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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30. CHAPTER 30: SCHOOL OF RENAISSANCE

Breakfast in the morning came swiftly and Athena’s spirits were certainly not as high as the previous night. In fact their spirits were dampened; today was the day that she went ‘home’. The thought of how she’d tell her mum who she really was and what had happened was not easy to think of; she had avoided it all summer.

Suddenly, Professor Tharrein entered the food hall; heads turned and the sound dulled, except a few whispers. Loosely, his balding blond hair hung pale as the morning sky, his eyes set on Athena. Once more, heads turned left right and centre to look at her and she knew that all would know by now, except the average bloods. They probably thought she was some irreplaceable hero who knew no fear or so the stories had changed it to, no doubt. The truth was that the gossip of what had truly happened was like a game of Chinese whispers; each person heard different and few knew the truth.

Tharrein made his way to the vibrant window at the other end. Once there, he cleared his throat patiently. All heads turned to his powerful figure, except Seth’s who lingered for a while longer, before eventually turning to him.

“As you know, today we celebrate the end of another six weeks of a once again successful Camp Thárros and we are sure to encourage our hopes of seeing you all again soon.”There were a few cheers and a short outburst of clapping. “However, this camp has not all been fun and games. It’s been a strict learning experience about some of the most creative people throughout time. I hope it has taught you not just about the past, but the future too. What tomorrow brings, who knows? Camp Thárros itself shall hope you have learnt the true meaning of love and friendship, valour and honour, of saints and sins, but above all, what it adores and wishes for more than anything else, what the camp is all about. It hopes you have learnt to conquer your demons, it hopes you have found courage.” There was a small silence and it got Athena thinking, Tharrein was right about the camp and its wish was true for her; she had leaned every one of the things he had mentioned, those and so many more. “As for all of you sitting in front of me, professors and campers, I’d just like to thank each and every one of you for cooperating with our much valued system and for proving that courage isn’t just read about in books and that it is not just not being without fear or even having bravery, but that it dwells in all of our hearts and rises when we so choose to call it up. So to you all, a job...well done.”

A vast applause clapped out until he hushed it down with a brief gesture.

“But now we’ve all been waiting for: team points” the room dulled into a silence so intense, even the tree’s stopped waving in the brisk breeze. No sound came from anywhere. “We all of course know that each team has its own jewelled item made by the ancients themselves, which are made in replicas with glass and metals for each winner of a team. The Hippogriffs honour the sapphire bracelet; the Pegasus’ persevere for the Amethyst broach; the Minotaurs minds draw them to the platinum ring; the Centaurs compete for the emerald braid; the Phoenixes present themselves with the task of the ruby neck-chain and the Griffins gallantry efforts earn them the golden topaz circlet.

However, there can only be one team that will win. So the results are: in sixth place with a respectable eighty-two points are...the Pegasus’” A small clap “in fifth position are the Minotaurs with a dignified eighty-five points” another round of applause. “In fourth place with eighty-six points are the Griffins” the Griffin table erupted in claps and disappointment. “In third place are the Phoenixes with a virtuous eighty-seven points.” More applause “so that leaves us with two teams... In second place with an honourable ninety-five points are... the Hippogriffs, which means the Centaurs win again with a worthy one hundred and twelve points.”

The centaur table exploded with cheers and applause, during their moment of bliss pair of courageous Thárros arrows was lifted above Tharrein’s head. They were a brilliant perplexing green.

“To win truly is to know your best” muttered Persy mockingly

“Clearly” Alex hummed

“Cheer up” Athena laughed “at least we beat the Minotaurs”

“By one point”

“And that one point made all the difference” the three looked over to find Seth looking paler than pale and together, they laughed amusedly.

Everyone left the hall in excitement mingled with sadness. Each Centaur was given a replica of the emerald braid, except it wasn’t made half as well and the ‘emeralds’ were pieces of glass that was coloured green, still Athena wouldn’t object to taking one if she was in Centaur.

The professors led the campers, with all their luggage, back along the path she had walked six weeks ago, past the battered canvas’ and the magnificent oaks to the ‘Camp Thárros’ sign that led out of the green field that was the car park.

“I can’t believe I won’t see any of you for a yea, promise it won’t really be that long” Emma begged.

“We promise” they chorused, the corners of their mouths turning up, before embracing each other into a group hug. Athena noticed Hilary waiting anxiously near the familiar black Corsa. She wondered cautiously over as her friends positively gathered to their parents. Hilary looked up, small droplets clinging in the corner of her pale eyes. This triggered Athena to run to her mother, sure of emotion, and they endured a relief of a hug.

“The place has been empty without you, Athena” her mum told her, holding her tight, blessing her lucky stars with every peck of a kiss. Athena noticed someone sat snoozing in the car.

“Mum, what’s Greg doing here?” she asked

“He wanted to come” usually Athena would’ve asked why, but this time round, she need knew; she felt like a whole new person: less troubled. It was as if all of life’s previous mysteries had begun their first step of being solved.

“Urr mum”

“Yes sweetie?”

