Willow pulled the book out from the back of the old bookcase. The ongoing rainstorm meant she’d spent today inside instead of finishing up the work in the garden. The old library, with its treasure trove of books, had practically demanded she spend some time going through its shelves.

Holding the book, she dropped into the closest of the three overstuffed leather chairs scattered around the room. Willow stared at the embossed crest on the cover of the book. The shield was outlined in gold leaf and divided diagonally with the top left red and the bottom right filled in with black leather. A plant she didn’t recognize was centered on the shield, its branches covering most of the area. Around the outside edge, again in gold leaf were words she assumed were Latin: Antiqua et Fidelia in Aeternum. Willow ran her hands lightly over the cover, marveling at the smoothness of the leather.

“Whatcha got there?” Two little hand-like paws landed on her knee as Rocky pulled himself up to peer at the book.

“I’m not sure. I was going through the first bookshelf and found it. You wouldn’t happen to know what or who the crest is for, would you?” she asked the big racoon. She tilted the book so he could see it clearly.

“Ancient and loyal forever,” he murmured. “No, I don’t recognize it.”

“Is that what it says? Is that Latin?” Willow asked.

Rocky tilted his head at her. “How is it you don’t know basic Latin?” he asked.

Willow stared at him. “How is it that you do know basic Latin?”

Rocky let go of her knee and climbed up onto the arm of the chair. “I mean, you bought this house. You can talk to me. You…” he trailed off.

“I what?”

The racoon shook his head. “Never mind. Yes, that’s what it means. And I think the book is from the house.”

“Of course it’s from the house. I found it here, didn’t I?” Willow was perplexed. It was clear Rocky thought she knew more than she did. The question was what did he think she was supposed to know? She sighed quietly. Ever since she’d bought this house life had been weird. Not necessarily bad weird. But weird.

Rocky stared at her. “No, I meant, from the house… never mind.”

“Okay. Whatever. I’m gonna see what this book is.” Willow stood up and carried the book over to the giant oak desk that dominated the back wall under the windows. Standing in front of the desk, she turned on the desk lamp, and carefully set the book down. As she did so, the old book fell open on the desk, revealing words that seemed all too fitting:

The caretaker and her companion shall discover the need and find the answer.

Willow glanced at Rocky who’d clambered onto the desk. “What the hell does that mean? What need? What answer?” she asked.

The racoon shrugged. “Not sure, but I think the house is trying to tell us something.”

“What do you mean ‘us?’ The house? What? How do you know that’s directed at us?” Willow felt panic rising in her throat.

Rocky reached out and gave her hand a little pat. “You bought this house, didn’t you? So you’re obviously the caretaker. And I’m your companion.” He sat on his back legs and crossed his arms, staring at her.

“Well, yeah, obviously I bought the house. On a spur of the moment decision. But caretaker? That’s usually a term for somebody who takes care of a house or its grounds or something like that,” Willow said.

Rocky nodded. “Exactly.”

A long roll of thunder, and a sudden hard rain rattled the windows and Willow’s head jerked up. She stared out at the downpour, closed her eyes, and took several deep breaths to calm her racing heart.

“Okay. Let’s take this book and the conversation into the kitchen. I want bright lights, and I’m going to make some tea,” Willow said. She closed the book and picked it up.

Rocky jumped off the desk and dashed ahead of her to the hallway. “Can I get some of that snack mix with the pretzels and little garlic crackers?” he asked over his shoulder as he scampered toward the kitchen.

“Sure,” Willow said. “After all, my ‘companion’ needs his snacks.” She stepped into the kitchen and put the book on the table in the center of the room. It fell open again to the same page.

Rocky glanced over at the book. “Guess we’re supposed to start there,” he said.

Willow suppressed a nervous shudder and quickly stepped over to the pantry to get the snack mix and the tea. Whatever the book was, she needed food and drink to deal with it.


This week’s MOTE challenge came from ‘nother Mike: The old book fell open on the table, revealing words that seemed all too fitting. It just struck me as something that would work for Willow and Rocky. If you want more inspiration, head on over to MOTE and check out everybody’s responses.

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