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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24. CHAPTER 4: THE TREE

They strolled in through the doors of the main block and Professor Kwin was there awaiting them.

“Thank goodness you’re alive” she said “come out here, through the back” she led them through to what Athena recognised as the first aid room. There were about eight beds and at the end of the room were her other three friends and Ericarni! How did he get in here? Oh well, that didn’t matter. He looked relieved to see the other two there, alive and well. Emma threw her arms around them.

“How did you get out?” she quizzed

“With difficulty” laughed Robbie

“You’re bleeding!”

“Yeah, it was Cerberus. If it wasn’t for Athena’s quick thinking, I could be dead right now” he smiled at Athena, even Tom didn’t make a sarcastic remark this time, he was just glad to see his friends.

“What day is it?” Athena asked

“Saturday” Kwin replied blankly

“We’ve been in hell for four days with no food or water!”

“Well yes, but time is different down there. If you’ll excuse me, I need to pop off for a bit, meanwhile you can discuss what you found out.” Then Kwin swanned off out the room, locking the door behind her.

“So, what did you find out?” Ericarni eagerly asked, everybody looked at Athena expectantly.

“Well” she began “he said something about how the ancient Greeks hated him and never spoke his name”

“I knew of that, what else?”

“He has no place in Olympus because he’s not like the other Gods; he didn’t inherit all of the immortality like them, he didn’t say why, but he can be killed, with the right weapon!”

“Which is?”

“He wouldn’t say, but he did tell me why the Gods hated him”

“Oh well, we can find that out for ourselves soon enough. You can’t have got off that lightly, what did you have to do?”

“We haven’t done it yet, we’ve got three days to find something he wants”

“Yes?”

“He wants the Secret Sword”

Ericarni’s face dropped.

“Oh no, this can’t be good”

“What, why?”

“There is only one way to possibly find the Secret Sword in this circumstance”

“Which is?” asked Liam

“To get to the Portal Key”

“What’s the Portal Key?” questioned Tom

“It’s a key that can be used to make portals, it contains very powerful magic, no one’s quite sure to which extent its magic stops, nobody is brave enough to find out” Emma recited

“Precisely” Ericarni agreed “only three days?”

“Yeah” confirmed Robbie

“Is it that bad?” Athena piped up

“The last time the Portal Key was hidden, it was hidden in the Puzzle Room” stated Ericarni

“What’s the Puzzle Room?”

“It’s a vast maze of rooms, every kind of room, full of your darkest fears and your worst nightmares. It’ll be hidden somewhere in there. Once found, it’ll take you to the location of the Secret Sword.”

“So that’s okay then, right?”

“Not exactly...” another catch “The key will be difficult to find, not only that, but most that enter the Puzzle Room don’t come out”

“What?” they chorused

“They’re killed or driven insane; only one man has been known to successfully come out of the puzzle room in one piece in recent years, the one who hid the Portal Key in there away from the greedy...your dad.”

“Why did he hide it?” inquired Athena as Tom muttered ‘no pressure then’ sarcastically.

“Because of the swords hidden powers, only those-”

“Who are worthy, I know, I know, Hades said, so what?”

“So, men want to prove their worth and obviously they want its power too”

“How do you become worthy?”

“Well I’m not sure if anyone truly knows, but I do have an idea”

“Go on” Tom pressed on

“It is my belief that only those who do not wish to use the sword for bad are worthy or so legend states”

“But what’s good to one person can be bad for another”

“Precisely, it’s a paradox in a way, how do you define good? See this is the problem and that’s why nobody knows”

There was a sharp click of a key turning in a lock and Professor Kwin strutted into the room, followed by Persis Deciber, who re-locked the door behind them.

“Has Ericarni told you” Deciber hummed soberly

“Told us what?” Tom quizzed

“Timothy Greenfield has been abducted” Kwin said solemnly

“What? When? By who?” Athena stammered

“On Friday night, last night, we believe it was Diávolos’ doing”

“Why? Why does he want him?”

