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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4. CHAPTER 4: THE BOOK

“Athena, I need to talk to you” her mum called from downstairs.

“I haven’t done anything” Athena called back

“It’s about our plans for Christmas”

Athena groaned then threw back her covers; it was 9:00am, why must she be up this early?

“What?” she moaned

“I need you to clear out the basement at some point today, there’s a lot of your dad’s old stuff down there and a lot of it can be recycled. I’ve sorted out some bags, the green ones for recycling, the red one’s for the charity shop and the black one is for rubbish.”

“What about the keeps?”

“Anything to keep can be put into the boxes that are currently down there and then labelled with this black permanent marker pen, got it?”

“Okay, I think so”

“I’ll leave you to it”

Athena got ready then took the bags and the pen to the basement. Clearly no one had been in there for a while because there were tonnes of boxes and they were all covered in thick layers of crispy black dust. A spider scuttled along the floor and Athena had a feeling that he wasn’t the only one that she was going to see.

“Marvellous” she mimicked. She started on the opposite room to the spider as she didn’t fancy being swarmed with eight thick, hairy legs and many beetle black eyes. Picking up a large dusty cardboard box, Athena sneezed as the particles rushed up her nose. She started to unpack the box. The box contained empty bottles of old cleaning products and a few loose receipts. Quickly, Athena emptied the entire contents into the ‘recycle’ bag as they smelt quite revolting. Pushing the box aside, she grabbed a large one from the midst; it was rather light so she wondered what on earth could be in there, whatever it was rustled about as she picked it up. Opening the box flaps, she peered in. It was chocker full of old receipts; full to the brim! Athena plucked one from the top; it was a receipt from boots pharmacy for paracetamol. Another receipt was from topshop. Athena dug her hand into the very bottom of the box; her whole arm engulfed. When her hand reached the bottom, she felt something slimy and squidgy. Athena, being curious, would’ve normally emptied the receipts out, to see what it was, but this time she didn’t want to know. So instead, she emptied all of the receipts into the recycling bag and looked away as she did so.

After many hours of hard labour, there were more boxes left to check. Athena stood up to admire her handy work; she wiped the sweat off her forehead, and then placed her hands on her hips whilst letting out a tremendous sigh. She then set to work on pushing the remaining boxes with things in them to one side. As for the empty boxes, she folded them down and tucked them into a corner. Then, Athena labelled the boxes, some were ‘photographs’ others were ‘xmas decor’. There were even things like ‘ornaments’, ‘paperwork’, ‘bill references’ and many more unexciting things. Once she had labelled them, she heaved them into all into separate corners depending on what kind of things they contained.

Heaving the last box in a tight space under the basement stairs, relief swept over Athena but as she gave the box one last push, she found that it wouldn’t fit. Pushing and pushing with all her might, the box just wouldn’t budge. One more shove would break the box and its contents, so she tugged it back out to find a small-ish cardboard box already lurking there.

“What’s this?” she questioned “I haven’t put any boxes over here, I’m sure of it”. The only logical explanation was that she had been blind and not spotted it before or whoever left this box here, left it for a reason; to hide it. Athena guessed that it was probably some ‘secret’ of her mother’s that was boring and non-exciting. However, that thought didn’t put Athena off, she was as curious as ever and just wanted to make sure...she had to, it would be a crime to leave it unnoticed.

Athena pulled the box closer and coughed as a load of dust shot up her nasal passage. The box appeared much larger now that it was out of the darkness. Cautiously, Athena opened the withering thing to find a small trunk luggage case type thing. Naturally, Athena yanked it out and pushed the box aside. Then she opened the buckles on the chest and flung it open, revealing a tatty, old, leather bound and buckled book. Athena stared at it blankly for a while, was it an old photo album, or was it something more exciting? Did her mum know about it, or was it a secret of her dads? Questions rushed through her mind, maybe it was just some of her dad’s old museum stuff, and even so, there was no harm in taking a look.

Opening the book carefully as to not rip or damage the wizened pages, Athena glanced at the first page, it read:

‘This book belongs to Mr Charles Williams, studier of the gorgeous creatures and natural world, renowned astronomer and keeper of secrets for the lake.’

It was written neatly with each letter looping round the next. ‘Charles Williams’ Athena thought, ‘Whose Charles Williams?’ Hopefully, Athena turned the next page, it read: ‘The big three’ in spindly letters on one side and around it were three symbols: a lightning bolt, a helmet and a large trident. Athena caressed her hands over the picture then something on the page opposite caught her attention, it said:

‘The big three are the three most renowned and well known gods; Zeus, Hades and Poseidon. Zeus overthrew his father and is the current king of the gods. He has reigned over mount Olympus for centuries and is the god of the sky, thunder and lightning, law, order and fate. His father was Cronus whom, as stated above, he overthrew, his mother was Rhea. His wife is Hera whom is goddess of childbirth, marriage etc Zeus’ sacred animals are the eagle and the bull.

