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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5. CHAPTER 5: CAMP THÁRROS

That Saturday night in her bedroom, Athena opened the book at random and found a split between the pages, looking closer; she pulled out an envelope which was old and wizened, frail and moth eaten. Curiously Athena turned it over as the front was blank. The seal was blood red and tinted black with age; in fact, it actually looked like blood, the way it gleamed in the light. Peering closer, she noticed that someone had marked something in ink: για την τύχη (gia ti̱n týchi̱).

This was certainly not English, all these funny symbols, what did they mean? Athena wanted to open it but felt that she didn’t need whatever was in there, at least not for now. However, she noted down the page she found it on, then slipped it back into the page split, and then flicked over to the next page.

‘Camp Thárros’. There it was again. Those magical words that filled her with joy and intrigue, with no reason whatsoever. She continued reading:

‘Camp Thárros is a delightful summer school in which the occupants spend their time in log cabins learning about the ancient Greeks. The occupants spend their time learning things like the Greek alphabet and words, the “beliefs” of the Greeks, Greek history, the Greek background and they also participate in activities such as sports and woodlands, team building exercises, archaeological digs, night walks, lessons in astronomy and Kataskeví studies (creativity). They continue these studies over the course of six weeks. The occupants get a chance to make friends and learn most of what they need to know, as humans, about our culture, without knowing that it is in fact reality. Camp Thárros was ordered to be set up so that humans could understand the way we live and how things came to be. It was decided among the gods that the decree carried out showed the majority vote was for humans to learn about our world. Camp Thárros was originally used to see if any Magikós bloods that attended the camp could find the gateway and become the hero. However, even when Diávolos stepped down, the hero had not been found; they continued to run Camp Thárros in the hope that one day- as the prophecy foretold- fate would accompany the hero/heroine to the mainland to save us all. The motto was “even though we are dead and gone, Camp Thárros shall still live on”.’

There was a strange feeling inside her now, a small part of her wanted to thrust the covers back and research this stunningly bewildering ‘Camp Thárros’ that enthralled her but, as she glanced at the clock, it revealed that it was 12 am. So she hastily shoved the book into the box and made a mental note to research this Camp Thárros tomorrow with Tom. Slowly, she drifted off into a deep sleep.

That night was like most other nights, Athena’s subconscious brain filled with the memory of her dad’s death, if you could call it a memory, she was never there, it was more of a vision.

Her dad was scurrying around for something, he found it, the car roared into life and then it swerved to a halt near some trees. They spiralled around him, he gasped for breath as he approached the gate. A figure loomed into view, piercing and vast, as they discussed something, the dark striking figure started to roar and yell, it clubbed a hand to her dads face, and scratched and hit. The dream was now a blur of a bloody mess,Athena found herself trying so hard to yell “NO, NO, NO, NOT MY DAD” but not a croak would issue from her mouth. Doubled over, her dad was now writhing uncontrollably on the floor in a blood-stained mess. Athena wanted so desperately to help, she needed to help, but it was too late. He was gone. And he had been for over three years.

When she awoke on Sunday morning, Athena found her bed sheets in a crumpled mess where she must’ve twisted and turned in her sleep. As she sat up, she rearranged them neatly (or as neat as she could manage) and then trailed downstairs to the glorious smell of bacon and eggs.

“Hi hun” Hilary chirped as Athena wondered sleepily into the kitchen.

 

“Hi” Athena grunted, she then sat hopefully at the table holding her knife and fork in either hand as Hilary swooped over and dished out the breakfast in her silky lilac dressing gown.

 

“There we are” she said as the egg flopped onto Athena’s plate

“Cheers mum” said Athena feeling considerably happier at the sight of bacon. “Good Sleep?”

“Not too bad” Hilary replied “odd dream, but I suppose I can’t complain, how about you?” At this, Athena felt slightly drained of her happiness as she recalled the dream that she had, had so often. Hilary must’ve picked up on her daughter’s thoughts as she said “It’s just a dream Thee, we both know, dad- Andreas, I should say, died in a car accident.” Athena just sighed.