“It’s a trap” interrupted Ericarni “It has to be, maybe Diávolos is after the sword, and you Athena, perhaps Diávolos and Hades are working together”

“In which case” Kwin began

“You cannot retrieve the sword or the Portal Key” he intervened again

“We hav-” Athena argued

“I’ve put you in enough danger already; we cannot risk your life again at this early stage”

“Ericarni is right” chipped in Deciber “we shall get trained Magikós bloods on the case immediately, people’s whose job it is- adults who know what they’re doing.” If that was meant to be a comforting thought, it gave off quite the opposite effect.

“I need to get that sword, I need to find Timmy” she argued once more

“No, what you need is rest” Kwin reinstated

“How can I rest when one of my classmates who happens to be a close school friend is missing?”

The adults looked at her sorrowfully. ‘I’ll show them’ she thought, and with that thought spinning through her head, she ran back to her cabin. Thrusting anything she could into her rucksack, the cabin door burst open to reveal Alex and Maria. They were laughing until they saw her hurried state.

“Hi Athena, what are you doing?” queried a confused Alex

“What does it look like?” she retorted

“Is this about that service to the camp thing Kwin told us about?” Maria questioned

“Something like that, I’m sorry” with that she pushed past them out the squeaking door to find the figure of Perseus Alphas trotting towards his cabin.

“Athena you’re back!”

“Yep”

“Then why do you look like you’re going again?”

“Because I am”

“Where?”

She spun back round in annoyance.

“Look Persy, I can’t tell you right now, but there’s something I’ve gotta do, can you keep that secret?”

“Well yeah of course, but I don’t understand”

“You don’t have to yet, but you will and when you do, I’ll let you know”

“Okay, good luck Athena”

“Thanks!”

Now she wasn’t quite sure what to do, she had an idea, but she didn’t know if that would get her very far at all. Initially, her thoughts had been to go straight to the Puzzle Room, but considering that Athena had no idea where it was, perhaps it’d be best if she got some help. It wasn’t as if she could follow the map because Psychí had handed that back to Ericarni. Who would know where to go?

That was it! Voithós! He knew loads of things or so Athena assumed. There were loads of journey maps and weapons in his hut, a whole walk-in cupboard of them; he was sure to know something. Plus he was much older than the other centaurs and if they knew a lot, he was certain to know way more. Fingers crossed he’d tell her.

Thinking on it a bit more, Athena decided that she’d take Jemeanii, he was a good companion and he could help her out in the Puzzle Room. He could keep her safe, and sane.

 

By the time she reached the Mainland it was 14:45. Upon arrival she went to sit and ponder at the stump of her favourite marvellous oak tree. Despite what horrifying things happened in the Mainland, Athena felt more safe somehow, more secure and peculiarly like it was a long forgotten home. Sighing at its beauty, she heard a snap as one of the many spindly twigs that lay on the ground cracked in half. Abruptly, she got up and was surprised to see the friendly handsome face of Robbie Leland.

“Oh it’s you, I thought you were...” she began but was unable to really finish as the words drifted away from her.

“A manticore?” he joked

“Something similar, how did you know that I was here?”

“I followed you”

“Why?”

“Because we may have only known each other for five weeks, but that’s long enough to know when you’re gonna do something stupid.”

“It’s not stupid”

“So you admit you’re up to something?” when Athena didn’t reply he continued “The idea behind it isn’t, I think it’s great, but going alone? Well, that’s just dumb”

“I can handle it”

“You need help, our help, and you can’t go now”

“Why not? Who’s going to stop me?”

“Me, if I can. You haven’t eaten or slept in a while and Kwin was right when she said that you needed rest; we all need it.”

“But she was wrong about Timmy and the sword”

“I know adults may be mindless sometimes, but they can be right too, believe it or not.”

