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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18. CHAPTER 18: DAD WASN’T DEATH

He paused and, stroking the griffin, Athena braced herself as Ericarni continued.

“The sun beat down and the griffins went to cool off in a lake called Psychí. They played, splashed and basked in the morning sun, thinking that it was another blissful day. Of course, they were wrong. This particular griffin’s whereabouts was unknown and remains that way, except to him. After a rather long, time consuming hour, the Minotaurs launched a surprise attack on the innocent. They came in the masses, swinging their trade-mark clubs left right and centre. Some of the griffins were killed instantly, their blood forever stained on the injurious ground of mass inequitable destruction. Others managed to escape. They fought back of course, but the slaughter was becoming so many that they retreated. To the griffins life of others has and always will be of more importance than triumph or conquest, in this particular context anyway. Presumably, they retreated to what some call ‘safe-spot’, others call it melody waterfall it is however, Hope Fountain. However, in the fleeing this griffin hid, for such a small creature at the time, he was lucky, like you and the manticore, he was lucky to still be alive and only escape with a scar that time forgot to heal.”Athena briefly and mindlessly touched her arm. “Where he has been hiding all this time is a mystery to us all, it remains unsolved. But what’s important now is that he’s safe from harm, for now.”

“Sorry to interrupt” Athena murmured “but why hasn’t anyone restored the land of ‘slaughter’ and called them back?”

“They have restored the land, but they cannot call them back because the current whereabouts of Hope Fountain is unknown. Many have tried to find it, and failed, a vast majority question whether its entity even exists”

“They don’t believe it’s a real place?”

“It appears not”

“Do you believe that it’s a real place?” Ericarni did not look deterred by the question. A moment of prolonged silence passed before Ericarni spoke.

“There is no reason to suggests that it exists, likewise, there is no evidence against its existence”

“But do you...” Athena persisted

“Yes. I do place confidence in its resting. I am in fact convinced of its existence” more silence, Athena thought he sounded a tad sarcastic, but she guiltily wondered whether Ericarni even understood sarcasm.

“What are you going to do with this griffin?” Athena pressed on

“That is why we are here. You see, there is something else, this griffin shares the same birthday as you”

“So...”

“And when the minotaurs attacked, it too was the third of September”

“I don’t follow...”

“The prophecy foretold something else...”

“What...?”

“This griffin is your destiny too”

“But I have Jemeanii”

“And you need this griffin too”

“You mean he’s mine!”

“Yes”

“What’s his name?”“That is up to you, it has been so long since he has been labelled that I doubt he’d remember any previous ones anyway”

“Hmm” Athena thought, scar? No, too lion king. Hope? A tad girly. Naming was hard; at least Jemeanii’s name was in black and white. Then it came to her. “Psychí”

“After the lake?”

“Yes”

“That lake is dried up now...” said Ericarni, sounding unsure

“Then Psychí shall symbolise a new beginning”

“Do you know what Psychí means?”

“Urr... no idea” she shrugged, sounding less sure herself

“It means fire”

“Then this shall mean passion” she finalised

Athena and Ericarni grinned and gazed up at the starry blanket of sky; it was a glorious night.

“Your father loved the griffins a lot, but he loved you more”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes, on the night you were born, the fleeing happened, he stayed with you. He was loyal, to the very end”

“Why didn’t he help?”

“He couldn’t, but he did after; he planned for years to bring down Diávolos, until he sought peace and not revenge. It did him no good.”

“What do you mean?”

“He died from a tender heart, that... and betrayal”

“He died in a car crash” Athena was confused “Didn’t he?”

Ericarni looked like he was crying, tears etched in his eyes, reflected in the stars that told a thousand stories. He shook his bejewelled, beaded head.

“What?” Athena’s voice was barely a whisper

“Your dream” Ericarni whimpered “It tells you what really happened”

“What...h-” the words were caught in her throat, like some inner monster had swallowed them whole.

“You thought he was just searching for his car keys, no” Ericarni was still tearful, only just managing to keep them back “he was searching for a peace treaty”

“I don’t under-”

“For Diávolos, he had agreed to sign or at least meet, like I said before, your father saw good in everyone. I tried to warn him...”Athena herself was crying now, she didn’t know why, maybe it was because she didn’t really know what she was hearing or where it was going. “But he wouldn’t listen, he told me to see the good, to trust my heart, but I let him go anyway, and he died. It’s my fault. It’s all my fault. And he arrived and went the way Diávolos told him to go because he was full of trust. He was unarmed, he had no chance. Diávolos, THE COWARD, he sent a minotaur to do his dirty work”

Athena suddenly felt like she didn’t know her dad at all, like everything she thought she knew was a pale-faced lie to cover up the ugly truth.

“And on the day of his cremation, the day you found that locket” Athena clutched it to her chest. “Those golden eyes you saw, that was Psychí, and we centaurs were there with him, to get our own ash, for our own burial. We planted Andreas’ locket so you could find it.”

