little time. So I'll make this quick and to the point."
Cervato nodded to Cortez, listening.
Cortez continued, "In Doric, your guild assisted along with the Rurikton Roses, the Schools of Garenhoff, and various other free agents and mercenary companies during the Civil War last year. You crossed paths with a certain group of Mantle in one of their strongholds. Little over a year later, your..." sister", Maria Caballero, is abducted, threatening Lord Drake Griggs, leader of the Tyrian Accord, and Cervato Caballero, the Commander of the same guild. The designated Headquarters of the Accord is crushed into rubble near Claypool. Maria Caballero goes missing and still as of two Seasons has yet to be found. Everything correct so far?"
Cervato furrowed her brows, then provided Exemplar Cortez a distinct nod.
"Why would anyone kidnap a student of Kryta University, who has no knowledge of the Accord beyond the fact her sister works for them? To get back at the Accord in some manner, perhaps? The guild's made many an ally, but also a slew of enemies over the years. Even with the law of Kryta herself." Cortez continues. "But we both know there is more to it than that." Looking to Cervato with a scarred smile.
"We believe that Maria Caballero was abducted because...." Lifting her gloved hand with middle and index digits poised together. "You've been a bane to the White Mantle forces as part of your guild for many a year. The expedition to the Fen and then participating against them in the Doric War poised you as an enemy. Though we have killed and imprisoned many traitors of the crown, there are still those who slipped through our fingers. Who did not dare head to Doric to wage war against the capital. They're going after the small opposition forces, picking off what they can while they recover, which means you and the smaller groups you worked alongside. Your guild's a threat, Commander. And they'll do what it takes to stop you. Maria was the first of many tragedies unless we act fast. The other reason, is due to the fact that you were specifically wanted by the Shining Blade. Your ties to us make you especially vulnerable to their efforts."
"You said you may know how to help my sister. I figured we'd painted a target on ourselves since we got involved at Doric. But if you have information on how to help my family find her, I need to hear it." Cervato replied, curtly.
"We believe she's been sent directly to the Mists. Which doesn't help you very much, I know. The ones responsible are going to eventually come back to prey on your group. Or you. When they do, we'll be there to intervene. We'll send a small team to focus on your guild at your permission. And when those snakes return, we'll crush them one by one. That is the agreement I wish to make. And my hope is that in doing so, we'll be able to recover your sister in the process."
Cervato looked down to her hands in her lap. Then breathed out slowly. "...I'll speak with Drake and send you my decision. Give me a week. I...I need to consider this. The last time I...cooperated with the Shining Blade, they ended up nearly getting my friends killed."
"Miss Ti'lay Voss and Lord Atreyu Haswari, correct?" Cortez noted, knowing Cervato would react.
Cervato's eyes stared across the table to Exemplar Cortez. Recalling the greivous injuries Ti'lay and Atreyu had received. Exemplar Reed had used Cervato's loved ones as the bait in a failed attempt at capturing Artemis. They both nearly died. Balling her hands into fists, Cervato cursed under her breath. "Yes. Exactly. I know it's for Maria, but I will not sacrifice my guild for her."
"Because she's your half-sister? Due to your father's adultery?" Cortez continued to play with the facts she knew about Cervato. The things she never shared from her private life. The anger in her expression was lit and both Architect and the other Blade officer looked in the direction of their Exemplar, hands set upon their weapons.
"That is none of your business." Cervato abruptly stood, heading towards the door. Meanwhile Cortez cast a glance over her shoulder.
"You should ask your father for the truth. You know more than you're letting on. But it's dangerous for you to continue as you are without knowing everything." Cervato had already opened the door, though halted in place.
"You know nothing of my family." Reply weak. Obviously Cortez knew something that Cervato had no idea about. The scarred Exemplar merely shrugged with a slight sneer.
"I probably know just as much as you, and just a touch more. Though you can find that out for yourself. I look forward to your favorable reply on our agreement, Commander." Cortez nodded to the Commander. Cervato frowned, before leaving the Shining Blade HQ behind.
As Cortez rose from her seat, Architect sighed heavily. "That's just a sad sight." Looking to the Shining Blade operative to her left, who also had been guarding the door. "She didn't even recognize you, either! Very, very sad."
The officer didn't rise to the taunt by Architect, instead looking to Cortez. "She may not agree after all. She's stubborn."
Cortez nodded to him. "Persuasion may be needed after all. The Blade has not been kind to her. My intent is not to cause more harm but to actually help us win on both fronts. Recovering Maria and eliminating these surviving Mantle scum. If she doesn't reply within the week, I'll need you to intercept her, Lindser."
The man's verdant gaze found his Exemplar's stormy hues, before pressing his fist to his chest and bowed respectfully to his superior.