Ghost Circles is the seventh book of the Bone series and the beginning of the Harvest trilogy. It was first published in black and white on September 3, 2001 by Cartoon Books. On January 21, 2008 Scholastic the book in colour (by Steve Hamaker) in Trade Paperback and Hardcover. It contains issues 38-43 of Bone.
The Bones, Gran'ma Ben, Thorn and an old friend Bartleby venture on a journey through the mysterious ghost circles towards Atheia, the old city of the royal family. Running through waves of destruction, Thorn is hunted down even more than before, and the race aganist time to prevent the Valley from forever becoming a netherworld of ash begins. Meanwhile, an injured Lucius and the villagers work to return to Atheia and reunite with their allies.
Jonathan is lying in Old Man's Cave's infirmary after he was wounded in a fight with Rat Creatures. Ted comes to visit him. Jonathan expresses his worries that Lucius might be a traitor because of what he saw while scouting in the fight he was wounded in. He says he saw him in the arms of the Hooded One, just watching the battle. Ted assures him that Lucius would not be angry with him. Jonathan appears at peace, so Ted leaves, wishing Jonathan a quick recovery. However, Jonathan dies shortly afterwards.
Wendell stands in the camp infirmary over a dead Jonathan when he is summoned to the main gate by the headmaster. The messenger tells him that the earth tremors, and the end may be coming. The headmaster wants to know where Lucius, Rose, Thorn, and the Bones are, and he has sent for Wendell because he was Lucius' best friend. Wendell says he thought Lucius was one of the Disciples of Venu, but the headmaster explains that Lucius felt the order's oath of loyalty conflicted with his duties, which was to protect the royal family, and that he was passionately loyal to the two princesses. The headmaster states that Lucius and Rose's disappearance would have been linked to Phoney Bone. Wendell agrees, and says that this whole thing is Phoney Bone's fault. But, the headmaster believes the army had not gathered for "one of the ridiculous Bones". According to him, the enemy is after the royal family, and if they fell into the wrong hands, it would be disastrous. Wendell does not believe Lucius would do such a thing.
At that moment, the mountain in which the Lord of the Locusts was contained explodes. The monks move quickly to try and turn back the attacking Pawans and Rat Creatures. The headmaster tells Wendell to lead his people, but the tinsmith just stares as the sounds of battle ring out below.
On the exploding mountain are the Bones, Thorn, and Rose, who are trying to escape the collapsing mountain. A statue nearly hits Fone Bone, who remembers the tunnel that led to the Rat Creature Temple. They head back up the mountain for the tunnel, but Kingdok chases them, trying to kill them. Gran'ma Ben throws a statue at Kingdok, slowing him down just enough for the group to duck into the tunnel. Kingdok tries to get in, but Rose blocks the entrance with some boulders until they start running inside. Kingdok digs, but his attention is grabbed by the top of the mountain flaming and erupting like a volcano.
Meanwhile, at Old Man's Cave, the fight continues. The headmaster is told that there is an attack on the southern arch. However, upon seeing the mountain explode, the messenger says that the time is come. The headmaster replies:
"Great darkness falls across our generation.
May we be equal to the burden."
The attack on the southern arch no longer matters. The warriors all stare at the mountain.
Back on the ritual site, the Locust resurrects Briar. Briar believes her master is free at last, but it has not happened. She begs forgiveness. The Locust assigns Briar a new task: to seek out their missing powers and return them. Briar gathers the locusts that form her body, and gets up to carry out her task, stating that "it looks as if we are needed after all".
In the tunnel, the hallucinations start. Phoney and Fone Bone now appear as Captain Ahab and Ishmael from the Moby Dick dream. Fone Bone thinks that they are breathing some kind of underground gas, but Smiley knows it is the power of the dreaming. Further ahead, Thorn has collapsed, and Gran'ma Ben says it is because of the locusts trying to get to her Dreaming Eye. Fortunately, they don't get to it. Gran'ma Ben ends up telling Thorn that Briar's Dreaming Eye was blind, but Thorn says that not only was it never blind, but that it was still open.
