A symmetrical pair of staircases curved along the back wall and led further into the palace’s second floor. Juno went up the left staircase and took the first left she came to, past countless ornate wooden doors and a handful of chattering valkyrie recruits, all of whom stopped their vapid conversations to stare at the scary woman with the eyepatch.
Among the valkyries was a stunning young woman who couldn’t have been older than nineteen, with a blonde braid that hung down to her ass. She was not in uniform, but wore an expensive outfit of white and gray silks, her black designer longcoat slung over one shoulder. She smirked like a beautiful jackal at the one-eyed soldier, and didn’t even wait until Juno was out of earshot to start giggling — a musical, animal-like laugh — and muttering something about a blowjob gone bad.
Juno stopped suddenly, and the gossiping stopped with her. She turned and walked back to the tittering valkyries. There were four of them, all somewhere between nineteen and twenty-two. The smell of a superior officer induced boot camp flashbacks in all of them: they stood at attention as Juno looked them over like a drill instructor and clearly wasn’t impressed.
The sneering blonde didn’t seem any more impressed with Juno.
“Are you girls lost?” said Juno.
The four shieldmaidens kept nervously deferring to their young friend for an answer. Juno focused on her and leaned so close she could have bitten her nose off.
“I asked you a question, cocksucker,” said Juno.
“No, Ma’am,” said the blonde, not the least bit threatened. “We’re not lost, Ma’am.”
“Who the hell are you supposed to be?”
The blonde folded her arms. “I’m Sif the Hyena,” she said. “I’m a captain in the Lima Sorority.”
“Bullshit,” said Juno. “You’re too stupid to hold a rank.”
Sif’s smirk melted, and she suddenly didn’t seem so pretty anymore: she scowled like a bulldog and stepped forward.
“Listen here, Old Lady,” she said as she tapped her index and middle fingers against Juno’s chest.
Juno’s right hand struck like a rattlesnake, gripping the first three fingers of Sif’s hand and wrenching them backward into a one-handed finger lock that brought her to her knees with a banshee-like squeal. The girl already had tears in her eyes from the rivers of pain surging up her arm; whether she tried to back away or advance, she inadvertently applied the lock further, and the pain intensified. She could do nothing but remain where she was and hope Juno didn’t dislocate every joint in her hand.
The valkyries were staring in shock now, no longer standing at attention.
“What about you?” said Juno, startling them.
“D-Drill is over for the day, Ma’am,” said the eldest.
“So where are you supposed to be?”
“Then get your asses nowhere!”
They were flocking around the corner before she finished. Still holding her valise in her other hand, Juno gently tugged Sif to her feet and casually led her back to the stairs like an angry mother dragging her bratty daughter back to the parking lot; wherever Juno went, the whimpering Sif had no choice but to follow, or her fingers would snap like carrots. At the top of the stairs, she was finally released and allowed to rub her aching joints.
“This isn’t boarding school,” said Juno. “Big girls only.”
Juno retraced her steps and walked swiftly to her destination, ignoring Sif’s obscene reply.