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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25. CHAPTER 25: THE PUZZLE ROOM

Hurriedly, they left Voithós’ hut and strolled over to the vitreous Lake of Secrets, its glamorous depths really did give of a cryptic kind of intrigue. Staring out over the lake was Tóxo and Vélos who were speaking in rushed whispers. They sensed the presence of the eager Magikós bloods behind them. Turning around, the centaurs wondered what on earth they could be here for.

“Ahh moíra and moíra’s filos, if you are looking for Ericarni, I’m afraid we’ll have to disappoint you” Vélos sneered.

“We’re not here for Ericarni” Robbie started

“Quite the opposite” Emma mused “We’re here for you”

“And what could you possibly want from us” he jeered

“We need you to take us somewhere” told Athena

“Why?”

“We need to do something for Hades or else we’ll be dragged to the underworld by the Soulless.”

“And what has that got to do with me?”

“We have to go to the Forgotten, to the Puzzle Room and we need you to guide us there”

“Ha-ha no.”

“Urgh! Please! We need you!”

“What do I gain from it?”

“Well, I don’t know, but lives are at stake here!”

“Not my problem”

“Don’t you care?”

“Magikós bloods have never cared for me”

“What is wrong with you? Why won’t you help? We’ve never done anything to you, Vélos, don’t make me beg. You’re the only one who can help and we have very little time left!”

“Vélos” Tóxo cooed “Moíra, the hero of the Mainland is asking for your help, it is an honour to help a hero. I strongly advise that you help Moíra and Moíra’s filos on their quest.”

Vélos would do anything in the name of honour and for his wife.

“When do you set off on your journey?” demanded Vélos

“Twelve o’ clock tonight” answered Emma and Vélos gave a husky, low laugh of humoured mockery.

“It may be close to us but it will take a few hours by foot, especially at the rate you human bodied beings travel.”

“Well then what time do you suggest?” said a completely not humoured and serious Emma.

“Now would be good.”

“Fine by me”

Vélos gave another throaty laugh before leading the five out of his lair and on to the road to the Forgotten.

 

                                                                     ***

 

After waiting around for most of the day in another centaur’s lair, watching Vélos run errands, or have people run errands for him, they finally set off for the Forgotten at 9 0’ clock that evening. Thankfully, after a disappointingly silent three hour journey, they arrived safe and sound to the bottom of a dubious hill. It was exactly 12 o’ clock.

“There, we’re at the Puzzle Room, it may appear to be a cave at first glance, but it is quite the opposite, good luck” with that he galloped off.

“Hey!” Athena called. Calmly, Vélos turned “thanks”. Barely acknowledging her, he spun back around and cantered off.

“What now?” Liam breathed

“We use these remaining forty-eight hours wisely” she replied “We need to work out what we’re gonna do. We need a method of showing which doors we’ve been through, that’ll also help out if one of us gets into trouble.”

“I have an idea” announced Liam “we could mark an X on each door that we go through with the dagger or on a wall if it’s an arch or anything like that- to show the others that we’ve searched it.”

“Sounds like a good idea” Tom agreed

“We best get going, we have today and tomorrow to get this key and get the sword to Hades” Athena said

“We can do it” assured Robbie

With that, they staggered up the hill to where the Puzzle Rooms entrance was situated. Two high battered white columns stood, glazed with dirt, at either side of a grimy arch. It looked as if it was going into some mossy cliffs or caves, but you couldn’t really tell because from what anyone could see it was pitch black in there. So dark in fact, that even a torch wouldn’t bring much light, but at least they had some.

Together the five stared into the intimidating dark hole. Athena squinted her eyes, but it was night anyway, she’d see nothing without a light. Rummaging around in her backpack, she pulled out a torch and the others did the same. Absorbing her surroundings, she made to go in.

“Wait” Emma protested “we should split off into pairs, that way we can ensure safety and protection.”

“But there are five of us” Liam pointed out

“Its okay” commented Athena “I’ll go by myself”

“Athena” Emma began

“Someone has to”

“Fine, I’ll go with Tom” Tom looked a bit surprised at Emma’s quick partnership. “Liam, Robbie” they nodded their heads.

“Let’s go” said Athena, submitting to the cruel darkness, torch in hand.

As they tiptoed into the desolate black cavern, only the sounds of their echoing footsteps and breathing could be identified. Soon enough, they came to the first door at the end of the filthy tunnel they had been prisoner to.

Athena opened it cautiously and as it creaked ajar, it led them into a room. This room was a long foreboding crimson-floored corridor that stretched along a blank and basic beige wall with dozens upon dozens of doors pressed into it.

“Where do we start?” spoke a baffled Emma “There are just so many!”

“Does it matter?” Athena responded “eventually you’ll come out of a different one along here.”

“How do we activate the Portal Key anyway?” asked Robbie

“I think you have to know where it’ll take you, or what it’ll take you to” began Emma “and you have to hold it tight and picture the portal coming to life in front of you. It’s complicated, but at least we can try and find each other before it activates.”