After getting over the hallucinations, Phoney finds the exit to the temple, and the others all follow. Phoney first notices the ash, but it is Gran'ma Ben who sees that the valley is gone. Thorn reveals that the ghost circles unwittingly released by Briar caused the destruction. Some of the destruction is real, but others are illusions. Thanks to Thorn tearing off a piece of the Locust, she is now able to see the ghost circles and potentially undo the devastation. Thorn tells everyone to follow her footsteps exactly, or they will cease to exist.
The little caravan of Bones and Harvestars continue through the ashy land. Phoney complains about having to climb over every tree in their way, although he is being carried by Smiley because his Captain Ahab peg leg makes it hard for him to walk. Fone Bone answers for the millionth time that they have to follow Thorn exactly and they cannot step in a ghost circle. When Phoney demands to know what ghost circles are, Smiley explains that they are invisible bubbles filled with supernatural evil. Phoney is reluctant to believe this, but Fone Bone says that he is going to trust Gran'ma Ben and Thorn. This leads to Phoney retorting that Fone Bone is letting the "Dreaming Hooey" get to him. Smiley is able to temporarily break up the fight, but the two contestants stick their tongues out at each other.
The fight resumes when Phoney complains he is tired. Fone Bone angrily points out he is being carried and implies that it is all Phoney's fault. Phoney replies that it is Fone Bone's fault that everyone is like this, he is Captain Ahab, Fone Bone is who is stopping them from getting home and helping people, adding that Fone Bone might be just throwing his cousins off for a girl and that next, Smiley will be a beached white whalae flopping around on the ashes. He forces Fone Bone into a promise that next time they see an opportunity to escape, they take it. Besides, says Phoney, "crazy old Gran'ma Ben" had kept secrets from everybody, like the Hooded One being her own sister.
In the front, Gran'ma Ben stops under a log, believing this is where she left Lucius behind. Thorn comforts her and tells her that everything behind the rocks ahead of them is an illusion. She says that if Lucius were in the blast, he would have been killed, but if he was in a ghost circle, there is hope that he can be saved. Thorn steps into the ghost circle with the Bones as onlookers. She doesn't see anything, but then she starts yelling and clutching her arm. Fone Bone dashes up to her and grabs her, and for a few seconds, sees forest all around. When Gran'ma Ben learns about the trees, she is relieved because the place where she left Lucius had no trees. Thorn also says that there is a clean spring over the ridge where they can rest.
Later at the camp, everyone is asleep except for Smiley and Fone Bone. Smiley feels slightly homesick, but implies that Fone Bone might not be because of Thorn. Smiley also wants to know whether Fone Bone is really going to keep Phoney's promise, and Fone Bone replies that he is not sure. Smiley says that he hopes that it isn't about the possibility of him turning into Moby Dick. He adds that Phoney isn't always right, so they shouldn't always follow him. Fone Bone agrees, but says that this time he might be onto something. Fone Bone then expresses doubt in the actuality of the dreaming and goes to sleep.
His dream that night is a continuation of his original Moby Dick dream. He is still floating on the casket, but it is starting to sink. Fone Bone and the casket go under, and he notes how quiet it is underwater. He sees a large something, which grows and reveals itself as the Great Red Dragon's face. Fone Bone thinks he is saved, but he is not noticed and gets swallowed. Fone Bone drifts down to a bright light, remarks on why he had to be swallowed, and his dream-self disappears in the light. The light flashes once, and the dream ends.
Fone Bone wakes up after his dream. He looks around and finds Smiley and Phoney taking a bath in the spring. When Phoney got up, he found he was no longer dressed as Captain Ahab, and Fone Bone now sees he is not dressed as Ishmael anymore. Fone Bone believes that this might have something to do with getting swallowed by the Great Red Dragon, but Phoney just says he is psycho.
