The maid stood aside and took in the activity of the huge, hot room. As hearths go, the one in this kitchen was big enough for a half dozen soldiers to stand in shoulder to shoulder. Not that they'd be fool enough to do so since the fire was going almost constantly. It was allowed to die every now and again so that the ashes could be cleaned, but other than that there was always something cooking.
Two boys about ten years of age were in charge of slowly turning the spit to keep the meat from becoming charcoal. The maid hurried past, ruffling the hair of one of the boys and noting the annoyance in his eyes. He and his companion were mindful of their duty and paid close attention to the crackling and spitting of heated fat that fell drop by drop onto the burning wood. If they didn't, Dodie the cook would be the first to remind them with a swat to the back of their heads--Dodie's touch was never an easy one. The boys would have preferred to be elsewhere, like the bailey where they could watch a few of the soldiers practice their fighting skills.
Dodie's husband, Jacob, was a tall, thin man. He shoved a wooden paddle into an oven and slid out the source of a delectable aroma--several loaves of bread--which was then dropped onto the nearby table to cool. The kitchen maid ducked and neatly avoided being smacked with the passing paddle when Jacob turned to remove more bread before it could burn. Never missing a step, the maid approached another table and set down the basket she carried. Herbs and freshly cut flowers added to the symphony of scents. She glanced about, amazed that more people didn't collide into one another within the tight confines of the kitchen. The space was about one third the size of the great hall, but even then, when it got busy, there wasn't much room for getting around.
She set the flowers aside then took a sharp knife to chop the herbs. Each went into a separate small bowl according to type. She liked working in here amid the hustle and bustle of preparing meals and the frequent disagreements that didn't always directly involve the chores that went on. Sometimes the arguments were of a more personal nature...like the one currently brewing between two of the girls who were supposed to be plucking feathers.
"No need for disputes, children," the maid chided them. "There's more than enough work to go around and not enough time to get it done. Leave the arguing for when you have a chance to do it properly." The girls, she noticed, had crimson faces, but she wasn't sure if it was from the light-hearted scolding or the heat of the kitchen. Since they always had work to keep them busy, the maid knew the quarrel would soon be forgotten.
The maid looked up to see a young boy making his way around tables and the kitchen staff in an attempt to reach her. He was out of breath when he finally stood before her. "What is it, Jemmy?" She waited until the lad had caught his breath before getting a response. He must have been running all the way from wherever he'd come.
"Himself...says...you are to present yourself...in the council chamber...immediately...if not sooner."
Tessa patted Jemmy on the should and gave him a brief smile. Oh, lord, what have I done this time?