Bouldergeist

Bouldergeist [Bowl-dar-geyst]  Plural: Bouldergeists.

Advanced spirit weapon consisting of an unstable and vengeful spirit imprisoned in a medium sized (maximum weight 200kg) shardstone boulder. Production of this siege breaking weapon was solely licensed to the Exploration Guild’s Spirit and Dark Arts weapons division. Banned since the siege of Portroy.

 

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You’re never too far from a scream in the City of Bones. And they’re rarely screams of delight or surprise. More often than not, they’re screams of terror.

After a while you learn how to identify the terror level of screams. On a scale of 1-10, the scream Aisling and I heard yesterday as we were leaving the Aerial Flora Museum, was a high eight.

The screams that rose up behind it were certainly high eights; some perhaps nines.

And when we saw the mob stampeding towards us along Museum Avenue, my heart sank. Aisling had wanted to leave the museum half an hour ago. But I’d insisted we stay on because I wanted to sample the museum’s famous green apple ice cream. I sighed. We’d have been home by now. Relaxing and unworried about mobs or screams.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention another thing about screams. As Ganhook’s employees, we were obliged to investigate them.

Worse still, the museum quarter was one of the safest areas in the city. The City Guard rarely patrolled here, and the only other guards around here were the museum security personnel who were too busy locking up and getting out of sight to bother about what was acutally causing the chaos.

‘I wonder what’s up?’ Aisling said, her eyes glinting with nervous excitement.

‘What?’ I replied, standing back as the mob surged past. Judging by their wild eyes and sweaty, panicked faces, half them probably didn’t even know what they were running from. They were running and screaming because everyone else was running and screaming.

A man, his shirt hanging off him in strips, bounded towards us, and bawled, ‘Bouldergeist! Run, children. Run!’

‘Bouldergeist.’ Aisling turned to me, her eyes widening. ‘Aren’t they banned?’

An enormous crash echoed off along Museum Avenue. Off in the distance I saw the entrance gate to the Museum of Shadows collapse in a great cloud of dust.

‘Boulder . . . what? I cried. I’d never heard of such a thing. I turned after the man to tell him we weren’t children, but he’d disappeared.

‘Banned spirit weapon,” Aisling yelled above the sound of the mob. ‘Designed for brute force operations, knocking down walls, or being lobbed into a castle where they’d ricochet about like pinballs, destroying and killing.’

‘Hide me!’ Shinytop cried. ‘I’ll be crushed to splinters.’

‘Oh, stop moaning,’ Aisling said, grabbing him and taking off towards the ruckus. I’d no choice but follow. We weaved our way through the thinning mob, past shattered walls, shattered trees, shattered wagons and food carts and no end of debris. Wounded lay everywhere, moaning and crying for help. We didn’t have time to stop. Besides, most looked more shocked than injured, and there wasn’t a drop of blood anywhere.

The crowd passed, leaving us exposed in the street. Up ahead, I saw something bounce across the street and decapitate one of the oak trees that lined the avenue. Then Aisling skidded to a halt inches from a jagged hole in the middle of the street, and I forgot about the bouncing thing.

It was obvious something had burst upwards because shattered cobblestones were scattered everywhere. Peering into the hole, I saw two twisted bodies lying in a basement surrounded by shattered barrels, boxes, bottles, spears, swords and rifles. Gold coins glittered amid the wreckage.

Directly beneath us was a metal cage, its roof jagged sheets of twisted and torn metal.

‘A bouldergeist cage,’ Stein Cat said. ‘I lost two lives to bouldergeists, and I’ll not lose another. Bye bye!’ He turned and bolted.

‘Wait! Stop!’ Shinytop cried. ‘Take me with you.’

Another tree crashed to the ground ahead of us. Then the bouncing thing ricocheted off a wall, demolished the statue of The Mortal Warrior, and rammed the wall of the Museum of Shadows so hard the ground trembled.

Every time it smashed against something, shards flew off the bouldergeist, making it smaller. Despite the temptation to let it destroy itself, instinct told me half of the Avenue would be demolished first. We couldn’t let that happen.

Abruptly, as if it was curious about us, the bouldergeist bounced to a halt about fifty feet away.