“I need to tell you something” they went and sat on a grassy bank in a spare parking spot.

“What’s the matter?”

“You see, the thing is...”

“Do you have a boyfriend? Have you done something wrong?”

“No mum, seriously, just stop”

“Well then what?”

“You see, when I came here I... Well what I’m trying to say is- I went to this place, by accident and I met someone there who said... well he said I was-” this was even harder than she’d anticipated. “He told me that I was a Magikós blood.” The truth was finally out. Hilary stayed calm and still, well now Athena knew that she knew about them, but she expected more of a shocked reaction, yet all she did was sigh. “Are you not...even a little bit surprised?”

“No, not really”

“Then why do you look so sad?”

“It just-you just- you reminded me of when your father told me what he really was.”

“Oh”

“All summer I’ve been worried out of my mind about what kind of things you’d be getting up to. I mean if it’s anything near as dangerous as what your father did I-”

“What?” Hilary sighed at her daughter’s justified confusion.

“I knew you’d be one of them; I was always jealous, you get to see things I could only ever dream of. I know I don’t look like it, but I do enjoy adventure too, you know.” Athena had nothing to say, so all they did was hug it out and then venture back to the care to see Greg, having woken up, leaning on the bonnet.

“Athena, come ‘ere you” he smiled. She trotted to his side for an arm hug. “I ‘ere you’ve been a brave girl, eh?”

“I suppose”

“Well, at least you understand now, both of you”

“At least” she replied

“How’s Thomas?”

“He’s...well” she mocked her nearly year ago self. Greg grumbled slightly.

“Oh well at least neither o’ you are dead”

“What brings you here?”

“Oh, you know memories and the good ol’ days. Plus I couldn’t stand hearing about Mildred again.”

“Haha” perhaps Athena had missed home more than she thought.

“Did you make some new friends?”

“Yes, of course”

“Who are they then?”

“Urm, there’s Emma” she pointed to the wonderful redhead whom without they’d be lost “that there’s Liam” gesturing to the boy on his knee who was rapidly talking to a young girl, presumably Tabitha. Without Liam’s clever patience and ideas, they’d be stuck on a forever. “And that’s Robbie” pointing to the handsome figure hugging his parents (at which the girl’s longing sighs had gotten out of control) she smiled slightly, without him, they wouldn’t have half an insight to the other campers, or anything for that matter.

“The elite five” Greg murmured “and all so young”

“What did you say?”

“Oh, nothing” but she knew that was a lie “it’s good to have you back”

“You too” they exchanged grins.

“I think Professor Tharrein wants to talk to you”

“What?” Greg was right; the man gracefully walked over with purpose and led her away to a quiet clearing under the Thárros sign.

“Sir?”

“I’m sorry to be so secretive again, and the others will all fins out too in a couple of days but”

“Find out what sir?”

“Camp Thárros offers full time education too, in a school to the left, if you keep following the road. It’s not really far from here at all.”

“What’re you saying?”

“Well, you and your classmates have earned a space at that school. It’s all for special people, like you: Magikós bloods.”

“That’s great sir, but I can’t leave my mum for that long; she’ll be all alone back home, she’ll miss me...I’ll miss her.”

“I see”

“And I love Perrenporth”

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me, Athena, but if it is the thought of leaving what you know and love behind, know that there are designated weekend visits to family members, and holiday weeks such as Christmas and Easter.”

“I don’t know professor”

“Will you at least think about it?”

“I guess” but could she? Tharrein briefly smiled.

“Do we get weekends off?”

“Of course”

“And I really can visit Perrenporth?”

“On the assigned days, yes”

“Okay, deal. What does the school teach?”

“Well, like Thárros, it has activities more commonly known as lessons, to do with the Greek side of things, the things that will be important to know in our world. They are taught by the Professors here and also like Thárros it teaches a greater, more valuable, lesson than knowledge you can find; it teaches you about yourself. It’s nicknamed ‘the School of Renaissance’ because it is simply where one goes to find oneself.”

“It sounds great”

“It is the perfect school for people like you and your classmates.”

“Thank you, sir”

“It’s procedure, although, it isn’t my job to care, but if it was I’d be very good at it.”

“When does term start?”

“On the 30th of September, four weeks from now.”

“Cheers sir, goodbye, and I’ll see you soon”

He waved her off and Athena declared the good news to her mother. But just as she did, she saw some golden eyes flaming in a bush behind the car. Recognisably, the eyes she had seen four years ago at her dad’s funeral; she would know them anywhere. It had to be Psychí.

Carefully, she excused herself and tiptoed into the trees. Psychí’s gorgeous aurous face shone, and so did Jemeanii’s pure white feathers. Behind her two favourite creatures, another familiar face emerged from the leaves’ quaking shadows: Ericarni’s.

“Hello Athena” he greeted her with an air of uncertainty in his voice.

“Hello Ericarni” an awkward silence captivated the scene.

