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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22. CHAPTER 22: HURT AND HATRED

Charon pushed the wooden oar in swift strokes through the dazzling black water. The rickety boat dwindled on through the rugged stalagmite-filled cave, and soon they were out of the cave and into a bright orange light that blinded all. As they neared the end of the cave and finally headed out, she could see what the orange light was: fire. Lots of it gathered in flares around the pool of dark water.  Suddenly the boat dropped and gained speed as it giddily zoomed forwards in a dizzied whir. It crashed down in a splash on what now seemed to be the first river.

“Welcome to the Acheron River” Charon’s frenzied, hollow voice spoke. “The river of wounds and hurt, the river of aches and bloodbath...the river of pain.”

Athena snuck a glance over the side of the boat. There in red gangs were the smears of crimson blood raging through the river like an uncontrollable fire, like pain. Its navy waters were stained for a long eternity.

A searing pain in her hand drew her away from the edge. Blood clotted round the cut she had made to get them in here. Perhaps her blood was coursing through the river as much as in her veins now. The pain highlighted itself for the rivers enjoyment and she knew. She knew that they can’t have been the only ones to try and get in here, the only living ones.

 

Emma was tapping her watch with her finger whilst wearing an aggravated expression.

“No, no!” she uttered to herself, still hitting the watch. “Athena it’s stopped working!” Just as Athena was about to reply a very different voice spoke, one that belonged to Charon.

“Time works differently down here, it gets lost somehow or never quite make sit. It’s never late or early, in some ways, it doesn’t exist at all.”

Athena’s throat went dry and her stomach flipped. No time? That wasn’t possible. Time may be different depending on where you are in the world, but for it to not exist at all was a paradox. Things had to have times, places had to have times, to think otherwise was completely irrational- not to mention illogical.

After a while Athena noticed what looked like rotting bodies on the edge of the crumbling, but never falling, banks.

“What are those things?” Athena whispered to Tom, knowing he’d have no idea either, but still posing it as a question.

“No blimin’ I-”before Tom could finish, Charon interrupted again and Athena was sure that if he was capable of wearing a facial expression it would be a smirk. Instead, he gave a slight cackle.

“They’re souls” he scoffed hollowly “neutral souls, those who led neither a good or bad life”

“I thought the neutral souls went to the fields of Asphodel” Emma piped up; once again Tom was surprised at how much she knew.

“Oh most do, but some, mostly those with unfinished business or quests, even those with an unsolved mystery that had plagued them dwell here. So they are forever trying to figure it out by staring into the river. However, they can’t; their life is over, they are mere existences, bare entities, stripped of everything.”

 

Athena looked at them more closely, they were naked but their legs were tangled in a crisping mess so you couldn’t see anything below the waste. As for their faces, they had fleshy, olive skinned sockets where their eyes should be, their noses were barely there and their mouths were sore-covered and dry. They were skeletal and odd bones stuck out from every thin strip of skin. To Athena, they didn’t look how she’d imagined souls. She thought they’d be transparent and heavenly, perhaps a bit more ghost-like.

“They don’t look like souls” pointed out Athena.

“That’s because they aren’t, not like the other souls.” Charon started in his deep crackled voice. “These souls are so much closer to their buried remains and bodies than the others down here that they are still in touch with the physical side of themselves”
“Why aren’t they bones?”

“Because being bones would be the physical side, they only take a part of it, the rotting part, and the flesh? Well, that holds them together. That is why they are so anorexic. A soul looks like the human form, so the two aspects are combined and that is the forthcoming result.”

They were horrible to look at, truly revolting and Athena couldn’t help but feel sorry for them. It must be terrible to just sit on a river bank forever: a blood-stained river bank; all that life coursing through it, yet not being able to be filled with any, not being able to be filled at all. Forever stuck with the thoughts and ideas of mysteries or un-avenged deaths, forever waiting, forever thinking, forever being caught in the repetitive web that was the mind. An eternity of being stuck on answers.

