A flickering blue flame danced around the tips of her slender fingers, casting jumping shadows on the dim attic's walls.
Sitting on the locked trap door, keeping her in and keeping intruders like her parents out, Finri imagined setting the sentient fire free, just to see what would happen.
Would a burning inferno engulf the dusty antiquities around her? Would it manage to level their brick house? Maybe it would spread to their neighbors houses and destroy the whole neighborhood.
It was an exciting thought, lighting up Finri's light brown, almost golden, eyes.
What would they do? It would leave them no choice but to punish her. She smiled impishly and focused on the blue flame on her fingertip.
The young girl closed her eyes and held an image of her wish before her inner eye. After a few seconds and with a small Plop!, a second light joined the first.
It was a good start, but Finri wanted more, needed more. Plop! Plop! Plop! the eery sound filled the air.
She could feel beads of sweet running down her temple, tracing her jawline and dripping from her chin.
As the strain grew unbearable, Finri flicked open her eyes and took in the scene playing in the well-lit attic.
Blue flames, her little wisps, swirled around her, bumping into missplaced antiquities where they left smoldering traces.
"What by the ancients are you doing kid?", a stern voice interrupted Finri's concentration.
In the blink of an eye the dancing wisps were gone and the girl was once again alone, sitting in a circle of blackened floorboards. Almost alone. "Hey granny."
"You goshdarn brat! You know you shouldn't play with fire, especially not ghost fire. You could've killed us all!"
The old woman was sitting in her rocking chair by the barred window, her claws digging into the oak wood.
The chilling glare she fixed the girl with made her look years younger, at an age where she would still be able to get up and tan Finri's pale hide.
Finri tried to avoid her grandmother's impaling eyes. "I won't do it again..." The old hag cackled spitefully, a sound that scratched mercilessly on the inside of the girl's skull.
"Of course you'll do it again! I've known people like you, people with the Talent. I know I won't be able to stop you forever.
But next time you better make sure you burn me first or I'll come get you!
Just because they", she yelled, "are too scared to do anything about you, doesn't mean I won't smack you from left to right and thrice back again!"
Spittle flew through the air, some of the drops evaporating on the still warm embers of an old painting that had laid too close to the sulking girl.
The old woman's angry outburst slowly subsided until it was no more than a distracting rumbling in Finri's ears.
"Waking me up for such trifles! When I was young, children still had respect towards their elders... Disturbing their rest...", she ended her grumbling.
The hag fixed the girl with another grimm look and raised her voice anew: "Shouldn't you be helping my daughter with dinner anyway?
Where did me raising her go wrong for her to let you skip around wherever you want, lolligagging and wasting time? Now go already!! What a terrible good-for-nothing. And that mess of a husband...", was the last thing Finri heard as she closed the trapdoor above her.
The young girl climbed down the creaking stairs and made her way to the kitchen.
As she stood in the door frame, she saw her mother bustling around, preparing a honeyed stew with carrots and a side of colorful noodles. "Hey Sarah."
Sarah, her busy mother, looked up from the cutting board on which she sliced a twisting carrot in equally-sized bits.
"Oh, sweetheart, what are you doing down here already? Dinner won't be ready for another half hour." Finri's eyes followed the knifes movements as her mother put it down and turned towards her.
"Gran is upstairs. She told me to help you out", the young girl explained. Sarah forced a smile. "Oh that's wonderful. That grandma is upstairs I mean.
You are such a lucky girl to have the Talent. I wish I could still talk to her too..." Finri knew that was a lie.
When her grandmother was in a good mood, which meant less evil stares and a bit more cackling than usual, she liked to talk about her youth,
about the village's men lining up before her door just to catch a glimpse of her when she sent them away, and how her ungrateful brat destroyed it all.
And in her mother's eyes Finri could see that the feeling was mutual. Both of them were glad that the old hag was dead.
The witch even enjoyed certain benefits of being 'less alive than others' (since she strongly disliked the term 'dead').
Having to put up with young Finri, the only person that could see her, was, as she put it, a lesser evil that she was happy to endure.
This way she still had an audience when she went on a rampage of complaints. "No, she just keeps on bitching!" Sarah flinched. "Honey, please, your tongue."
"What?! I can't use the word 'bitching'?" Her mother looked visibly uncomfortable, put in a position that she avoided whenever she could.
"No, I mean, if that's the word you wanna use, go ahead. I just...", she hesitated. "No, it's nothing, go ahead, sweetie."
Again Sarah put up her forced smile that went no higher than the edges of her mouth, with nervousness taking hold of her eyes. A knot twisted deep down in Finri's stomach.
This behavior was exactly why the young girl preferred to spend time with ghosts. They didn't care about what they said and who they hurt. The dead didn't lie.
Well, some did, just for the fun of it, like old Garth, the racist giant that had had his store a few blocks away, who insisted on the Lebanese restaurant across the street using slow cats to stuff their dishes, just so young Finri would not eat with 'these filthy immigrants'.
But to the young girl, most ghosts were really nice and agreeable for two reasons. Firstly, they were freed from the burdens they had been carrying around all their lives.
And secondly, Finri had what people called the Talent. She was born with the gift to interact with ghosts, making her one of the Grave Keepers.
Unlike what the common people thought, Grave Keepers didn't exist just to put the dead into the ground where they would rot and decay. No, Finri was also a keeper of history.
It was her duty to learn from humanity's past, to make sure terrible mistakes weren't commited again and to protect mankind from itself.
And with that weight on her shoulder, Finri believed she could feel the Grave Keeper's typical hunchback slowly setting in.