“You scared us all with what you did, and turning one of my herd members against my word, letting them betray it, that was fairly foolish of you.” She flinched again and wished people would stop using that word to describe her. “Vélos I could expect it from, but Voithós? Well it’s safe to say my trust has been well and truly stampeded on” if this was his attempt at making her feel bad, it was working. “However, you did something so brave, you knew what could happen and you fought away your fears; you were extraordinary. No ordinary Magikós blood would have the courage to fight Diávolos, especially not a child. Some may say your actions were foolish, naive, stupid and even reckless...but all can agree that they were certainly special and legendarily brave.”

“Thank you”

“No, thank you, Athena, for proving us all wrong”

“Ericarni?”

“Yes?”

“When I found the Secret Sword, I also found a piece of pottery from mu das ashes...but I don’t understand how that can be when I saw the vase being lowered into his grave and buried.”

“You know we were there too that day, we collected some of his ashes for ourselves, by is will, in a twin pot.”

“Why was it smashed?”

“Centaurs don’t bury, we scatter, so his spirit can dwell in more than one place, many ashes lay in the Sacred River”

“Oh” Psychí nudged her with his beak “what will happen to Psychí when I go home?”

“Home is closer than you think”

“Goodbye Ericarni”

“Goodbye Athena” Ericarni cantered off, and his horsey shape was unmistakable

“Bye Psychí, keep safe, oh, and don’t listen to me” she laughed. Psychí screeched a wonderful song and flew up into the sky above Ericarni. The moment was scenic.

“Come on Jemeanii”

The two remaining Williams family members went back to their third: Hilary.

“Ready to go home?”

“Yeah, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, just give me a moment.”

Athena jogged back to the pleasant company of her four best friends.

“Are you leaving now?” Emma asked, all Athena did was nod as she saw the tears in Emma’s bold, bright brown eyes.

“I’m going to miss you guys like crazy” Robbie grinned

“It’s going to take forever to see you again” Liam responded

“Not quite” muttered Athena cheerfully.

“Until the next time” Tom blushed. The five hugged each other individually. “I’ll see you the day after tomorrow for your birthday.” This was directed at Athena

“Sure you will”

“About that” Robbie said

“We have something for you” Emma declared. Liam pulled out a glorious memory-filled picture of the elite five, huddled together, happy as ever. Its frame was a brilliant shade of golden wood.

“Thank you all so much” Athena could’ve cried, and then she remembered something she had crafted in the first aid room when she’d had to stay there a few days back. Pulling out a stringed necklace, with a brown, wooden, tear-shaped pendant on it, she handed it to Robbie. “Happy birthday” she said, grinning. At the surprised look of happiness on Robbie’s face as Athena handed him the pendant and Liam handed him an identical picture. “What? You didn’t think we’d forgotten did you?” she laughed

“Thank you” Robbie hugged her into him “You’re the best people I’ve ever met.”

“Goodbye guys, and thanks for the most memorable summer ever”

“Goodbye” Emma hugged her once more and after that Athena strolled leisurely back to the car, holding the picture tight.

Walking away felt a lot like waking up from a pleasant dream, one of the ones you’re glad you had but are disappointed and upset that you can’t go back to. Except this was no dream and she was coming back to it.

Jemeanii flew into his spiralled cage as Athena closed the car door behind him. The car sparked into life with a heavy rumble and as it rattled out of the camp, she waved to the four people who had given her the best memories of a dangerously amazing summer.

“Well I’m glad you had fun” Hilary announced

“Fun? Adventure’s more the word” Greg laughed

“Oh I had plenty of them” Athena smiled ‘and they weren’t all fun’ she added in her head.

“Your friends seemed nice”

“Oh they are, they’re amazing”

“I’m glad you and Tom enjoyed yourselves, were you okay?”

“Yes” she answered “We were alright” she muttered to herself.

 

The car journey back didn’t seem as long as the ride there and that was partially because she had an entire six weeks’ worth of thoughts to think about. Without a load of chattering kids surrounding them, it felt kind of empty. Despite how frustrated they had made her feel, even now, it wasn’t the same without them. No matter how happy the camp had made her, Diávolos still ruled her thoughts like a creepy stretching shadow that loomed over her head with what people expected of her. It would catch up with her anywhere. There was no doubt that her life had changed permanently, for the rest of forever. Yet, there were still so many mysteries that she longed to find the answer to and so many pages that were left unturned. However, she did know some things. There were some things she had learnt; she had learnt how to fell love, true friendship, true pride and the obnoxiousity of true fear itself.

The point was that Athena had learnt so many things, and the best part was it wasn’t even over yet. There were things she had discovered about herself that should’ve perhaps remained undiscovered. The fact of the matter was, they were exposed now, and all for the best, all for the very long eternity of best. Everything she thought mattered didn’t and that was all there was to a new beginning for her, and for everyone else.

Even so, her mind was drawn back to the riddles of the Puzzle Room

“Where fear is broken and what is gone, this, your journey, shall lead you on.”

Fear wasn’t broken and whatever what was wasn’t gone, but this was their journey and it would lead them on. Wherever on was.

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