Jupiter's loyalty proved to be with me at face value, but I knew otherwise. The day was coming. I stood by the first time watching Saturn's cleanse of mortals and demigods. It was then; I had become obsessed with pushing Aeneas to his destiny. I pushed him to make the decisions and never received any reluctance in the duty he felt he needed to do. He understood my anger toward him and when he chose to praise us, leading a life of right decision, and never questioning my motives.
A purpose, a goal was what Mars had always said in each training session. "Find your purpose." I had or thought I had. Jupiter had refused time after time to allow me to become a warrior. His claim was I was meant to rule beside him, bestow the humans with my presence, give them guidance, and have them believe we were the almighty. We were meant to rule by the hands of our creator, we had purpose. The sword sliced my flesh and I groaned. My focus had been lost; I was too busy pondering Mars' words to notice he had been in attack mode.
"Where is your head Mother? In the clouds I suppose."
I could feel the wound heal quickly along my cheek, my flesh of an immortal while I shook my head in response to Mars' statement. My head hadn't been in the clouds, in fact, it had been pondering my next move in regards to my purpose. A secret I had held close, only consoling Jupiter's daughter Diana when I was able to visit.
Ridiculed and scorned by most of our society under Jupiter's rule, I was accustomed to hearing the whispers of the other warriors belittling me. I wasn't the first choice to go into battle because of my lineage and status, I wasn't strong enough, our kingdom would fall, they all would say. A kingdom based on privilege, riches falling at our feet with praise from the humans, or based on immortality. We had it all and I refused it. I wanted to be the warrior, the one who brought purpose. I wanted to be like those who had been chosen for a divine journey, just as Hercules and Aeneas.
"You are dismissed. Your head is too much in the clouds today."
I could hear the clattering and clanking of the other warriors fighting amongst themselves. Swords scraping blade against blade, the thudding of an axe making contact with a shield, I could hear it all. The ruthlessness of immortal man against immortal man surrounded me. I bowed to Mars, ignoring his statement at my inability to remain focused today, and turned away.
I shouldered my weapon of choice quickly, a comfort in something I had excelled at, my bow. I could see the others pause in their training, some scowling, some shaking their head before I heard Mars' booming voice call out for them to continue as I made my way from the arena. I would be back tomorrow to resume my duty and train. For now, I had my royal duties to attend to.
My fingers brushed through my hair and I tied it back quickly as I stepped in the chambers. My servants were at my beck and call as I stood with my arms outstretched. They moved quickly, the leather straps holding my armor on loosened with the steady, nimble hands of the servants. The bronze metal supporting my bust was removed and I had felt exposed. I felt a part of me was missing every time this had happened, like my secret would suddenly become uncovered and Jupiter would have me tried for treason. I watched as they placed the armor carefully on the wooden figure. My bow and quiver of arrows placed at the foot. They bowed, moving from my line of sight as I placed the crimson colored robe across my body.
A feast was to be prepared tonight in honor of Saturn's release of the Titans on the mortal world. Sniveling, swindling, conniving Saturn. I would never understand the decision. The mortals were at a time of peace now. His amusement quite possibly was the reason, but I dared not to inquire. I scoffed lightly with a roll of my eyes as I placed the delicate fern pin at my shoulder to join the edges of the fabric. He was the first to throw me to the wolves on the day I started training. He argued with Jupiter, claiming a female shouldn't be on the battlefield, and much to my dismay, Jupiter agreed. His rounded belly got more in the way than his political agenda. Still, he had made his presence known, spreading propaganda amongst the other warriors. In my eyes what he had done was a betrayal to his own son, his own blood. Jupiter didn't see it that way. He agreed with every decision Saturn had suggested face to face, only to be in the privacy of our chambers and he would change his mind. He would offer solace after I would finally break his resolve.
The soft knock drew me from my thoughts and I turned slowly, seeing Diana enter the chambers with quickness in her step. Her rushed nature and the slight frown on her features alerted me something was wrong.
"Juno, you musn't attend the feast tonight. Jupiter and Saturn...I fear tonight will be your final night. They've moved the feast to the arena."
My thoughts had only just caught up with what Diana had said as I stared into her heavenly blue eyes that shown as bright as the moon on a clear night. Her long blonde hair curled into ringlets around her face and her eyes showed sadness and panic like a storm was coming, one that I should have expected in my journey. The arena had meant that warriors, such as me, were going to be displayed to prove our abilities. A long drawn out sigh came from my companion as she held onto my shoulders. I could feel the trembling of her hands even as they remained placed there. She was terrified for me.
"Don't worry for me, Diana," I said as I placed my hands atop hers and give a small shake of my head. "It will do no good. Jupiter and Saturn have made their minds. I will do as requested and take my place in the arena."
