How Not to Peel Potatoes (from chapter 4)

(I wanted to put up an excerpt of Adren doing something awesome… but all those moments had major spoilers in them. Thus, potatoes.)

“Saints!” Adren swore when she nicked her finger for the fifth or sixth time. This was the first she had ever peeled potatoes and she kept giving the knife too much force, as well as putting her fingers in the way. The kitchen hands stared at her for a moment, then returned to their work. She did not see why the potatoes had to be peeled; she always roasted them in their skins and they tasted fine.

“Don’t hold it like that,” said the cook once he had a chance to check on her. “You’re asking for yourself to be cut.”

“I’ll drop it.” She sliced off another strip and only missed her fingers by a hair’s breadth. The cook winced, then chuckled.

“If you keep trying to attack it, yes. It’s a potato, not a dragon. You’re not going to die if you treat it more gently.” Adren glared at him and changed her grip long enough for him to get absorbed in seasoning the meat. If he insisted that she peel the potatoes, she would keep doing it her way. At least, that way, she would be able to keep human interference out of one thing.

During lunch, she had not had a chance to speak with Retel and Jeem, as Klar had kept them busy until even the servants who had waited on the lord and lady had finished eating. By that point, Adren had started helping to wash dishes and did not have a chance to speak to them before they finished their lunch and returned to work.

That had been nearly unbearable, washing the dishes. It was not because of the work itself, but rather the sounds surrounding it. She had not been the only one in the room, and dishwashing required little brainpower, so most of the kitchen help kept up loud conversations all around the room. Whenever someone had to pump some water into a sink, everyone’s voices only grew louder. There was one man with such a deep, reverberating guffaw that Adren could swear that it rattled her bones every time someone told a joke, which always seemed to happen right when they had to pump more water. As if all of that was not bad enough, none of them seemed to know how to stack dishes without hitting them against each other. Every once in a while, someone would try to get Adren to join in a conversation and all she could think of at those moments was the shopkeep with the armbands and how much she had wanted to hurt that woman. She would refuse as icily as possible each time, hoping that it would be the last, dreading what she would have to do next.

Once the dishes were all clean, however, the cook had discovered that someone had been remiss in their duties and they were out of potatoes, so he had sent her to buy them. This purchase seemed unnecessary to her, as the cook could easily make something else, but found out that the lord had, apparently, specially requested potatoes that night. Since this errand got her out of the kitchen and away from the inane chatter, she had decided not to press the matter. She had used that opportunity to try finding at least one of the two maids, but she had found both of them scrubbing the floor of one of the ballrooms, under Klar’s watchful eye, and had had to leave without speaking to them. Adren had then proceeded to get lost both to and from buying the potatoes, coming back just as the cook had started to panic, and he then had put her and a couple others on peeling duty. So, there she was, struggling over a handful of potatoes, while the others each had a large pile of peelings, and without any information that might help her to decide whether the attic really held the sealskin. That and she had been rendered unable to search the attic herself by these blasted root tumours and the lord’s idiotic aversion to their natural state. She took off a large section of the top of the potato and nicked her finger again.

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