Aisling awoke, her head pounding with the all too familiar ache of bitterwort, an herb commonly used to treat the injured. She gingerly felt of her scalp, and found only her own inch long hair. No bandages, no gaping head wounds. That was good, and since there were no singing voices and no pillar of light she was still in the land of the living. She sat up slowly, her body aching from being bedridden for at least a full day of not more. She was used to martial drills and lots of activity, not lazing about like a ne'er dowell.
"Congratulations," a nurse said, pausing to see one of her patients. "We were worried about you for a while there. You had a pretty nasty knock to head and all. King Graeme came earlier this morning and healing your injuries." she said with some awe in her voice.
"The...king?" Aisling whispered, shocked by the thought that she, a common born peasant, had been healed by the first and foremost sorcerer in the kingdom. "I am without words..."
"You are to be decorated this afternoon, along with the survivors of your gun crew. It's to be the Medal of Valour for you, and the King himself is presenting them. He was there at the last invasion from the ogres." she said like her patient was a patent fool.
The sun was a burning ember as she stood on the raised platform in the center of the city square. She was among six being awarded medals by the King himself. She felt herself puffed up with pride, knowing that in the next life her father would be terribly proud of her. She would offer incense at the family shrine when she returned home and tell her tale to the ancestors, that the King himself chosen of Kasmir had honored her, and her family. Her breath caught as he mounted the steps, he was taller than she expected, commanding a regal air about him. She knealed upon one knee, her right fist pressed above her heart.
"Rise valiant heros." Graeme said, "Rise and know thou art honored in the eyes of Caladin, Kasmir, and in my eyes." he said. She felt her throat tighten and her cheeks flush with heat, in a moment she knew that tears would stream down her face. She murmured a quick prayer that she not embarass herself in front of the King. It was a great honor, being the first woman awarded a medal of combat. She felt ready to burst with all the emotion bound up inside of her.
He placed the silver and black medal, shaped in the likeness of the Black Spear upon their breasts. He paused, looking at the wet streaks on her face. She felt shame to be shedding tears in such an unworthy fashion, like some weak and wastrel woman who wailed for no reason and tore at her hair over the slightest thing.
"Is this the only soldier here thus moved?" he asked, "None can doubt this soldier's courage, this soldier's conviction in the heat of bloody war. Let none look derisively upon this soldier for shedding a tear. Pride, joy, many reasons do we all weep. Let us not forget that." The crowd responded with thunderous applause. Graeme smiled at Aisling. The next battles would not be fought on Calan's doorstep, but it would be taken into the ogre's teeth.