“That was a naughty thing you did to Wort and Thistle,” Willow said, deftly pulling mint leaves from their stems. “They were scared half to death.” She dropped the leaves in the small bowl in Rose’s paws.
“They deserved it,” the young rabbit said defiantly.
“I’m sure they did,” she said. “But using what they fear against them. I wouldn’t have expected that of you.”
Rose’s ears sagged with shame. She could still hear the kits teasing her. Talk to the trees, Rose, they taunted. I’ll bet that ugly stump over there is where you were born!
And then it happened. The faint tendrils of light she could sometimes see threading through the roots and leaves around her flared bright and clear like the highsun streaming through the trees. She bent her will against that web, drawing it tighter and tighter around the rabbits as they yelled and begged. It took the better part of the afternoon to untangle them from the dense knot of thickets. Rose ran, pursued both by the fear and thrill of what she had done until she reached Willow’s burrow.
“You can grind those now,” Willow said. Rose picked up a worn wooden pestle from the table and slowly pressed them against the leaves in the bowl. The bright fragrance sprang to her nose, at once calming and invigorating.
“What if I am what Alder says,” Rose asked. “A tangleroot?”
“So what if you are?”
“He said they used to be the most respected rabbits in all of Oakheart,” she said. “That means Wort and Thistle should respect me too.”
“You can give them a reason to respect you or make them fear you,” Willow said. “You can’t have both. ” She walked over to the hearth and hung a small pot of water over the fire.
Rose finished grinding the mint and placed the bowl on the table. “How do I make them respect me?”
“You earn it,” Willow said. “By mastering this gift you’ve been given.”
“I don’t know how,” Rose said.
Willow turned to her shelves and pulled down a bowl of dried stems, leaves and roots and put them on the table.
“What do you see here?”
“I don’t know,” Rose said, looking at the shriveled remnants. “They’re just leftovers. What are they for?”
“You don’t know, but I do,” Willow said. “In the same way, you don’t know what you are for. And one day you shall.” She scooped the stems of mint from the table, placed them in the bowl, and dropped everything into the pot of water.
“Others will not see your use unless you become something more than you seem. Everything has a purpose if you take the time to learn what it is.”
Soon a strange, sweet smell began to curl from the pot. Forgotten and unused, the remains of what Rose would have discarded became something surprising and wonderful. Suddenly, for the first time, she found herself curious, even eager, to know what it might be.