“There were no witnesses” she mumbled

“Even so, the evidence suggested- “

“Who cares what the evidence ‘suggested’” she mocked “it doesn’t mean it has to be true”

“But it is” spoke a startled Hilary. Athena could tell that her anger was bubbling to the surface “and the sooner you realise that, the sooner you can move on.”

“Move on? MOVE ON! Why on earth would I want to move on?” Athena yelled.

“So your father’s crazy ideas don’t drive you as insane as him!” Hilary shouted back. Athena, looking like she had just been slapped in the face, finally found the voice to say:

“He wasn’t insane. And nor am I. Just because we’re not like Anna” there was a silence. “I’m very sorry that it was her who died and not me, I’m sorry that I’m not like her-”

“Don’t you dare bring Anna into this” Hilary interrupted, but Athena persisted.

“I know you wish that it was me who died. I know you wish that it was me instead of Anna. And sometimes, I do too. At least then I’d be with dad, and you could be with your precious fastidious good girl, rather than the reckless, insane one you have been landed with by fate”

“Athena how dare you accuse-”

“Oh I dare, because it’s true! And you know it!”

After Hilary’s silence, Athena just made a ‘tuh’ sound and sarcastically grimaced in a would-be smile, then she strutted out the room, leaving her pathetic mother to her own thoughts.

 

Once Athena had got dressed, she slammed the front door (so that her mum knew she had left without having to talk to her) and then trudged off to Tom’s house, box under-arm, golden eyes ignited in the 9 am mist.

She knew it was early, but after the shouting match with her mum, she’d have liked nothing more than to see Tom’s sapphire eyes and messy bleach-blonde hair and that welcoming smile that would put her bad mood to rest.

Knocking on the door to the red-bricked, two-storey house, Athena slid the box safely into one arm. It was Tom’s mother, Demeter Noble, who answered the door, she was fully dressed and had Tom’s blonde hair, but hers wasn’t as bright, it was dull with age and her eyes were paler than Tom’s. The strands of hair that limply hung to her shoulders were somehow inviting when mixed with her warm, gentle smile.

“Athena dear, Tom said you’d come, but urm he did not quite tell us that you would be here this early” she expressed.

“Oh I’m so sorry, I can go if you-”

“No, no, don’t be silly” she chuckled, nudging Athena through the door “it’s a pleasant surprise dear”

“Well if it’s okay...”

“Of course it is” Demmy brushed-off, chivvying Athena into the kitchen. “Have a seat.” Athena sat down at the breakfast table. The only Noble there was Timon (Tom’s father).

“Hello Athena” he said enthusiastically “how are you?”

“Good thanks Tim, yourself?” she replied

“Oh not bad at all, so what do we owe this surprising pleasure?”

“Just visiting Tom, you know, home work, and school...stuff” she lied.

“Well of course, speak of the devil- no, wait, that’s Chloe.” Chloe Noble came trundling down the stairs, yawning and wiping her eyes.

“Dad what’s for breakfast?” she yawned

“There are some sausages in the grill” he answered

“Thank y- oh hey Athena, didn’t see you there” Chloe said “how’re you?”

“Good thanks” she replied

“Yeah, excellent” said Chloe, not really listening as she poked around in the grill for some sausages. Chloe had inherited her father’s pale brown hair, unlike Tom. Unlike Tom’s hair, it was rather naturally straight and not scruffy at all. It was always quite glossy, but it seemed to stay tame constantly. As for her eyes, they were of the palest green, like Timon’s She resembled her dad in most other ways, especially the stern look; unfortunately she had not inherited the warm smile of her mother, or the smiley eyes.

Personality wise, she was sarcastic, like Tom, but in a more oppressing manor. She was a bit bossy and Athena liked her least of the Nobles, but she was mostly considerate and she also had a tendency to be a tad selfish at times. But, she was ever so witty and reasonably wise too, especially for a 14 year old. She was in her third year at high school, the year above Athena herself.

Someone was stomping down the stairs, Tom? The footsteps seemed to get closer but as quickly as they came, they seemed to fade just as instantly. Then a new pair of footsteps could be heard, these were slow and clumsy sounding: Toms. There was a small shriek, a thud, a gasping sigh and then a grunt of annoyance.