This was a test and I would oblige Jupiter and Saturn for the moment. I gave Diana a soft smile before removing her hands from my shoulders. Diana's eyes widened as I turned away from her and unclasped the pin holding the cloth against my body, revealing my nude body underneath. It was apparent to Diana that I wasn't backing out of my mission by the fear I had seen in her eyes. I let it fall to the floor as I stepped back toward my armor. The comfort again washed over my at the thought of feeling protected again.
"Juno, please I beg of you. Do not go into the arena today. Take your place next to Jupiter to watch the other warriors. Saturn will use all his resources against you, you must know this!"
"I am aware Diana," I stated back as I pulled the bronze chest plate off the wooden figure and pressed it onto my chest. "Please, come and hold this in place for me."
I could hear her footsteps coming closer, even in her panicked state. Her hands were still shaking as I felt the straps being secured in place. The leather was tight across my shoulders as it dug into my skin. I stared ahead with my thoughts on which Jupiter and Saturn would place against me in the arena. All I had went against before were products of Saturn's propaganda in training and none were worthy enough to be called warriors, including myself. Mars had stated that himself. We were still in training and that had to be known. Although, I didn't expect the impending battles to be easy, nor did I expect the nature Saturn and Jupiter had thought of me to change. I could feel the leather straps dig into the curve of my hips as Diana's hands worked to get me ready for the arena. The coolness of the metal seeped through me and I kept my eyes forward.
"Juno, please. I tell you my fears once again. You are in training and those that Saturn and Jupiter will put in the arena will be those that are much more advanced than you. They will show no mercy."
I turned and raised my arms above my head. Diana tightened the chest plate with a rough tug on the straps as I pulled in my breath. I could feel the snugness of the leather digging into my sides as I let out the breath. I lowered my arms as she picked up the cuffs I had to protect my wrists from injury and slipped my hands into them. The straps tightened quickly.
"Should I be expected to show them mercy because of who I am?" I questioned her.
"No and I understand, seeing your point of view, Juno. You are not the queen when this armor adorns your body. You are a warrior, just as they are."
"Then I shall show them no mercy also, Diana," I said as I stepped away from her, picking up my quiver of arrows and bow. The cool metal of the bow in my hand relaxed me even further. It gave me an advantage; I wouldn't be in arms reach of the other warriors. Jupiter's daughter had been my companion, my confidant for many years since Mars' birth. In my struggle for the first years, she brought me peace in many sleepless nights, offering to watch over Mars while I had managed to find a way out of the restlessness I had with becoming a new mother. I was deeply disturbed by her reaction to Jupiter moving the feast to the arena. I was nervous because of Diana's worry and I tried to brush it aside. The constant peacefulness she had normally had been washed away in worry.
I turned slowly to Diana, seeing her dressed in her usual attire; a soft brown tunic, hunting boots, and her own bow peeking out from behind her shoulder. I gave her the smallest, tenderest smile I could as I approached her once again.
"Diana, I will forever be in your debt, yes?"
"No, my Queen, you shall not be in my debt."
I could see the curiousness cross her features at my statement. As I reached up, brushing a stray blonde hair from her face and tucking it behind her ear, I nodded. "I am not your Queen in my attire, I am another warrior. One who yields the very apparatus you have trained me on, and much to my own surprise, something I am well at. You have been my companion in many of times through hardships and sacrifices, burdens I never wished to bear. You held me not to the standard of a Queen or a mother, but to the standard of what I have known all the while inside, a warrior Diana. Day after day, you have trained me in the woods, keeping my secrets and wishes closely guarded. I owe you more than just gratitude; I owe you so very much more."
The rage took hold as I quietly spoke with Diana as often as I could find myself escaping the political arguments, discussion of war, and tactics between Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars. I was an idle bystander and my opinion never mattered much. I was a woman and a fool according to Saturn. The qualities he possessed as a bigot was because I was a woman, never anything more and never anything less, infuriated me. Mortal society praised us, threw riches at our feet, built temples in our names, but as Queen and a woman, I was nothing.
The irony was not unknown to me. We were gods to the mortals, myself being praised for women and marriage. Two things mortals held sacred, but I found myself often escaping with Diana's aid to find solace from Saturn and Jupiter. Jupiter's daughter had often listened to my woes of Saturn's political unrest, Jupiter's constant repeat of how he overthrew his father of the throne, and graciously would nod and hum in response. I never understood why she listened, but accepted her company the same.
I could see the tears threatening to fall from Diana's eyes and her arms swiftly went around my shoulders, pulling me close.
"No mercy," she whispered.