Hades is the god of the underworld and the dead as well as the hidden wealth of the earth. His wife is Persephone whom he abducted and forced to marry him. He has a helmet called the helm of darkness that makes the wearer invisible. He was also the son of Cronus and Rhea. Hades is a greedy man and he will not let his subjects leave. He is terrible and gives no pity, but he is not capricious. Hades has a three headed dog, Cerberus, and his sacred animal is the screech owl. He also has what is known as the key of Hades. This enables him to trap or free people from the underworld. This means that he could bring someone out of the underworld, or send someone to it. There is no throne in Olympus for him.

Poseidon is the god of the sea, floods, earthquakes, rivers and droughts. Once again he is the son of Cronus and Rhea and brother to king Zeus and Hades. He created horses in the attempt to make the most beautiful animal. He did it for Demeter whom he desired. Poseidon’s valuable weapon is the trident, which can shatter any object and shake the earth. His sacred animals are the horse and the dolphin. Being the second most powerful god, he is well known and widely worshipped. He also created Camp Thárros’ Poseidon Lake.’

Athena read and re-read the last line over and over again. ‘He also created Camp Thárros’ Poseidon Lake’. What on earth was ‘Camp Thárros? Thárros, whatever it was, was not an English word; to Athena, it sounded like gibberish. Athena was sure that she had never heard of this word before, but somehow it rang a bell. It was as if the words had a meaning, yet Athena pondered over everything and it appeared to have no meaning at all.

As she was playing the words back in her head and saying them repeatedly, she could not link them to anything. All of a sudden, her mother came down the stairs to the basement, which caused Athena to snap the book shut. Quick as she could, she shoved it into the chest and kicked it into the space underneath the stairs. She then pulled the red charity bag towards and pretended to re-tie the knot.

“Ahh what a marvellous job you’ve done Thee” exclaimed her mother, Hilary.

“Urr, cheers” Thanked Athena awkwardly, she side glanced at the chest. “Mum, do you keep anything in the space under the basement stairs?”

“Which space?” Hilary asked confused.

“That one” Athena pointed to the small space in which she had found the book.

“Sweetie, the space under the stairs is inaccessible. Since we moved here there has been a wall covering it, it’s hollow”

“Oh” Athena sighed “yes, I mean... never mind”

“Well if you bring those bags up to me now, I’ll sort them out for you”

“Okay” Athena really just wanted to open the book again, but she couldn’t risk her mum knowing it was there, she’d send it to the rubbish tip, or the charity shop, or whatever she did, she wouldn’t allow Athena to keep it in her possession. Athena waited until she was sure that her mother was back in the kitchen before she did anything else. Glancing at the hollow under the stairs, Athena wondered why her mum thought that a wall covered it; it was blatantly obvious that you could access it. Did her dad see the hollow too, or did he never look close enough? She hauled the three bags and the pen upstairs into the kitchen.

“Wonderful” Hilary chirped, “I’ll take them into town tomorrow to distribute them off to their separate places, I need to go into town anyway, where will you be?”

“Either here or at Toms” Athena stammered, as she pulled the bags into the utility room.

“I’m guessing as its Toms birthday on Tuesday you’ll be round his”

“Yeah” agreed Athena “I guess”. Hilary took the permanent marker pen off the table and popped it into the pot on the counter. Athena was so desperate to go back into the basement to retrieve the book, for some strange reason it intrigued her, she didn’t know why. The time on the clock read 16:00, this meant that Athena had been in the basement for nearly the whole day. Until now, she hadn’t noticed that she was starving and that she hadn’t spoken to Tom all day. She hurried off to her room, reached for her phone, and discovered that she had 22 unread messages from Tom. One of which said:

‘So, the plan for my birthday is that at 12:00, you Timmy and Tilly come round, Tilly has to leave at 15:00 for a dance class and Timmy has to be back by 17:00 because his grandparents are coming over for the Christmas holidays. We’ll have lunch at mine and then it’ll be just you and me for a sleepover after that. The family will be there as usual x’

Athena suddenly felt rather bad, she hadn’t bought Toms birthday gift yet, or even a card. Tom’s birthday was the 23rd of December, 2 days before Christmas. Athena replied with:

‘Sorry for not replying, I had to clear out the basement, I found something down there that I need you to check out x’

Tom replied almost instantly:

‘Does it have to wait? X’

‘Yes! I’ll tell you tomorrow, there’s something I’ve got to do x’

‘Fine x’

Athena smiled, and then persisted in trotting off downstairs. She had to retrieve the book, now, before her mum found it. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she met the smell of fajitas and it struck her that her mum must’ve started making dinner early. Athena stalked over to the counter and carefully plucked the marker pen from the pot, then prodded her mum in the back.

