Camp Thárros: A New Beginning

13 year old Athena Williams believes she is an ordinary kid with nothing special about her or her life. But one day she finds a book on Greek mythology in her basement and discovers secrets about herself and her past that she never thought possible. She embarks upon a summer trip to Camp Thárros, only to find that these hidden secrets are not quite what they were cracked up to be and that a darker and more mysterious force is at work. She must complete a wuest along with her friends and encounter things far more ferocious and dangerous than any book could begin to describe.

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10. CHAPTER 10: A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A NOTORIOUS NEW YEAR

Christmas morning. Jemeanii had somehow left during the night. Athena glanced out her window. No snow, no white Christmas. Not that she expected it to be; it was England. Nothing ever went the way it should.

Clambering out of bed, she got changed into her clothes and wandered off downstairs. She prepared herself for Doris with a sigh. Nearing the kitchen, Athena began to hear the once muffled voices become loud and clear.

“So that’s why Grettle was unhappy with the other two really. Why she even...” Doris cut off “oh hello Athena” she said with about as much interest as she had in bingo. Athena just wrinkled her brow briefly, before taking a seat at the breakfast table. “So rude that child of yours, never grateful...”

Before she started saying anything about Andreas, Athena pretended she hadn’t heard and said:

“Good sleep Doris?”

“It was of satisfactory quality, yes” she replied “what was I saying Hilary?”

“About Grettle and Mildred” Hilary sighed, glancing at Athena with sharp eyes as if to say ‘don’t be mad at her for what she didn’t say about Andreas.’ Auntie Doris always referred to Athena as rude, yet she was the one who blankly answered her questions without so much as a thought to throw it back.

You shouldn’t dread Christmas; it’s meant to be a time for cheer. But how gossiping-insults disrespect and immoral lies were part of a merry Christmas, she would never know. It’s not as if she even had the family part anymore, and she hadn’t for over three years. Silently, she ate her toast, making sure to block out Auntie Doris as she didn’t want another excuse to be unhappy. Athena had never understood what was so good about Christmas anyway. It’s not even the actual day Jesus was born, the presents were always predictable after the third pair of socks and once the meal was over everyone fell asleep. It was just like any other day of the year, if you take out the food and presents.

 

Soon enough Athena found herself amongst a small pile presents and a stocking. Auntie Doris had about three presents and Hilary had around six or seven. ‘Christmas must be even worse when you’re an adult, you barely get anything’ she thought. Not that she got a lot of presents anyway.

After tearing her way through all the gifts she had: four new pairs of socks, three CD’s, three films, five books, a poster, lots of chocolate, two new t-shirts, a pair of jeans, a hoodie and a hairbrush and a dress (which were from Auntie Doris). Four of the books were from Tom, one of the CD’s was from Leon and two of the films were from Mr and Mrs Noble. Greg had given her the other book along with an abundance of chocolate and everything else was from Hilary. This year was a pretty big haul, especially compared to normal, but Athena had actually paid half of the money for the clothes herself. At least it was better than nothing, it was a lot better than nothing, and even for that alone she was grateful.

 

Eventually, at 2pm, lunch was served and the three of them were seated around the dining room table. The turkey looked magnificent on their plates and one by one they spooned on an assortment of vegetables, potatoes and of course cranberry sauce. They said grace and then ate; no one said much until around halfway through the meal when Doris piped up, surprise surprise. 

“This is a wonderful meal Hilary, love”

“Thank you” she answered

“Truly splendid eh, Athena?”

“What? Oh yeah, great mum, thanks” said Athena awkwardly. She knew she had been caught off guard and regretted her choice of vocabulary instantly.

“The hard work paid off” said Doris and Athena knew where she was heading “hardworking must run in the family” she glanced at Athena “well, maybe not. It’s a shame you can’t choose which of whose gens go into the child. That’s why I never bothered with children, or a husband. Especially when they have genes that get passed on to young ones like Athena”

Athena gripped her knife and fork, trying to prevent her anger from pouring out. She could rise above it. At least, she hoped she could. “I mean first of all you have the rudeness, then there’s the incompetence” Athena tightened her clutch “obviously there’s also the nosing in others business where it’s not wanted and then the scruffy ruggedness” it was starting to sound more like Doris herself than anything but Athena was now holding her cutlery so tight that she thought she could snap it in half. “We must add the stupidity of acting before you think and the uselessness sometimes”

“My dad wasn’t useless” Athena spoke through gritted teeth.

“That adds to the venerability...”

“Shut up!” yelled Athena standing up. Doris looked smug.

“Then we have the temper, it runs in the family Hilary”

“If anyone here is rude or incompetent or nosey it’s you! You’re the biggest hypocrite I’ve met in my life!”

“Well I never... This one has inherited it all!”

“You can insult me all you like, but say one more word about dad and I swear I’ll...”

