A/N: Like everything else that I've written recently, this story is credited to the Writing Junkie Forum. It was given to me in a challenge by MidnightNimh. And, well, I have nothing else to say for this. Enjoy?
The Wartooth house is not a fancy one. In fact, it is of such sub-par standards that many people do not even consider it to be a house - instead claiming it be a run down shack, not fit for human habitation. Several of the more vocal people in Lillehammer, and there aren't many of these, will even go so far as to say it isn't for animal inhabitance.
Yet, for a reason that no one in town can figure out, it is remarkably clean.
Only the more honoured members of the Reverand's church have ever been inside his not-so-humble abode and they have all left shocked. From the brass rods that the heavy olive colored curtains hang from down to the small stack of wood that sits by the open fireplace, it is spotless. There is no dust. There is no grime. There are no ashes in the obviously well-used fireplace. There are no cobwebs in the corners of the cielings.
It's almost abnormal how clean that house looks. Yet the villagers still detest going inside of it. Simply because a house that old and worn down on the outside, and more than a little out of date on the inside, shouldn't be so clean. And a house as clean as that one is shouldn't give off such a spine-chilling vibe.
So they go in.
The women of Lillehammer pick up what they need to from Anja. The men collect their prayer sheets from Aslaug.
And they wonder, time and time again, how two people of that age can keep a house that clean.
Dinner is a silent affair. It is always a silent affair. Just like everything else that is done in the Wartooth house - because speaking out loud is a sin and Aslaug and Anja are not sinners. So they sit at the table Aslaug made when he was just a boy and eat their meal in silence.
When their plates are cleaned and the bread and cheese has all been eaten, they both rise. Collect their heaviest wool robes. Anja puts on her pure white scarf, which stands out against the darkness of her robe like nothing else, and she slips outside into the falling snow.
Aslaug moves to follow her then stops in the doorway. He turns a pair of stoney blue eyes to the rickety staircase and frowns at the small, thin shape that stands in the shadows of the overhang there.
He says nothing. Toki hears every word that he doesn't say.
By the time Aslaug and Anja return from church, the Wartooth residence is to be spotless.
The moon is high in the sky by the time that Toki reaches the final chore on his list.
The floors have all been swept and scrubbed. Dishes from dinner are all washed and the silver has been polished to a shine. All of the rugs have been beaten and the curtains brushed off. Even the stack of legs that sit just inside of the front door has been replenshed.
And now all that Toki must do is sweep the snow off of the non-existant walk in front of his families home - but it is a hard task to do when the snow just keeps falling, coming down in a white haze that blinds him when compared to the starless night sky.
But the blisters on his hands which never quite heal have popped open; the young Wartooth child can feel the blood run down his hands.
But the splinters that are pierced deep in skin, of both arm and feet and hands, have begun to throb.
But he is so very hungry, having eaten nothing since the morning before. And that was the stale heels of bread that neither parent wanted.
The chill that comes with a winter night spent in Norway has long since invaded his skin. It seeps through the thin tee-shirt that Toki wears, numbing the bruised and battered skin that lays beneath. Snow settles heavily on his shoulders. In his hair. Breath comes out in a thick cloud.
Toki cannot stop shaking.
Yet he keeps sweeping the snow from in front of him. Because Aslaug Wartooth demands that the house be clean upon his return each night. Toki is afraid of what will happen if it is not.
When Toki awakes, it is to a bucket of ice like water being dumped onto his prone form. He is laying in the snow just outside of his house, the broom digging into his stomach, skin so cold that it hurts.
Aslaug stands over him. He stares, blue-black eyes boring holes into the terriffied ones of his son. Anja stands several feet behind, face as still as that of a carved statue.
"Fath-" Toki is cut off by a sharp slap to the face. Immidiatly, he can feel the blue-tinged skin of his cheek begin to swell and bruise.
Aslaug merely stares.
Toki says nothing more - because speaking is a sin, and he had almost forgotten that. Instead he bows his head at the much taller man, knotted brown hair falling in front of his face. No tears come to his eyes, though, because he has no more tears left to shed.
For a moment all the Reverand does is stare at his son. Then he raises one gnarled hand and points a shaking finger in the direction of the large wood pile that rests just on the border of the forest.
Toki's stomach drops. He pushes himself onto shaking legs anyway and starts shuffling towards, not the pile of wood that he has spent months building up, but the cold cellar that has been dug into the snow-covered ground beside it. Aslaug follows him over.
When the older Wartooth holds out a hand, Toki strips off his snow-wet shirt and give it to him. When the cellar door is pulled open, he climbs in. And when it is closed behind him, locking him into a damp and freezing cavern, Toki considers himself lucky that his father was in a forgiving mood.
It is abnormal, the people of Lillehammer murmur to themselves, how the Wartooth house stays as clean as it does. With the two elderly people who live inside of it, both prominant members of the Norwegian town's community, one would expect it to be in a state of complete disrepair.
Not a soul in the small town just an hour's walk from the Wartooth home remembers the boy that was born to Aslaug and Anja twelve years ago. And not a soul would question the great Reverand about it even if they did.