“Oh, I didn’t see you come in, I thought I’d cook dinner early as neither of us has had any lunch, did you want something?”

“Urm no, I think I left the pen in the basement” Athena lied, clutching it behind her back.

“No, I’m sure I put it on the counter” Hilary said, picking through the pot of markers. “Oh that’s odd, I must’ve been dreaming.”

“Ha-ha...” Athena awkwardly laughed “I’ll go look for it” with that Athena rushed out of the room, clutching the pen at her side.

She entered the basement, slid down by the basement stairs, reached into the hollow and yanked out the chest. She let out a sigh of relief as she found out that the book was still there, not that there was a reason for it not to be. Tightly holding the chest under one arm, Athena snatched up the pen, before hurrying back into the kitchen.

“Found it!” she declared dropping it into the pot.

“Oh thank you darling” Hilary chuckled. Athena quickly ran upstairs with the miniature trunk in her arms.

Collapsing onto her bed, she took out the book. For a while Athena read more about gods and goddesses such as Hermes, Apollo and a Goddess called Athena, which was very confusing for her to read about someone with the same name as her. All too soon, dinner was ready and Athena was already drawn into the book, it was Greek mythology, she knew that, but she still couldn’t rid her mind of ‘Camp Thárros’.

At dinner they spoke about what Athena would get Tom for his birthday.

“We’ll look in town on Monday, you might see something and if not, we’ll buy a cake or give him one of the presents from the spares box”

“I could do, but what’s there in town to buy? And I’m not giving him some horrible gift from the spares box, I want Toms present to mean something.” She claimed

“And it will” reassured Hilary “because it’ll be from you, his best friend” Athena gave a weak smile and after that, they sat in silence for the rest of the meal. Once they had finished, Hilary piped up:

“Well I’m just going to check that you haven’t got rid of any baby photos, what are you going to do now Thee?” Hilary announced. Athena knew she was only going to the basement to make sure that she had done everything ‘right’.

“I’m going to have a bath, then get into bed, it’s been a long day and I’m quite tired”

“Okay sweet” Hilary said, ruffling Athena’s hair, causing her to flinch, and then Hilary hurried off down to the basement. Slowly, Athena tiptoed up the stairs, and then ran herself a bath.

As she lay there in the soapy glory, she thought more about the book, not just this ‘Camp Thárros’, but also the fact that this ‘Charles Williams’ had the same surname as her. This was curious, he must be related to her, otherwise the book wouldn’t have been in her house all this time. But how did it get there? It was a mystery and, once again, as Athena hated mysteries, it was a problem solving them.

                                                                            ***

After her refreshingly hot bath, Athena crept into her room and began to, once again, read the book. Eventually she came to a page with beautifully glittery golden writing on it that read: ‘the creatures’ on the page opposite, it said:

‘The creatures are a load of magical and ‘mythical’ creatures that are crossbred in some sort of way with another. They inhabit many different places and many different worlds-‘

Athena suddenly stopped reading, many different worlds? But that must mean that there is more than one world, but that’s not true, surely. The way the book said inhabit suggested that they it was present, and to this day these ‘creatures’ live in these ‘worlds’. To make sense of it all, Athena decided to continue reading:

‘They have walked this earth for longer than any human previously thought, and even possibly longer than humans themselves. As for the worlds, the gateway to the mainland is found near Camp Thárros’ Poseidon Lake, through a secret tunnel that leads under the lake itself. It was originally used to transport the Magikós bloods to and from to help and see which one of them was the hero/heroine of the mainland. However, when Diávolos stepped down and once again became anonymous and unknown, they stopped and will not continue until a fight amongst the gods is present. Only Magikós bloods, gods and demi-gods and some creatures can pass through the gateway. Humans are not permitted.’

This was strange, what was a ‘Magikós blood’ and what was the ‘mainland’ and those words she had seen before ‘Camp Thárros’, what was it? Who were these ‘heroes’ and why did they need them? And who or what was ‘Diávolos’? This book was written in riddles. Either she didn’t understand, or she just wasn’t meant to.

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