THE CALL of an archer could be heard on the battlement. Juno snorted. It wasn’t really by choice that she was here with the Romans. Unlike other daemons, she had no allegiance. Although the majority of sirens were part of the Greek tribe of daemons, sirens were not creatures that claimed allegiance to everything. She had, unfortunately, ended up here because of outside circumstances.
Not long ago, she had created a careful plan to wreck the life of Phoebe Williams. At the time, she had hoped that it would bring Supay back to her. That had never materialized and she had instead been left with Apollo. Like her, he had been left without a daemon tribe. After her last attempt at breaking Supay and Phoebe apart, Apollo had been left to suffer from the fall out. He had hoped that Phoebe would choose him in the end. When she had not, he had thrown all of his efforts behind the Roman tribe. They were a rough and tumble bunch, but he no longer seemed to care. Instead, Apollo had quickly developed a singular focus on revenge. Juno had thrown her lot in with Apollo out of the hope that something would jar Supay out of his sickeningly complacent relationship with Phoebe.
Gazing back at the archers, Juno just shook her head. The slight tilt of her chin caused her straight black hair to sway back and forth. Her overly large eyes narrowed uncharacteristically as she tried to hide her annoyance at the Romans. For some reason, they seemed to think that this daemon war was a medieval battlefield. Over the last few months, they had started building supplies and weapons at this lonely base on Sicily. Since she had sworn to stay out of the fight due to her agreement with Phoebe, Juno could not step in and show them how they were doing it wrong. For starters, they had placed the archers on the lowest wall. As the easiest location to climb, the lowest wall would be better suited to giant vats of tar and boulders. Other than a complete lack of knowledge in this field, the Romans also lacked the ability to see that they would be easily routed. Although modern weapons and techniques drew more public attention to the daemon wars, they were also more effective.
Sniffing disdainfully, Juno went back into the castle. She may have promised not to actively fight, but that didn’t mean that she could not remain up-to-date on the latest happenings in the daemon world. Purposefully navigating the corridors of the castle, she began to climb the narrow stairs that led to the north tower. With its poorly made steps and drafty interior, few people bothered to enter this part of the castle. This one fact made it perfect for her use.
Entering the tower, Juno set about closing the curtains. On the last curtain, she stopped and peered out at the ground. Below her, Apollo was shouting orders as he tried to get the troops in line. As she watched him, Juno felt a stirring of something within her heart. Not long ago, she had convinced Apollo to sleep with her. Although he had been appalled at the idea when she asked, he had readily returned to her bed since that time. Juno sighed. The life of a siren was never easy. Long ago, she had planned out a different, beautiful life for herself. Since that time, everything had gone wrong and now she was just another siren operating in a chaotic world.
Approaching the sink, she filled several pitchers with water. Each time one pitcher filled, she brought it to the table and used it to fill up a scrying basin. Circular and sleek, the ebony marble gleamed in the evening light. In just a few moments, she would use it to gaze across the world to watch the enemy at work.
Sitting at the table, Juno began to focus her mind. The clutter of her thoughts would not quiet readily, so she leaned back with a sigh. If she could not watch the Greeks mount an attack or Supay attempt to stop the battle, she should do something else. Her mind wandered as she thought about what she needed. After all this time, she had allotted very few moments to herself. Her rosebud lips pursed slightly before relaxing into a grin. Yes, this was just the time for her to revisit her past. A reminder of how she arrived at this place in life would be just the thing that she needed to renew her focus. Settling into the chair further, she waved her hand confidently across the water of the scrying tub. As the ripples expanded outward, pictures began to reveal themselves.
Across the field, a young, beautiful girl darted among sheep. The dappled sunlight on the ground jostled merrily as the leaves moved in time with each gust of the breeze. Gorgeous and strangely innocent, the young girl fell next to the herd of sheep after a stray rock tripped her up. Laughing prettily, she shook out her straight black hair from a messy bun. The raven black hair fell neatly on her back as she gently combed her fingers through it. Gazing out at the sheep, young Juno knew that there were few better places to be in the world.
Each morning, she picked up her crook and a loaf of bread before heading out toward the Andes. Over recent years, her tribe of sirens had settled down in the area. Known for causing trouble, they never stayed anywhere for more than five or ten years. This time, Juno wanted them to stay. She loved waking up to the smell of coffee brewing and wandering the fields with her sheep. Her mother, Circe, had given her this task to keep her out of trouble. Until her nineteenth birthday, Juno was an untrained siren. Unfamiliar with the ways of the world or sirens, she was told to keep herself out of mischief. As a shepherdess, it would be next to impossible to get into trouble. Honestly, Juno preferred her life this way. None of the sirens like her Aunt Pasiphae or her mother were ever happy. They pretended to be happy and were certainly charming, but the siren way of life tended to be a lonely one. Men were taken and used, but never kept, and love was forbidden. According to her mother, it was impossible for a siren to ever become anything else.
Leaning back into the sweet meadow grass, Juno relaxed luxuriously on her arms. The noonday sun beat above her head and reminded her that it was time for lunch. Rolling over, she reached for her pack and pulled out the loaf of bread. A small jug of milk would be eaten with it. She sighed and her dainty eyelashes drooped slightly. The jug of milk was leaking again. Today would be another day that she would go home starving.
Just as Juno was about to begin her lunch, she heard a noise at the far end of the meadow. Some of her sheep were darting out of the way, as strange sheep approached. Standing up quickly, Juno dropped the loaf of bread on the ground. Cursing at her stupidity, she leaned down to pick it up. With her intent focus on cleaning the bread, she almost forgot about the strange sheep. She glanced up just in time to see a large, black dog dart into view. It seemed intent on herding the sheep into the meadow until it caught sight of her. The sudden shock of seeing someone else caused the dog to lose focus. Before Juno’s eyes, the black canine transformed into the naked form of a young man.
Her almond eyes opened widely. “Sir….?” she asked curiously.
Groaning in embarrassment, the young man reached around for something to cover himself with. Juno realized his shame and smiled. Unwrapping the shawl around her waist, she tossed it over to him. Grinning bashfully, the young man tied it around his waist and walked over.
He reached out his hand. “Hi, I’m Supay. I… well. I apologize. This doesn’t normally happen. Surprises still jolt me out of shape shifting. I’m still learning. What’s your name?”
Juno smiled prettily and stretched out her thin, delicate hand. “I’m Juno. Don’t worry about your mistake. I think you’re the first person I’ve seen up here in months and the first man I’ve seen at all in years.”
Supay tilted his head. “What do you mean? How could you not see a man for years?”