The voice in her head was right; the past had determined the future. A future built on lies. Ericarni was now weeping so frantically, as if crying was something he didn’t do often, as if it were something that wasn’t permitted when you were meant to be a fearless warrior of the wild. Athena could only manage to say one thing:

“It’s not your fault, it’s alright” And as she hugged Ericarni, she closed her eyes and secretly promised to never betray her dad again.

“Anyway” sniffed Ericarni as he pulled out of the hug “you need to go back to your cabin”

“But I don’t want to”

“But you must; staying here is breaking the rules”

“Who cares about rules? I want to stay here, with you” Ericarni was in no fighting mood so as Athena sat up against a tree, he stood and watched, wiping tears from his eyes. She recognised the tree, it was the large vast oak she had previously seen, and it was fast becoming her favourite one. Psychí clicked his beak and settled down next to Athena, folding his front bird claws. His spiked ears wiggled and he closed his eyes, nestling his playful head into Athena’s side. “Jemeanii” yawned Athena, he appeared by a tree and Ericarni turned to fuss him. Slowly, Athena’s eyes closed and she was carried to the land of dreams.

 

                                                                       ***

 

It was Sunday morning and Athena awoke to some squealing noises. Her back ached from the bed-less sleep. Ericarni was gone, but in front of her Psychí was chasing and jumping up at Jemeanii, who didn’t look the slightest bit impressed. What time was it? Athena was starving and she didn’t want to miss another meal.

“Jemeanii take Psychí to Ericarni, and look after him”

With that, she sprinted across the recklessly bone-dry ground, back into the camp, and to her cabin to change. Emma greeted her, but Alex and Maria (luckily!) were asleep.

“Where’ve you been all night? We had to cover for you!” She sounded like Hilary, except Hilary certainly wouldn’t cover for her.

“I had to meet Ericarni”

“Whatever for?” Athena told her and then she made her way to the food hall, her stomach’s growl sounded like Psychí.

Once there, Athena told the others about what happened, but she had left out the part with her dad’s murder. That could wait.

“Next time you go, I’m coming too” declared Tom

“Yeah me too” Liam Robbie and Emma chorused

“Fell free to”

“Everything happens when you go” Robbie sighed

“Yeah like nearly getting killed by a manticore” Athena wanted to add ‘and finding out that your dad was killed by the darkest god to ever exist’ but she didn’t.

“What are we doing today?” piped up Liam, presumably to cut the tension.

“Going to the Mainland” Emma instantly replied “we need to find out what we have to do, well what the hero has to do” she smiled at Athena

So they did, at 11:00 they grouped together and strolled leisurely to Poseidon Lake.

“What if he’s not there?” Tom asked, Emma was about to speak, but Athena cut in

“It doesn’t matter” she grinned

“Oh not that bloody bird” Tom muttered

“Oh shush Thomas” Emma seemed to have gained a habit of saying that. Once through to the Mainland, it was clear that Ericarni was not waiting for them.

“Where is he?” Emma questioned, almost immediately

“Do you feel that?” Athena said

“Feel what?” Liam responded

“Yeah, I do” Robbie confirmed

“Quit jerking around” said Tom bitterly

“Something doesn’t feel right” whispered Athena, slowly she moved forward, over the decaying, jaundiced grass that once seemed so green and fresh. Something felt strange.

Behind her, Tom and Emma were arguing, but Athena could hear something else.

“Shhh, can you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Emma muttered, the groaning got slightly louder. From behind a tree, a large black tail was flowing from a dark brown horse’s rump.

“Ericarni!” Athena ran to him, the others followed closely behind. Crouching down, she noticed Ericarni had a large blood spattered wound near his stomach. It looked like an infection. “Who did this to you?”

“Athena” he breathed, his voice was crackled and dry; it was barely even a whisper. “Go” he was clutching on to her shoulder, as if she was some great support.

“What happened?”

“I came to warn you, quick, go back to the camp, you’re safe there”

“Warn me about what?” just as she said that, there was a large THUD as something landed ungraciously behind them. Simultaneously, they turned. Emma let out a high pitched shriek of fear and shock.

Standing before them were five large winged monsters. They had scaly, scabbing faces and perked up, flicking ears. They appeared to be women and their hind-quarters were that of an ugly feathered bird.

“Harpies!” screamed Emma, they made to run but one of the harpies had picked her up and she was screeching her red head off.

There was a pile of conveniently long, staff-like sticks in a burnt pile that had provided someone with a camp fire.

Instinctively, Athena grabbed one and swung it at the harpies’ torso. It dropped Emma and Liam pulled her out of the way as another flew down to them, Robbie thwacked it back.

“What’re we gonna do?” yelled Tom

“There are too many of them” Emma called

“Fighting with sticks ain’t helping” Tom retorted, Athena ran back to Ericarni, whacking a harpy out the way as she did so.

“Your wound” she muttered “you need something” she clubbed another harpy

“I’m fine”

“Oh yeah, clearly” sarcastically said Athena as she hit another.

