Vashti directed Drace in through the side entrance into the huge kitchen
area where the smells of cooking meat permeated the air. A plump, older woman greeted them. She had graying hair, which was once jet-black, and merry gray eyes. Drace immediately thought she would make a perfect grandmother for anyone. She went into mother-hen mode at their arrival, tsking and fussing. She clucked to two young women to have the hot water added to the trio’s baths.
Estelle grabbed Drace’s chin, a considerable stretch as she was not very tall, and a bit round. She turned his head right then left. “Hmmm.” She let go then lightly touched his nose making him wince. “I will have something brought up for that, right away.”
She turned and clapped at the two women. “Hurry now with the water,” she said. She turned to Vashti and the two men. “I’ll show you to your chambers. Follow me, please.” She left in a whirl of brown skirts and the dynamo bustled from the kitchen; Drace, Vashti and Ka’Ril trailing in her wake.
Drace tried to see everything in the great hall as they passed while still keeping up with her. He caught glimpses of tapestries and weapons hanging along the wall. A large fireplace was at one end and a raised platform stood in front with a long table on it. Tables on the floor ran down the sides of the hall, leaving the center opened. He had expected rushes on the floor, like he had read about, but it was clean swept flagstones. A pair of dogs, which looked very similar to Salukis, an ancient breed originally used to hunt gazelles, lay next to a small child. The little boy sat on a blanket, his mother close by sweeping the floor. The dogs, one fawn in color, the other black, raised their heads but did not leave the child’s side as Estelle hurried her charges on through to stairs in one corner of the great hall. They went up two levels in the front tower. She paused at a door. “Your usual chambers, my dears; please make yourselves comfortable. Your hot water will be here momentarily,” she said to Vashti
“Come sir, after me.” Again there was the whirl of skirts as she turned and resumed her climb. Despite her slightly plump physique, she was not at all out of breath. Drace could not help but smile at her perkiness. They climbed one more level and stopped before the next door. “This is your chamber, my Lord.”
She pushed through the door. “Well, come in now,” she coaxed as he hesitated in the doorway. “Let me help you with your armor. I used to help my man with his years ago. I believe I remember how to get this undone.” She began unbuckling straps before Drace could protest. She flitted around him like a bird, here, there, and soon he was standing in his linen. “You have no gear, my Lord?”
“No ma’am, I don’t,” Drace replied, his deep voice reflecting his embarrassment. “Only what I’m wearing.”
“Well now. I believe I can find something else for you to wear. You are very big though.” She tapped her lips thoughtfully. “I will have to search a little. I will find you something before you finish your bath.”