The knife buried itself into the lord’s head up to the hilt, and the man screamed with the pain of each thrust.
“Do you see him?”
Andra could only nod. The specter hovered a foot off the ground, its arm stretching down as it pulled the dagger out again, then shoved it in, this time skewering the lord’s ear. He clutched at the pain there, and the ghostly knife slid out from palm and ear drum at once. Andra knew what came next, knew what she had to do. She hated it, but that didn’t matter. The ghost would go on stabbing until the lord fell over dead, then his ghost would find someone new to start stabbing or cutting or perhaps even beating. The cycle had to stop.
She moved forward, and put her hand out, the fingers pressed together, her palm facing the warm brick walls of the great room. Ignoring the lord and his pain, she stepped forward, another foot and it would begin. Her feet hesitated, slippers barely scrapping the floor. A second’s hesitation and then she remembered what she did, how she earned her keep.
The misty form felt hot on her skin, like opening the lid on a pot of boiling soup, but almost immediately the tingling in her flesh began. Pins and needles, she thought, like my hand’s fallen asleep, except that it hadn’t. Instead her magic was doing its job. The ghost looked at her, madness in its eyes. The old lord sinned greatly and with great pleasure. His ghost was much corrupted. She watched as the eyes, the flat black eyes of any ghost, flickered with some hidden knowledge. Their sins, she’d been taught, they reviewed their sins as each one fell away, but no one knew for sure.
The lord, the living one on the floor, stopped screaming to watch. She wondered what he thought of this, imagined it would change him, then knew better. It never changed any of the others, why him? The steamy vapor that was his father became a softer fog, cooler now. The fog thinned, dissipating. Cleansed of his sins his spirit went on to rest.
She was a purity. This was how she lived.
(I’m down the rabbit hole of writing with a young adult steampunk manuscript. While I’m out of the loop I’m posting excerpts instead of my usual short stories. The first: Andra and Chatham meet. Today, how Andra, the one with supernatural powers, purifies ghosts.)