“Take my bow and arrows” he mumbled, clearly he had come prepared. It almost damaged the group’s self-esteem; what Ericarni could probably calmly take out within a few minutes, they were running around screaming and taking double the time- and there was five of them!

“Emma do you have a cloth?” she shouted, Emma pulled out a hanky from her jean pocket and threw it to her, after thwarting another harpy. Carefully, Athena soaked up some of the blood from his wound.

“Take it” Ericarni gestured to the bow and arrows.

“I’ve never done archery in my life”

“It doesn’t matter, I shall live through you” she had no idea what he meant

“I can’t shoot an arrow!” she protested

“Yes, you can”

She took it and slung the arrows on her shoulder

“Do you need more cloth Athena?” Robbie called

“This is no time to strip off your clothes” Tom retorted, following his train of thought, whilst hitting a harpy. There were a lot more than five of the blasted things now.

“And this is no time to argue!” scoffed Emma

Athena threw her stick and Robbie caught it, just in time to knock two off course. She placed an arrow, the way it felt right, in the bow and held it up. She shot one. It clumsily hit a nearby tree. A tad quicker this time, she put another arrow in and aimed it at a harpy. Whizzing through the air, the arrow collided with its withering wing and pinned it to a tree. The harpy struggled to break free, so Athena shot another arrow into its other wizened wing. There were still nine harpies to immobilise.

“Athena what do we do?” Tom yelled, for a moment Athena stood calmly, and then she carefully raised the bow and arrow to her eye line.

“Leave it to me” she briefly whispered, Athena had no idea why she suddenly felt like she could do something. Suddenly, she realised the harpy that had been pinned to the tree had dispersed into ash and dust. Little blood spilt. Firing another arrow at a flailing arm, Liam finished it off with a hit from a beaten up stick and its battered, bruised, blood-stained body faded once more into stray particles. Athena continued shooting arrows at the harpies as the others thwarted, punched and kicked their peeling bodies. Until, there was only one left, Tom whacked it, and Athena sent an arrow flying into its stomach and Robbie punched it between the eyes. Finally, it disintegrated and the five were left static-haired and panting at the front of the forest.

Athena ran to Ericarni.

“Ericarni” she breathed “we need to take you to Voithós” he did not argue, he allowed Tom and Athena to prop him up by his arms onto their shoulders.

“Athena, how did you do that?” spoke a bewildered Tom

“Do what?” although she knew perfectly well what he meant.

“That thing with the arrows!”

“I handed my bow and arrows to her in a time of weakness, it allowed me to live my strengths through her” Ericarni croaked

“What did they want, the harpies I mean?” Emma broke in

“I believe they were here on Diávolos’ orders, to wreak havoc I assume” speculated Ericarni

“What for?”

“Well, clearly he knows that Athena is here, at Camp Thárros”

“How?”

“We can only guess”

“Why did he send them here though” Tom quizzed

“Well Athena’s the hero, he’s wanted her dead since before she was born, and he’s already underestimated what she can do”

“Why does he want her dead so much?”

“Because the prophecy that was made, the one that told of Diávolos’ downfall, described Athena as the hero and it also foretold that she would be the only one who could bring him down. So to him it only makes sense to kill her whilst she’s still young and ignorant.”

“Why didn’t he kill me when I was born?” Athena piped up grumpily.

“He could not”

“Why?”

“It is unknown; an enchantment prevented him from ever finding her, some ancient magic, thousands of years old.”

“Your fathers” It went silent and (thankfully) stayed that way ‘till they reached Ericarni’s lair. Kynigós showed round Tom, Robbie, Liam and Emma, whilst Athena took Ericarni to Voithós’ hut.

“Harpies are evil creatures when they want to be” Voithós was saying “they don’t look like much, but they can cause intense damage. This is infected Ericarni, I can only clear the wound of blood. If it heals, the infection will spread through your body, and then who knows what could happen?”

“Not if it was sucked out” Athena claimed “Jemeanii” the bird flew through an open window “Ericarni’s infected, will you help?” Jemeanii bowed his head and landed gracefully where Ericarni lay, sprawled on a bed. Taking a moment too look directly into his eyes, Jemeanii then put his beak to the wound. Wincing, Ericarni bit back the strange, painful sensation. As Jemeanii took his beak away, Athena noticed that the flesh on Ericarni’s side near his stomach looked much healthier, if a little sore. Then, Jemeanii straightened his neck and pointed his beak towards the ceiling. A whirl of blue flames illuminated the cavern-like room as Jemeanii spat out the infection. A last crackle appeared and the brilliant blue fire disappeared in a whir of smoke.

Voithós got to work on the wound as Athena watched, stroking Jemeanii’s wondrous feathered head. As he got up to find some more herbal remedies, Ericarni whispered:

“Diávolos wanted your dad dead too, and not only because he was going to conceive you”

Then Voithós came back and Athena was left wondering why, once again. What had her dad done? What had he started? And what would she have to finish?

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