“Okay fine, I’ll wait, but promise me we’ll go tomorrow”

“I promise”

“Thanks” she smiled. They sat back down at the trees welcoming stump. A heavy prolonged silence passed, until Robbie spoke up.

“What you did in the underworld, you know, saving my life, that was pretty cool, not many people would’ve done that for me.”

“Then you’re lucky it was me stuck down there with you and not Tom.” She laughed

“Yeah but honestly, it was great, you were great.”

“It might have been a great thing, but I’m not great”

“Don’t say that, of course you are”

“But what if I’m not, what if the prophecy got it all wrong? What then?”

“It hasn’t and d’you know how I know? Not because of Ericarni or the others who just tell you and who told me because I’ll admit I had my speculations too. It’s because I have witnessed your bravery first hand, okay?”

“But Seth”

“What about him? Why should you care what he thinks? I don’t care what people like him think about me because there will always be people, like Seth, who want to see me fail because they can’t succeed.”

“What’re you saying?”

“I’m saying that he’s the one failing, you’re the success Athena, you, and you better start believing it. Look I know we haven’t been friends for very long at all, not like you and Tom but”

“It’s okay Robbie, I get the point”

“Sorry”

“Don’t be, you were just trying to help, I have a habit of pushing people away”

“Well I’m not gonna let you”

They caught each other’s eye and Athena saw him come close to her face and he kissed her cheek! Robbie Leland, the eye candy of Camp Thárros kissed her! All too quickly it was over.

“What was that for?” she smiled

“Just to say thanks again, for saving my life”

“You know, I might tell Tom a lot, but I think I’m going to keep this between you and me”

“Yeah that might be best”

“Anyway, let’s get back to Camp; we have another plan to make”

Still smiling, she hauled Robbie up and they walked leisurely back to Camp Thárros.

 

                                                                       ***

 

“Athena! There you are” stressed Emma as they approached the main cabin ground “Kwin was worried and we... I thought you were going to go and do something stupid”

“No of course not” she lied “yet”

“Because Athena Williams is known for her stupidity” sneered Seth as he strutted past with Simon, Paris, Melanie and Barbara.

“Mind your own business Rogue” Tom called

“Or what?” Barbara threatened in her droning voice.

“Just go away” Liam protested

“Leland, looks like you’ve been hurt too, have you? Won’t be long before the other two are, people will start placing bets” Seth jeered before stalking off with his unbearable squad of minotaurs.

“So” Emma proceeded “Don’t you think we should tell the trained Magikós bloods everything we know?”

“There’s no need” Athena told them “We’re going. They might be trained, but if we don’t get that sword, Hades will drag us to hell.”

“As long as he gets it I’m sure there’ll be no problem”

“Don’t you see? Hades wants you to think that, don’t underestimate the God of hell”

“Athena this entire thing’s a trap we can’t fall for!”

“I don’t care! I’m not going to stand by and do nothing whilst Timmy is with Diávolos and the Secret Sword isn’t with Hades! Look I couldn’t care less if you don’t want to come, but you’re wasting your time by trying to stop me”

It was silent; if a pin dropped you could’ve heard its faint sound of surrender.

“Okay, say you did go, say we all did, Ericarni isn’t going to help us and we need to get to the Puzzle Room somehow. And we need weapons and maps and food, where do we get all that, huh? Athena we just don’t have that kind of equipment.”

We might not, but I know someone who does.”

After a long rainy night mulling things over in her cabin, Sunday finally came and to Athena’s great disappointment, the others had decided that they wouldn’t start the journey until 12 o’ clock at night. She knew why they had pulled that stunt, it was so they had enough time to prepare rest and eat before the time came that they would have to venture out to the Puzzle Room. It was thoughtful of them, but Athena herself would rather get it over and done with. They were wasting one of their three precious days with preparation that they didn’t actually need and that they could do without. As it was a free day anyway it wasn’t as if anyone would miss them; they had no activities. At least the long nights rest had done some good, as Athena and the others had felt recuperated and clear headed: ready to go. So it wasn’t long until the awesome five-some had arrived outside Voithós’ hut.