Fone Bone sees Thorn with her hood on, trying to see beyond the edge of the volcano's destruction and what the situation is at Old Man's Cave, while Gran'ma Ben is trying to listen for signs of life. So far, both are having no success. Thorn reveals that the ghost circles are spreading. Phoney mocks this, and says that they are part of something evil, but Thorn explains that they are part of the dreaming, just from somewhere where there is no shape or form, only void and nothingness. Because the Hooded One botched the ritual, only part of the void escaped. This is fortunate because if the ceremony had been successful, Thorn would be the Lord of the Locusts and the valley would be a ghostly netherworld. Thorn feels that the only thing holding the circles in place is the small piece of Locust still in her, so Gran'ma Ben wants to go to Atheia to find some friends who can help. But, Thorn is worried about the villagers still at Old Man's Cave. Thorn also reveals that the dragons have left the valley and gone underground to dream. Fone Bone is stunned by this news and wants them woken up. Phoney states that they should stop worrying about the dragons and be more self-sufficient like him (although everyone glances at him angrily).
Gran'ma Ben has detected a large group moving on the other side of the ridge. Everyone climbs to the top and see a large group of Rat Creatures moving their way. Gran'ma says now that the route to the north is blocked, their only chance is to get to Atheia. Phoney agrees, but for different reasons. He confides to Smiley that if they play their cards right, they can return to Boneville rich. Meanwhile, Fone Bone wants to know how the Rat Creatures found them. He says that it cannot be a coincidence that they came so close. Gran'ma Ben tells everyone to start moving, but while they were talking, the Rat Creatures came around to meet with them face to face. Gran'ma tackles one of them and leads the group downhill, but they are seperated, Gran'ma with Phoney and Smiley, and Fone Bone with Thorn.
Gran'ma Ben somersaults down the hill, the Rat Creatures in pursuit, when they realize that Thorn is missing. At this point, they have also been surrounded. Rose prepares to punch through their weakest ranks, but Smiley stops her, because he has seen a familiar face among the Rat Creatures.
Meanwhile, Thorn and Fone Bone have been forced onto a cliff. They keep back the Rat Creatures, but Briar orders them to stop. Thorn threatens to kiill her, but Briar replies that she is already dead and her sword can do little damage. Swinging her flashing scythe into a striking position, she adds that her scythe is a true blade. She slashes down on the cliff, breaking it apart and sending its two occupants down the hill. She approaches Thorn. The Hooded One reveals that Thorn did not actually steal the Locust's power, but that he gave it to her. Now, Thorn is like Briar in that she is a shadow of her master, cast into this world. But there is a difference, and it is that she is a living Veni-Yan-Cari. Still, two are required to carry out the ritual, and she asks Thorn to come with her. Thorn refuses. Briar goads her, saying that she wants to restore the valley and she can, if she comes with her. Thorn replies that she knows that it was Briar who led her parents to the Rat Creatures so she could kill them. But, says Briar, it was her parents that killed her. She says she betrayed them because everyone treated her like an old nursemaid. But when Thorn's mother realized Briar was kidnapping her for the ritual, Thorn's father cut her in half with the scythe she uses. The Locust forces Thorn's hand up to Briar's so she can join with the Hooded One, but Briar is knocked back by a rock thrown by Fone Bone. Fone Bone challenges her to a fight, but hesitates when the Hooded One tells him that there is a piece of the Locust inside him as well. Now that she no longer needs Thorn, she raises her scythe to kill her.
However, she is stopped by Smiley, who is riding his old friend Bartleby. They tackle her and go back to carry Thorn. Gran'ma Ben tears down the hillside with Phoney tucked under her arm like a football, while Rat Creatures continue their pursuit of them. The group is together again, but still chased by their enemies.
Snap! Crackle! Pop!