Aisling said, ‘It’s a self-propelling weapon, but only if it has things to bounce off.’ She gestured towards Rememberance Park, the expanse of lawns and flowerbeds that lined the northern section of Museum Avenue. The swathes of red and white tulips reminded me of seaside candy.

‘Their weakness is open spaces,’ Aisling continued. ‘They expend energy rolling about seeking something to smash into.’

Though I knew Aisling read a lot, her knowledge of spirit weapons surprised me. ‘So how do we lure it in there? It’s a rock.’

‘It’s also part human spirit. Maybe we can annoy it.’

Aisling tossed a rock. It shattered off the bouldergeist, sending a hail of lethal pebbles off in all directions. The boulder spun towards us. Briefly, I saw two eyes glaring at us from within the rock. Then the thing rolled to its right, rammed the kerb to get airborne, and came bouncing after us, the impact of each strike making the ground tremble.

We fled for the park.

‘Thanks for volunteering us as decoys?’ I panted.

Aisling sprinted past me. ‘I knew you wouldn’t mind.’

We sprinted into the park. And somehow, as we split in different directions, I just knew the thing was going to pick on me. Thud. Thud. Thud. The sound of it grew, filling my ears, and forcing me to sprint an Olympic record speed. I heard Aisling shouting, trying to distract the bouldergeist. I heard Shinytop, too, only he was shouting at Aisling to flee.

Gradually, the thudding faded to a whooshing and then the clumpy sound of something ploughing through earth.

‘You did it! You did it!’ Aisling cried.

Gasping, I tottered to a halt. The bouldergeist was still pursuing me, only now it was hauling itself across the lawns, leaving a trench in its wake and pushing an ever-growing mound of earth, sods and rocks before it. Finally, it rolled to a stop. The mound collapsed, half burying the thing. But all it could do now was twitch.

A delayed shock hit me, making my legs tremble and sending a cramp rippling through my stomach. Buckling over, I puked a bellyful of the Aerial Flora Museum’s green ice cream.

I’d barely recovered before a wave of guards raced across the lawns towards the bouldergeist. A big sergeant waved at us, and yelled, ‘Get lost. No sightseers. No souvenir hunters.’

I felt like telling him the truth. But Ganhook would find out about this and wouldn’t be happy if we brought extra attention to ourselves. As if reading my mind, Aisling whispered, ‘It’s not easy being silent heroes.’ She took my arm. ‘Let’s go.’

A few people glanced our way as we slipped out of the park. While some scoured the street for shard souvenirs, most were content to get back to normal. Within minutes, the museums had reopened, children were queuing at sweet stalls and clean up crews were arriving.

Unsurprisingly, Ganhook knew about the incident before we arrived home. ‘Did you two tame the bouldergeist?’

Aisling nodded.

‘Wasn’t easy,’ Shinytop said.

‘Thought so.’ Ganhook replied, ignoring the stick. ‘Well done. Apart from the two illegal arms dealers who obviously didn’t know how to handle advanced weapons, nobody was badly injured.’

‘Arms dealers?’ I asked.

‘Fools. Amateurs. Probably planned to sell it to terrorists. The guards will track the creator and buyers down.’ He clapped his hands. ‘You’re released from tonight’s chores. I heard an hour ago that the head chef at The Marrow Pot eatery has awoken from a three-year slumber. We’ll go there to celebrate your outstanding work today.’

After today’s struggles, hearing the word ‘outstanding’ coming from Ganhook was all the thanks we needed. Going to a place called The Marrow Pot, however, didn’t exactly thrill me, especially when Aisling pointed out the dried puke spatters on my t-shirt, and said, ‘You’re probably hungry after that.’

We’d a few hours to kill, so I read up about bouldergeists. I was disappointed that the bouldergeist’s chapter in the spirit weapons reference book never said why they’d been banned.

When I asked Ganhook later, he said, ‘Terrible business. The Exploration Guild besieged Portroy fortress. Don’t remember why, but they should have done their homework before bringing a bouldergeist. Turned out that the vengeful spirit was related to the chieftain of Portroy. It turned on the besiegers and killed half them before being destroyed.’