She is the youngest of the servants and the newest to household, so it’s only right that Alayne be given the job of scullery maid. Even among the lowest of the low, there were hierarchies to be upheld and followed, echelons of rank and file that could not be skipped or usurped. When she was still high-born and a lady, Sansa had simply assumed that servants were servants and that was that. Oh, how wrong she had been. It’s a lesson she’d had no choice but to learn and quickly.
It is her job to rise before every one else — before the valets and the house maids and even the cook. On her hands and knees, Alayne brushes clean the cold stone hearth and then goes about setting a fire to heat water for tea and breakfast and the basin in the lord’s chambers. The skin of her palms and on her fingers is stil soft and sensitive (a lady’s hands) and so the effort chafes her raw and she has no choice but to wrap her hands in rags soaked in water drawn from the pump. When the cook, Mordane, comes hobbling up from the servant’s quarters she takes one look at Alayne and clucks her tongue disapprovingly.
That hair of yours, dear. It will have to go, she declares and then tromps back down the stairs to fetch Alayne a bonnet.
There are yesterday’s pots that need scouring and fowl that require plucking before supper. Sansa finds all of these tasks repellant but Alayne’s expression makes no argument with her responsibilities — they are what keep her as part of the household, after all, and she is not one to squander Lord Baelish’s kindnesses. There is lard caked thick and clammy on the inside of the skillet she handles and the brace of squabs lie limp and akimbo on a nearby cutting board, both birds staring up at her with their dead, flat eyes, waiting for her to pick them clean. She nudges them and the board away with her forearm, trying to push them from her mind.
Her arms are elbow-deep in a sink of grease-slicked water when the valet raps sharply on the kitchen door before entering, a silver tray tucked neatly under his arm. The lord of the house is awake, he tells them and Mordane begins to scuttle quickly about the room, much faster and more nimbly than Alayne would have ever thought possible had she not seen it herself. She prattles off orders at Alayne to abandon that and to ready this. There’s bacon still sizzling away on the stove and bread to be cut into thick, steaming slices. A few minutes is all it takes to make the tray ready, and once it is, Alayne places a hand on each side, readying to lift it. The valet stops her and she almost drops the damned thing.
What do you think you’re doing? he asks. You’re not to go upstairs, not on any condition.
Alayne ducks her head and averts her eyes. Humility, she reminds herself, though part of her still bristles at being talked down to. You’ll pardon me, but Lord Baelish asked that I bring him his breakfast myself. Her words are met with silence speculation. Nervously, she glances at Mordane who is eying her with a mix of bemusement and irritation. I wouldn’t lie, Alayne insists. Then, unless you’d rather ask the Lord himself.
The cook laughs, though the valet frowns.
The least you can do is make yourself presentable. Change your smock and hide that hair of yours, girl. Mordane waves her thick fingers at Alayne, shooing her as if she were a fly on a lemoncake. Then, off with you. The lord shouldn’t be kept waiting.
Alayne does as she’s told.