“Tom?” Chloe said. She stuck her head out the door, and then burst into shrieking cackles of laughter.

“TOM!” yelled a squeaky frustrated voice that belonged to his younger sister Ophelia. “That’s my fairy dust” she wailed.

“Its glitter Ophelia, why the hell would you leave it on the banister!” Tom called

“Why the hell would you trip up” Ophelia mocked.

“Ophelia, I’ll hear no such language from you young lady” Demmy piped up

“But Tom said it”

“Tom should know better” Demmy scowled. Tom mimicked his mother behind her back, but as she glanced back, he started dusting off the glitter from his tousled bed hair.

“Thee?” said Tom “Why so early?”

“Will you ever learn manners?” Chloe scoffed

“Well, school stuff” Athena shrugged, hoping that Tom would realise that it was a lie.

“Oh right” Tom replied “well it’s good to see you” he hugged her. Ophelia pushed Tom out of the way and said:

“Thena, will you please help me collect up my glitter” she shoved the pot in front of Athena’s eyes. First, Athena looked uncertainly out Tom, but then she allowed Ophelia’s tiny hand to find hers and pull her away. Tom took her seat and tucked into a sausage sandwich.

 

Ophelia crouches down at the bottom of the stairs and started scooping up the glitter and placing it in the pot. Athena grabbed a dust pan and brush and copied her.

Ophelia was six years old, almost seven and she wore dungaree’s and sometimes shorts with tights and socks and an abundance of childish plastic and wooden beads, plus a necklace made up of cut up straws. Blonde was her hair, as bleached as the sun; it was pale, like Tom’s and it had specks of brown at the roots. It was long and wavy and it flowed down her back in a tangled mess. Her eyes, like Tom’s, were blue, but they were paler and more ghostly, like Demmy’s. Her cheeks were pudgy, but she herself was not. Ophelia very much reminded Athena of her when she was younger, but more blonde, and less troubled. Athena admired Ophy, she had a vivid, electrifying imagination, that was broad and open to anything, she cared little of anyone else’s thoughts as she was so endorsed in her own. Her slight young insanity was infectious.

As the two of them gathered glitter, a figure appeared and as Athena looked up she saw Leon, Tom’s older brother, and the eldest of the Noble’s. Leon had the same hair as Chloe but his was much messier and a lot darker, which didn’t really add up considering the fact that both his parents’ hair is pale and fair. It was like a dark brown version of Tom’s hair. His eyes were blue, like Tom’s; they were as deep as oceans and as mysterious as its depths. He was handsome. His smile was darker, more mystical, but still inviting, in a slightly different way. Leon was fifteen and in his fourth year, two years older than Athena. He was strong, smart, comical and great with kids. Athena had always had a soft spot for him; his untamed mass of hair just seemed so... welcoming.

“Hi Athena, thought you’d be here” he said

“Never like to disappoint” she giggled

“Of course not” he smiled, his eyes glinted. He was not in his pyjamas, he wore jeans and a grey t-shirt, but his casual look was somewhat mystifying.

“Have you had breakfast?” she asked

“Yep, of course, you know us Noble’s Thee, we love to eat.” Tom was the only Noble who ever called him ‘Thee’, so she guessed that Leon was mocking him.

“Haha, wouldn’t expect anything less” she grinned and Leon returned the smile, before striding into the kitchen.

“Do you think it’s full now” Ophelia mumbled, prizing the jar under Athena’s nose. It was three quarters of the way to the top, but Athena saw no reason in continuing to collect more glitter because the majority of what should’ve been in there was in Tom’s hair, and there was no getting that back.

“It’ll do” she said, pulling Ophy to her feet “come on.” She led her into the kitchen where the Noble’s gathered eating or else reading.

“I’m gonna go and get dressed, and get some of this glitter out my hair, back in a bit” Tom announced.

Athena waited around with Chloe and Leon, discussing Mrs Goleson and saying how terrible she was. This cheered Athena up a bit, knowing that they too hated her, made her feel satisfied. If someone as mature as them could despise her, so could she. Then with a jolt of dread, Athena remembered that she had been set homework for maths and made a mental note to do it with Tom later, or just face up to a detention.