“We should get going” Athena persisted

In unison, they nodded and in pairs, Emma and Tom, Robbie and Liam went through separate doors and the hunt began. However, before Robbie disappeared off with Liam, he snuck a glance at Athena and smiled. She secretly hoped that that wouldn’t be the last time. He still had the blood on his face, except it had dried up a tad now and had also begun to scab over.

Glaring down the mind-boggling corridor, Athena realised just how long this could take. The infamous corridor looked harmless, but they were anything but; they were an infinity of irretrievable relics and lost items. It would take forever, a forever that she didn’t have.

Forcing herself into a more optimistic mindset, she pulled out her dagger and marked it. Turning the knob of one of the glossy brown doors, she awaited the mystery that lay within.

 

Upon entering through the door, Athena was surprised to realise that the seemingly usual room she had entered was not spooky at all. In fact, it was quite the opposite; it was a bare room stripped of everything except a phonograph on a stand in the corner. How could you search this room for the Portal Key when there wasn’t anything to search? Blindly, Athena went to open the door that would lead her further in before realising that it wouldn’t budge because it was stuck: locked, just what she needed. So the Puzzle Room at least lived up to its puzzling name. Would she have to search for a key in all the rooms? Surely other people had come through here too, did the keys re-hide themselves or something? Then she noticed it, something on the door. Carved into it were the words

‘Within this room you cannot trade

The key is where the music’s played’

Well it didn’t take a genius to work out that the key had something to do with the phonograph. It must’ve meant that they key was hidden in the phonograph, surely. Checking it over, Athena opened the back of the old-fashioned equipment. She brushed her hand over every cog and whatever else was in there, but no key could be found. So she decided to reach into the horn, the music was played through there, so that made logical sense, yet again, no key. Well what else could it mean? Being the curious person she was, she wondered what music was playing on the record currently. Delicately, she placed the pin on the record. Something only distinguished as harp music rang through the room. A click in the door sounded and warily Athena went to check if it was unlocked. It was! Of course, they key is where the music’s played! The key is the music. It all made sense in hindsight, but at least her curiosity was put to good use. Guardedly, she twisted the handle to the door that stood graciously in front of her: one room down, an eternity to go.

 

Meanwhile, Tom and Emma had run into difficulties of their own. After getting past the first clue in a closet they had ventured in to, they were now in a large captivating hall. It had black and white tiled flooring that looked fashionably clean. The ceiling was high above their heads in fathomed arches. Lining the walls indistinguishable colour were rows and rows of shelves with all kinds of strange objects on them.

“This is going to take forever” muttered Tom

“Well we’ve done the first one; we can do this one too. Now where is the door, ahh over here.” Emma jogged to a large cream framed door that had strange twirled carvings on. Also carved into it in mesmerising calligraphy were words.

“Urr Em” Tom stammered “which door did you mean?” he pointed to the left and right and spread out from the middle door on each side was another door.

“You’ve got to be joking. Let’s start with that one” they strolled leisurely to the left hand door. “If what you have done leads you in through door one, leave no stone unturned and don’t be deterred”

“What?” Tom said confusedly “I don’t get it at all”

“We’ll read the others first then decide. The thing about the Puzzle Room is that it tricks you and plays with you, but if you prove your worth it can help too. We’re using the Portal Key for all the right reasons, in its eyes.”

“Which are?”

“Not for our own use or gain at all.” They went on to the middle door

If what you desire is what you pursue, bring gems and good will through door number two. What muppet writes these things?”

“The room itself Thomas, come on next one” They hustled to the right hand door “If what you inquire lies beyond door three, come on right in for the key to the key”

“Too obvious” Tom speculated

“I don’t know, the others seem to lead the greedy like ‘if what you have done’ some people kill to find the key to the sword and it tells you not to be afraid, I don’t think its number one. That leaves two and three, well two is latching on to the whole pursuit and passion thing, but setting it right with good will, but three is so bland that it is obvious yet mysterious. Maybe if we answer all the clues it’ll give us a better idea.”

“What happened to going with your gut or your instincts?”

“We’re not centaurs”

“And we’re not Phoenixes, although you are an awful lot like them” Tom babbled as Emma figured out the clues on the shelves. “In fact why aren’t you in Phoenix, You’re intelligent, was your downfall the witty part?” he chuckled

“That’s it!” she exclaimed

“That’s what?”

“The clues! Leave no stone unturned: this shelf has the trepidation stones on it, if you fit them all together they’re meant to turn into your worst fear, that’s why it says don’t be deterred. And the second one, there are wills from captives here, each dead person was buried with an obol, or a ‘gem’ if they could afford it, so that they could get into the underworld. As for three, the key to the key, I found this locksmiths box with an old piece of parchment in it. I’m sure it’s three. The other two are more fear induced; it leads you to the wrong one on purpose. I’m sure it’s three.”

“I’ve given up on asking how you know these things” Emma blushed as Tom said this.

“Logic I guess”

“You’re brilliant, you know that? So what does it say?” Tom walked over to her and took the parchment out of the box. “Through this door I will unlock, lead me through to the next block, what does that say?” Emma took the paper from him.