Bartleby leads the way running away from the Rat Creatures. Thorn is having difficulties steering them through the ghost circles, so she tells Bartleby to slow down. Phoney, on the other hand, is in the back, so when the Rat Creatures come over the ridge, he screams at Gran'ma Ben to speed up. The chase ends when the Rat Creatures run into a massive field of ghost circles. The travelers continue walking more quietly than before. When everyone stops to rest, Gran'ma Ben leans against a tree stump and remarks at the state of the world now that Briar is alive and everyone but themselves are dead.
Back at Old Man's Cave, many soldiers and villagers are dead. Wendell is gathering dropped swords when two villagers run up to him with Lucius, injured but alive, on a stretcher. One villager explains that although they were able to find him in Conkle's Hollow, he had no idea why he did. The real reason is that Ted the Bug told him where to go. Lucius wakes up and the first thing he asks is about Jonathan. When he realizes Jonathan is dead, Lucius shouts in frustration, which attracts the attention of the headmaster. Lucius is briefly interrogated about Rose and Thorn's whereabouts. Lucius does not know, and the headmaster explains by saying that they were heading toward the mountain that realeased the Locust. Lucius objects, stating that if the Locust were truly free, they would not be alive. He says that Thorn and Gran'ma Ben were probably heading to Atheia. The headmaster replies that they would not make it because the ancient capital went dark years before and there was nothing left. Lucius believes that Gran'ma Ben will try to reunite the Atheians against the enemy, and they should go there too. The headmaster disagrees and insists that the end times were upon them and that the Veni-Yan must protect their way of life. He orders Lucius sent to the infirmary and a guard to place around him, declaring that Lucius is a traitor to the queen.
In the ash-covered wasteland, the Bones notice that the land is all flat. Thorn tells everone to stop because there are more ghost circles approaching from the south. While the two women discuss possibilities for the southern system, Phoney gets into another fight with Fone Bone. Phoney Bone still doesn't believe the world is ending, and says that once they get to Atheia, everything will be alright. Fone Bone takes Phoney's wording that he is up to something again. Phoney lies and tries to blame Fone Bone for their troubles. The fight is again momentarily disrupted by Smiley, who is fooling around with static electricity. Phoney explains that the Rat Creatures want Fone Bone: not Phoney, Smiley, Gran'ma Ben, not even Thorn anymore, but just Fone Bone.
At this point, Gran'ma Ben and Thorn have plotted a path. Thorn leads everyone to the east, and Smiley tries to keep everyone confident as they continue on their way.
Meanwhile, Kingdok emerges from the ruins of the mountain.
The Root Cellar
During their walk to Atheia Bartleby tells Fone Bone that Smiley has collasped from hunger, knowing they would suffer the same fate, Phoney asks Thorn to enter a ghost circle to find food since anything that wasn't inside a ghost circle was destroyed. Fone Bone insists that he and Thorn go in while holding hands so she doesn't take all the risk. Gran'ma Ben doesn't want to risk going into a ghost circle, believing that their quest for food would give away their position to the enemy, as what happened before, but Fone Bone cares less about the war and that survival was more important. While inside the ghost circle they travel to the farm house in Pawa and takes apples and cabbages for the others. As the two start to leave Thorn hears strange voices, that not even Fone Bone hears the voices send Thorn a message from her dead mother saying seek the crown of horns. The voices tells Thorn Briar isn't far from her grasp and tell Thorn to take the piece of locusts from Fone Bone. Thorn instructs Fone Bone to hold her other hand as they exit the ghost circle which transfers, Fone Bone's piece of locust to Thorn. Meanwhile, at Old Man's Cave Wendell visits Lucius who is still being held for being a traitor. Wendell discusses the situation and wonders if Lucius being in the arms of the Hooded One has any connections to what had happened back when he was a royal guard. Lucius admits there was a connection and that The hooded one was actually Briar harvestar, Rose's sister, but he wasn't always aware. Wendell expresses that he is tired of the war and that ever since the ghost circles appeared, people like Euclid have entered into ghost circles. Lucius then bids Lucius to gather the remaining villagers and leave for Athea.
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This book contains issues 38-43.