“You’ll what dear? ‘Beat me up?’ as you children say these days. I should highly doubt it, you don’t have the mental strength for such things as to follow through with your actions”

“That’s enough” shouted Hilary

“But she” began Athena

“Told the truth; honesty is the best policy” Doris said

“You just don’t know when to keep your overly large trap shut!” Athena bellowed

“Go to your room!” Hilary called

“But she started...”

“Now!”

Athena stormed out of the room and marched off upstairs. Like she thought earlier, Christmas was always rubbish. She couldn’t believe that she was getting punished for Doris’ bad-mouthing; it wasn’t right. At least one good thing had come out of it though; it had made Athena even more determined to go to Camp Thárros, and she would, if it was the last thing she’d do.

Athena walked over to the window and flung it open, allowing the cool breeze to surround her.

“Jemeanii” she whispered “I need you.” Almost instantly the bird seemed to be flying towards her, she stepped out of the way and he gracefully flew in. “I can’t believe mum would let her get away with what she said about dad; it’s like she doesn’t even care, and do you know the worst part? She didn’t even say anything to stand up for him; she didn’t even seem angry!” Athena kicked her dresser and Jemeanii squealed slightly “sorry” she added “as if I don’t have enough on my plate already. What with Thárros and the myth and you. You all just show up and expect me to make sense of it! I just don’t know what to do Jemeanii. It’s strange. I must be losing my mind; first Magikós bloods, and now I’m talking to a bird! No offence. I wish you understood Jemeanii; I wish you could talk back and help. I know we’ve only just met, but it seems like the kind of thing you’d be good at.”

Jemeanii bowed his head. “I guess I’ll have to get you a cage, pah, fancy explaining that to mum. She’ll love that. Maybe one day at Thárros, but for now we’ll just have to put up with what we’ve got.” She stroked Jemeanii and gazed out the window. The closing date for the application was today. There was no way on earth that Hilary would let her go now, not after what just happened, not a chance.

                                                                  

                                                                    ***

 

It was 4pm and she heard some footsteps thudding up the stairs. If it was Auntie Doris Athena did not know what she would do. What threats could she follow through with? To add to the suspense, Jemeanii was still there behind her.

“Jemeanii go!” she yell-whispered, although she wasn’t sure how he would go as the window was closed. Just as she made to go and open it, her door opened and Jemeanii appeared to have vanished into thin air. It was Hilary who emerged into the room. Athena had just enough time to make it look like she was rearranging some pens on her desk. As Hilary came in Athena fiddled with the stationary some more. Hilary perched herself on her bed. Solemn seconds passed with the ear-splitting silence that accompanied it. Until Hilary piped up:

“I’m sorry”

“For what?” even though Athena knew there were plenty of things she could be sorry about: sorry for letting you down, sorry for betraying your dad, sorry for being a coward, yet she still posed the question as if she was oblivious.

“Sorry for how Auntie Doris behaved”

“Are you? You didn’t sound very sorry when she was disrespecting your husband” Athena couldn’t keep in her anger. Hilary kept quiet and Athena smirked “yeah, that’s what I thought. She gets away with it and I’m the one who gets punished for standing up to her!”

“I can hardly punish an elderly woman”

“You could’ve sent her away from the table; she thinks she’s won now”

“Won what? This isn’t a game Athena”

“Pfft”

“Anyway, I don’t want to talk about Doris”

“Then why are you here?” Athena said through gritted teeth. Hilary looked lost and dismayed with what she was about to say.

“I’m here to talk about Camp Thárros” Athena felt intrigue, but didn’t show it, yet she walked slowly over and sat beside her mother.

“What about it?”

“I’ve decided that you can go”

“What?” Athena couldn’t believe her ears

“You heard correctly. You can go. After what just happened I don’t want to feel like I’ve betrayed your father even more. It’s what he would’ve wanted and I knew that it would come to this eventually, I just didn’t want you to get hurt”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand”

“You’ll learn soon enough”

“Mum, you’re not making any sense”

Hilary got up and strolled to the door as if she didn’t want to reveal anymore.

“Soon, I will”

“But the application...”

“I’ve filled another one out, it’s all done now; you’re going and I hope you understand that what you’re entering in to, there’ll be no way back from”

“Mum?” but Hilary closed the door. What on earth did she mean?

 

                                                                 ***

 

Days passed and eventually Athena found herself at the town hall for the New Year countdown. It was 7pm and she had just arrived. She had told Tom everything and the pair couldn’t be happier, but Athena still hadn’t told the whole story to Greg- nor had she dared to. Surprisingly, there were quite a lot of people there including herself and Hilary, the Nobles, the Greenfields and even Mr Hassmob or ‘Brian’ as he preferred.

“Looking forward to the new year?” he had asked

“Yes actually, are you?” she needn’t lie anyway as Thárros would be dawning in a few months too far away.