Then she started to wonder, with so many unanswered questions and mysteries in her life, would she be on the bank, too good to be bad, but not good enough? Hopefully being the hero would make her life a good one, or at least a productive one, but if she failed, then what? As the thoughts of the afterlife battled it out in her head, her shoulders slumped, her eyes slowly closed and she fell asleep.

And then came the all too familiar dream. It started out in slow motion, in the study, searching. However as soon as her dad got in the car, the entire thing sped up and before she knew it the black silhouette of the minotaur was clubbing her dad to death.

Her eyes shot open, she must’ve only been a couple of minutes.

“Athena!” Emma sounded surprised “you’ve been asleep for ages, we’re nearly at the end of the Styx!” she sat up abruptly; time really did work differently down here. “just as well” Emma gestured her head towards Robbie and Tom, who were sat as far away from each other as was physically possible in the small boat. “They’ve been at it for hours, even Liam, it’s the river of hatred, and it’s certainly shone on these three. You were asleep and I blocked out all negative thoughts and took a nap, so we weren’t as affected... I dreamt horrible things though”

“Me too”

“It was like back there your hand hurt in the river of pain... strange.”

“Oh well, it’s over now” and it was as Charon rode up to a black cobbled bank.

“This is as far as I can go” he choked darkly. The five clambered out on to the walkway.

“Where do we go from here?” Emma asked, but as they turned round, Charon was gone and his boat had gone with him. All that was there was the calm black water that reflected the two old-fashioned street lamps on either side of the path and the only sound was the eerily gentle lapping of the river.

Edging forwards to what lay ahead; Athena took note of the large stone archway and the two small turrets coming off the sides of it. Behind it was a large black building: Hades’ palace. They strolled through the archway gates and navigated their way around the tricky path to the palace. Once inside the flagstone-filled place, they caught a glimpse of Cerberus in a room ahead.

“What do we do?” whispered Tom

“Cerberus lets all into here” Emma reinstated “It’s getting out that’s the problem” they tiptoed into the column infused room, its high ceiling echoing their miniscule footsteps.

Cerberus trotted out, but it looked nothing like the hellhound that Athena had pictured; no bloody jowls, and no talon-like claws, only a three-headed Doberman type dog. It had perky ears that stretched up and puppy-brown eyes that grinned eagerly. As for its mouth a great pink tongue lolled out playfully. Its gorgeous soft short black fur looked clean and well-groomed and its muscles were tense and defined in a contradiction of relaxation. There was a leather spiked collar around each of Cerberus’ heads, not that he needed it, as far as Ericarni had said, Cerberus was never on a chain or leash, it roamed the bottom palace floor freely, but was quick as a shot if anyone tried to intrude or escape. Athena wondered if the poor thing had ever seen the light of day, or been for a walk or chased cats and pigeons or played fetch like ordinary dogs. It must’ve led a miserable life in the underworld, much like everyone else, much like Hades’ captive wife Persephone.

Seeing the happy look on Cerberus’ face, Athena realised it got new visitors all the time, plus it had probably never known any different and if it had, all the long years down here would’ve wiped its memory, or it would’ve been too young to remember anyway. It had probably never known love or companionship only order and protection, and captivity. The creature still looked happy and Athena couldn’t help but wonder why. Maybe it did love Hades, but knowing what she knew about the God of the underworld, she sure as hell would bet her life that he didn’t love the dog back.

Its stumpy docked tail wagged irresistibly and its large eyes were wide with interest.

“Seems better behaved than Joey” Tom muttered “I wonder if Hades will trade” he joked

“I wish I had a dog” Liam voiced

Cerberus edged forwards to greet its guests, still wagging the stump at its rear. He came right by their side. Tom stretched out her hand to touch the completely harmless form of Cerberus, before a humoured dark voice called.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you” 

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