A week has passed since the battle. I sit beside one of the injured men - a soldier who was unfortunate enough to have Pandora's arrow pierce his hand
"I'm sorry," he tells me quietly. His eyes are brimming with sorrow; the healer tells him that he'll never shoot again. "I should have deflected the arrow, or dodged it. But I'll learn to fight with a sword in my other hand, I promise. I'll become a warrior rather than an archer!"
Wearily, I smile at his confidence. Such bravery is inspiring, though few of the wounded seem so capable of rebounding straight back. This man - once one of my most adept archers - is lucky to possess such positivity. His friend was among the three hundred and fifty casualties, but still he remains strong.
"Thank you," I tell him. "But for now, do as the healer tells you and try to recover."
The soldier nods, bowing his head. "Of course. I'll be back and fighting soon, though!"
He doesn't bother with titles such as 'Princess'. My soldiers know that I am one of them; they need not to bow their heads. So long as I have their respect, why bother with titles? What importance do they hold, providing my men will listen to my commands?
Standing, I bid him farewell, heading out of the infirmary to search for Lief - my second in command.
Lief is talking with the head blacksmith when I find him, conversing about the number of arrowheads our army will need by next month. Quickly, he finishes the discussion, following me from the forge out into the streets of the city.
"How is Pyro?" Lief asks, referring to one of my father's battle dragons, now my own mount. Pyro is stronger than Kai ever will be.
"Pyro has been recovering well. He only shed a claw, Lief," I smile. He shrugs.
"I thought I might as well ask." His face hardens as he pauses. "But the wounded... How are they doing?"
Just like me, Lief feels each loss to be partly his responsibility. We are, after all, in command of these people; the soldiers who die at Pandora's hands are our own men, and each death is another stab of pain. These men, who I likely never even spoke to, have died in my name, and both Lief and I have vowed to make each death count. To make Pandora repent for their lives.
A messenger runs up to us, panic etched onto his face.
"She's here!" he gasps. "Pandora has arrived!"