“Oh always, always; I’ve said time and time again that with a new year comes a new start and a new beginning. Perhaps that is the most important part of all; with a new beginning comes a new life, there’s no telling what adventures lay waiting for us”

I suppose you’re right” Athena grinned and Hassmob had grinned back.

As of present, she and Tom were fighting their way through the crowds to get to the food table. It was just a bunch of picnic-type snacks really, but it would satisfy their hunger.

“You seem like you’re in a good mood Thee” Tom smiled “I’d almost forgotten what you looked like happy”

“Oh ha-ha, anyway you know why”

“Yeah but Thárros is months away; a lot can happen between now and then”

“A lot can happen anyway; who knows what’s around the corner?”

“Is this about what Hilary said?”

“Yep and there’s no point denying that it didn’t make sense, but one good thing came out of her nonsense”

“Oh yeah, what’s that?”

“Something’s about to change, I don’t know what, but it’ll be great”

“If you say so” with that, they trotted off with their plates and sat down with Leon and Chloe.

Later on that very same evening, at half eleven, the crowd dispersed out onto the town hall lawn where they would view a firework display at exactly 12, when the New Year would begin and so would all the adventures that came with it. Athena was telling Tom about how Jemeanii just appeared and how after that everything went her way.

“And you’re sure you didn’t call him?” Tom was saying

“I’m positive”

“Think you must’ve done something”

“Well I did wish that I had a friend”

“Then maybe it’s not just verbal calling and physical calling, but mental too! Didn’t whoever sent him say he was loyal or something; loyal friends do that”

“If that’s true, it means he comes not only when you ask, but when you need him, amazing”

“I can’t believe this at all”

“Why?”

“It doesn’t make logical sense”

“Tom, just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s not real”

“Whatever hey, isn’t that Greg?”

“Oh no”

“Go talk to him”

“I’m scared”

“Aren’t you the one who blabs on about bravery?”

“Yes but...”

“Well then” he pushed Athena in Greg’s direction. She glanced back but Tom mouthed ‘go!’ so she was swallowed in the pestering, tall, crowd. Eventually she got to Greg; he was somewhere near the very front.

“Oh, hello Athena” he mumbled

“Where’s Grettle?” she tried to ask casually

“Talking to Mildred or something” he muttered

“Oh” they were stood in silence for what felt like minutes, watching the shimmering stars as they sparkled spectacularly in the frosty breeze.

“I’m sorry for snapping at you the other week” Greg’s apology seemed strange, like he meant it, but as if he still wasn’t sure what he could’ve said instead.

“Its okay” Athena tried to smile, but all that came off was a strained grimace.

“No it isn’t. I shouldn’t a’ done it, there’s no excuse for the way I behaved. I made the mistake by telling you too much, I’ll pay for that, in fact, I have already. The fault is my own.”

“I don’t mind”

“You were just being curious and I, well, I just shouldn’t o’ blamed yeh, I’m sorry” clearly this had been hard for the both of them.

“You’re mum told me the news”

“What news?”

“Thárros o’ course”

“Oh yes, that” Athena couldn’t help but grin.

“It was a tough decision for her to make, but I’m glad she chose that, Andreas would be proud”

“What do you mean?”

“More dangers and adventures lay ahead for you than you can imagine”

“I don’t understand”

“You will soon enough”

“Everyone says that” she sighed

“It’ll be worth it in the end, for both of you” Greg glanced over at Tom, who was stood awkwardly by himself “how is Thomas anyway?”

“Oh he’s... well” she giggled

“I’m sure”

“Thanks Greg”

“Whatever for?”

“Just, being here”

“Well you’re very welcome, just remember, our passion is our strength”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll understand” Grettle was walking over

“Everyone’s talking in riddles” with that they said their farewells and Athena trotted over to Tom

“How’d it go?” he said

“Alright, but he said some strange things”

“Like?” Tom looked confused

“Something about more dangers and adventures lay ahead than we would ever have imagined”

What?

“I don’t know. Then he said I’ll understand soon enough and that it’d be worth it in the end”

“What end?”

“I’m not sure, everyone’s talking nonsense”

“So are you, myth girl” Tom laughed and Athena blushed “don’t tell me you still believe in that...”

“Don’t tell me that you aren’t suspicious too”

Then the countdown began and the crowd started chanting

“I can’t say I’m not... EIGHT”

“Well then, leave a tiny space in your mind for it... FIVE”

“I will... THREE”

“Thank you” Athena grinned and grabbed his hand; they caught each other’s eye and smiled.

“ONE!” the crowd and whooped, the fireworks shot up and their sparkling beauty magnified and was reflected in the eyes of the entire group.

Athena ‘ooo’ed’ and ‘ahhh’d’ with the crowd but on her mind were the words Mr Hassmob had said. A new year did bring a new start, a new life and a new adventure, but most importantly, a new beginning

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