“Xekleidó̱sete”

“English please?”

“It’s an incantation for unlock” they ran back to the third door. “Xekleidó̱sete” the door clicked.

“Yes!” Tom whooped. Without warning, he pulled out his dagger and carved a triumphant X on the door. The two creditably went through the door, but as they were about to close it behind them, they suddenly heard some scrawling noises coming from the other side of the door they’d just come through.

“Hello, is someone there?” Emma timidly asked. Tom nudged the door back open and the original carvings were gone. In its place the gorgeous calligraphy wrote:

‘Door number three leads to pride and great trial

Jeopardy also will make it worthwhile’

“Strange” Emma mumbled

“You don’t say”

“It’s just that I’ve never heard of the puzzle room re-writing clues unless events are about to change.”

“So we took the wrong door”

“No we took the right one, it means we’re on the right track, come on”

 

Robbie and Liam were doing pretty well themselves. After a while, they were on their sixth door when someone burst through it. It was Emma.

“Where’s Tom?” Liam asked baffled

“I don’t know” she responded truthfully “we had just solved our third door and Tom went on through it into this dining hall room, but when I opened the door he’d gone and so had that room! It turned into a shop floor and I’ve been searching for ages. We need to find him!”

“Fat chance” Told Robbie “this place could’ve taken him anywhere.”

The three stared in horrified awe; it really was a cruel place.

 

As for Athena, she was on a role. She had gone through seven doors now and she felt closer to the key per second. She had just solved her eighth clue when she went through the door into a bathroom to find Tom sat on the floor with his head in his hands.

“Tom?”

He looked up.

“Athena!” he flung his arms round her.

“Where’s Emma?”

“Long story short, we got separated”

“Oh no, she’ll be by herself!”

“She’s great at solving clues and besides you coped, right?”

“We should go and find her after we’ve got the key”

“Yeah”

“So what’s the clue?”

“I’ve read it dozens of times, but it doesn’t make sense! Within the beetles it will sit, reach right down you’ll have to brave it.”

“What beetles?”

“Exactly”

“Where have you checked?”

“The toilet and the sink and it’s not even in the cabinet”

Silence passed until the sound of some scurrying and scratching came from somewhere above. Athena followed the noise. A hole was appearing in the corner of the ceiling: out dropped a little black ground beetle.

“Maybe the key’s inside the beetle!” Athena exclaimed

“Maybe the key is the beetle. I’m not touching that thing” she glared at him “fine” he agreed. Tom chased it a bit before scooping it up in the palm of his hand.

“Ouch!”

“What?”

“That thing bit me!”

“They don’t bite” Athena smiled, turning to him, as she turned back around her face dropped “they...pinch” more scuffling was coming from the hole. Before either of them knew it, hundreds of dark ugly ground beetles were pouring out of the hole that had become several gaping holes.

“How do we find the key now?” yelled Tom

“I don’t know!” Athena was trying to stand back to get a better glance at the holes. All of a sudden a golden key flew out of the hole as the horrible insects cascaded over it. “There!” she cried “I saw it!”

“Me too! How do we get it?” shouted Tom flicking off the thousands of sickening bugs they were prisoner to.

“We reach right down!” confirmed Athena over their deathly scuttling noise.

“I’m not putting my hand in there! You can forget it”

“You’ll have to brave it” she recited. Tom crouched into the gathering pile of glittering critters, he was about to put his hand in but drew back. “Hurry up!”

“Why can’t you do it?”

“I’ll do the next one!”

Tom sighed and shoved his hand into the mass, sucking in his lip as they pinched at his skin, inches of him disappearing every second.

“I’ve got it!” he exclaimed, yanking out his hand.

“Quick, get us out of here”

“Tom turned the key in the lock. The pair barged out, quickly carving the X and slamming the door behind them. They slid down, panting and gasping for breath.

“Thank god that’s over” Tom breathed

“Y-” Athena was about to agree, until she looked up and saw something hideous curled up in the far corner of the room, hideous and huge. It must’ve been sleeping, but that thing could tear them apart. The beastly monster had massive defined, muscular, hair-less fleshy arms. Its face was awful and terrifying; it had wonderfully large dagger teeth and its nostrils were turned up in a grotesque bloody snout. It had a large bony head plate with spikes and a pair of crimson tinted horns and in its closed eye sockets, two amber glowing lamps were dangerously closed in a conflict of relaxed distress. Athena and Tom were left speechless and open-mouthed. It was a good job the ceiling was high or the monster wouldn’t be able to stand up, in fact that actually made them all the more easy to catch and devour. The walls around it were stained in blood.

Athena’s heart sank and she’d never felt it beat so fast. Adrenaline pumped round her body like a bullet. However, she noticed something chained round the clawed beasts repulsive neck that gave her a sudden hint of hope: a glowing key! A golden twisted glowing key! It had to be the Portal Key, it just had to.

Finally Tom found the nerve to speak.

“Well, like you said Athena, you’ll do the next one.”

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