Rabb is the only child of the town miller and his baker wife. At harvest time farmers bring their corn, wheat, oats and rye to the miller. In exchange for the grinding her father receives a portion of the meal and flour. Some of it he sells to the townsfolk. The rest his wife bakes into various breads and cakes to sell in the market. The family lives in a small hut on the edge of town. On fair days they bake in the outdoor ovens. On foul days they bake on the open hearth in the hut. Always something of a recluse, Rabb has been happy to help her parents in their work. When urged to go out and spend time with children her own age she has usually chosen to take a walk in the fields and farmlands. She has come to love the open fields and meadows that surround her home. She uses her sling to bring home grouse, rabbit and other small game for the family table.
It is during one of these walks that she encounters a traveling menagerie. Tiger cubs have just been born and the owner is about to drown the small sickly mewing runt of the litter in a bucket of water. Rabb musters up enough courage to beg for the life of the cub and to her great joy is awarded the cub. It's a tiny thing and barely alive but she nurses it to health with warm mush and bits of chopped rabbit and other game.
To say that Rabb was disappointed when her name was drawn to retrieve the flame is an understatement. She has no desire to leave her home and family to set out on a quest with near strangers. A child of the open fields and farmlands, forest and mountain frighten her. While she likes being outside during the daytime, her old granny has told her too many frightening stories about what happens to little girls who wander in the woods to allow her to be at ease sleeping in a tent. Nevertheless, her parents are overjoyed at the honor bestowed upon their little girl and hope that this experience will encourage her to face the big wide world.
Rabb has a secret. Something known only to her. For a while she thought her mother knew the secret, but it was only her concern for Rabb's shyness that made her watch Rabb so closely. It's not a bad secret, just a very unusual one. She can read!
Her soft-hearted parents have taken some unusual items for payment and a starving person has no need for a book. There is no place in town to sell a book. No readers. No library. It is likely that the 3 books which came into their were stolen to begin with. Hidden away at the bottom of a chest. The thief having no clue to the value of what he'd plundered. Her parents had no use for the books either, but any payment is better than nothing. Rabb cautiously secreted them away and studied them. One was an illustrated collection of plants of the world. The second a hand written collection of recipes for potions and healing brews with carefully drawn pictures. The last, a geography with maps and places which must surely be fables.
Late at night by the light of the glowing fire, she studied them. For hours she looked at the pictures, puzzled over the words on the pages that looked like mouse tracks in the dust of the field. She began to hide one in the folds of her skirt when she left to walk the fields. Slowly the pattern and repetition of the letters and words began to make sense to her until finally, she'd taught herself to read!