Sure enough, around fifteen minutes later, Tom re-emerged, looking clean and fresh and less glittery.

“We need to talk” whispered Athena “it’s really important, Tom”

“We can go upstairs if you-” his voice trailed off at the look in Athena’s eyes; she looked desperate, if a bit fearful and somewhat curious.

“Okay, the river?” suggested Tom. Athena nodded. “Bye mum, we’re off out, back later”

“Okay” Demmy called back “Don’t be-” Tom shut the front door

“Late” he finished for her in a mocking impersonation. Athena giggled.

 

They set off, it was 10:15 and there was hardly anybody around; the only thing that lingered was the thick mist. ‘The river’ wasn’t too far away, Tom lived at the end of a row of houses and the alley way that they now strolled through, led them into a field of trees and in a clearing amongst them, the river flowed eerily through, making sharp gushing noises on the rocks. Not so far from Pebble River was Pebble cottage, named as the stones it was built from looked like beach pebbles. The cottage was in a clearing to the left of the river bend. It had a glorious front garden full of bird baths and cherry trees. It was owned by a man called Gregworth Handsan, his wife was called Grettle and they were both 62 years old.

Greg always told those stories about his childhood, myths, legends and just people he knew in general; he knows a lot of people.

Athena would seek refuge by Pebble River when she wanted to escape from her mother; Greg would often support her and offer her a cup of tea and would then tell her interesting stories of the past and his speculations for the future too.

Soon she and Tom were approaching the river bank and they flopped down on the floor and dangled their legs over the edge.

“So” Tom began “why all the mystery Thee?”

“Well I couldn’t say anything in front of your family; they’d think I was mental”

“More like you were embarrassed in front of Leon” Tom teased, Athena shoved him “joking” he added “but seriously, why?” Athena couldn’t think of what to do or say, it seemed so clear what she had to tell him, but she had never thought of how she was going to. So, in instinct, she placed the box in front of her and flipped open the locks. As she flung it open, the lid fell back on its hinges to reveal the book. It was buckled and withered, but readable.

“What the-” Tom started, but even he was speechless. Athena placed it onto her lap and undid the buckle, then she opened it up to the inside cover, and there glistened the inked in words:

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

Tom seemed to re-read it hundreds of times before saying:
“Charles Williams? But whose-”
“I don’t know” Athena admitted “but we’ll get to that later, there’s something else” she flicked through the book to show Tom all the parts that she had read before finally coming to the bit about Camp Thárros. Athena could tell that Tom had been desperate to know what it was, but had waited until the book presented him with the information.
After Tom had read everything that Athena herself had read, she closed the book and looked up at Tom, expecting him to say something, but he just looked utterly bewildered.
“Wow, it’s funny, Camp Thárros rings a bell, I’m sure I’ve heard of it before”
“Wait, what? You’ve heard of it, Tom?”
“Yeah I’m sure I’ve heard about it, my parents have mentioned it a couple of times but-”

“Your parents know about it!”

“Well I could be wrong Thee...”

Athena clutched the book to her heart, a rush of excitement coursing through her.

“Where did you get this from any way?” Tom asked. Athena launched into the story of how she cleared out the basement, and the close shave with her mum and how her mum had said that there was no space under the stairs. When she finished her story Tom said “wow Thee” it seemed he was speechless, Athena was not sure if that was good or bad.

“Tom, Charles has the same surname as me, maybe my dad left the box there to hide it, maybe Charles gave it to him, and maybe he’s my great- granddad!”

“Maybe” Tom said, although he didn’t sound convinced “though it could just be a coincidence”

“A coincidence? Tom it was under my stairs, in a supposed non-existent wall that my mum didn’t know about, dad had loads of secrets, maybe this was one of them.”

“You’re right” Tom said “Although if Camp Thárros is real, the rest is just mythology, it’s a promotion, an advert or something”

“Possibly” Athena agreed, though she didn’t believe it “come on, we've got to go back to yours and see if it's real Tom” Athena grabbed the box and ran, Tom hot on her heels.

 

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