Emma braved a knock on the recognisably serene door. There were a few withered brief trotting noises before the slated door creaked open. At this point, Emma nudged Athena to the front.

“Ahh moíra” rang his soft intelligent voice “I’m afraid Ericarni is not here, he has ventured out to the passing for a few days”

“Actually it’s you that we’re here for”

Voithós looked baffled but pleased.

“Come in” the five trouped in to his humble establishment. “What is it you’re after?”

“Well it’s a long story...” she started

“I do not wish to know the details, the less I know the better, just tell me what you came here for”

“We need to get to the Puzzle Room”

“Ericarni spoke of this. He said you may come asking questions, I am afraid there is not much I can do for you”

Everyone’s faces dropped from hope to hopeless in one sentence.

“So you’re not going to help us?”

“He advised strongly against it, I must respect his wish”

Athena sighed in distraught.

“Come on, let’s go” she muttered making to head out the door, Emma pushed her back.

“And go where?” she uttered back rhetorically

“We’re wasting our time” Athena made to go once more, and was once again replaced by Emma who whispered

“I’ve got an idea” and then she spoke out to him.

“Voithós, lives are at stake here, not only ours but a boy’s, a child, a child who is trapped with Diávolos with no way out. If you help us we can free this boy and settle Hades’ greed. Just think he could die.” This had glitched a nerve. Voithós was a doctor and any life he could help save, he certainly would. Athena wished she didn’t underestimate people so much.

“Very well” there were a few ‘yes’’ from the boys in triumphant whisper “what do you need?”

“Weapons and food” Tom replied

“Follow me” Voithós led them to the planning room and disappeared off into the cupboard. Within a couple of seconds he emerged with two average sized bronze boxes. Setting them out on the table, he lifted the first lid and inside was several silver-handled sharp daggers. Each one had a gold lightning bolt carved into the glazed hilt. They weren’t exactly swords, but they were easier to control and could still inflict painful damage. “These daggers are personal to our tribe. I handcrafted them myself in my youth; I was a blacksmith in my father’s weaponry shop. They are powerful, so use them with caution.” Then Voithós carefully opened the second box. Concealed inside were a few copper tins. “In each tin are ten pills that will completely satisfy the hunger feeling, whilst providing you with all the right vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy. They shall also quench your thirst.”

“We don’t get proper food!” stressed Tom

“It is as good as. Anyway, there is one final thing I must give you” digging his hand in the leather pouch around his waist, he pulled out a silver chain and dangling from the end of it, was a deep red stone. It was glossy and wrapped around it were thin silvery metal wires. On the stone were tenuous black vein-like lines that were obscurely trailing round it, as part of it. “This is the healers’ necklace, also referred to as the tear amulet. It is a charm, not only for luck, but for healing. It should prevent fatal amounts of harm from happening to the wearer.” Emma looked put off by it and Athena got the feeling that she didn’t believe in fate or amulets.

“So how do we get there?” Robbie quizzed

“The Puzzle Room is in a place called the Forgotten, not too far from here, you will need to head southwest.”
“Aren’t you taking us?” Liam questioned.

“I can’t. It is too far for me; I’m not the centaur I once was.”

“Then who can?”

“Vélos has been there more than once, he may help you”

“Can’t we just use Chárti̱s” brought up Athena. The idea of Vélos leading them was frightening.

“No, there is a clue in the name. It is the only place Chárti̱s cannot show because it is ‘forgotten’ and unidentified by the past. The Forgotten is a lethal insane-driven area which is why no one ventures there. Not all have forgotten, but most try to forget.”

“Thank you Voithós” Voithós bowed his head. They each took a glorifying dagger, Emma picked up a box of the pills and Athena took care of the amulet. Maybe this would be harder than she thought. 

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