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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7. CHAPTER 7: THE FRIENSHIP BOND

It was Monday morning and Athena woke after having a strange dream in which Tom got cross with her because she had forgotten to buy him a birthday present. She knew it was the guilt of only seeking to buy his present today when his birthday was tomorrow. Wandering downstairs, Athena was still trying to think of what to buy Tom. Last year she had given him £20 as she’d been hopeless, the previous year she had given him the video game he had wanted and the year before that she had persuaded her mum to take them surfing at Newquay for the day. Tom had loved Athena’s gifts but none of them truly meant anything and this year she was completely stuck on what to buy, and highly doubted finding anything in Perrenporth.

She put some toast in the toaster and when it popped up, she buttered the crispy surface. As she ate it over a plate, her mum came down the stairs.

They had not spoken properly since yesterday morning’s argument; even dinner had been consumed in silence. However, Hilary looked determined to start fresh today, but she looked a little flustered, even as she spoke.

“Sleep well?”

“Mm” Athena grunted

“Any idea what you’re going to get Tom today?” she falsely smiled

“No, but I’ll know when I see it” well that certainly didn’t sound convincing.

“What kind of thing are we looking for?”

I don’t know” Athena put emphasis on the I as if to point out that she was the one choosing the present, not Hilary.

“Okay then” Hilary continued “I’m sure you’ll find something”

“Yeah” Athena said with a slight air of sarcasm, yet she wasn’t sure if she meant it. With that, she strolled out of the room and got dressed upstairs.

 

After that she decided to read the book. Athena remembered marking the page that had the strange symbols of ‘για την τύχη’ (gia ti̱n týchi̱) she had a sudden tempting urge to rip open the envelope, and what’s more, this time around, she felt like she needed it. A voice in her head told her she could use it. Immediately, as if it had made sense all along, Athena grabbed the book from under her pillow and found the page split where the envelope lurked. Carefully, she pulled it out and opened the crimson, blood-like seal. She dug her hand in and felt a thick string, pulling it out, she glared at it. What was it? The rope-like string was loose, yet strong, it felt soft as her fingers caressed it, yet it itched with every movement. And on the end of it, secured with some rusting metal clips and knots, was a large tooth that looked like it should belong to a dinosaur, maybe it once did. ‘I could give this to Tom’ she thought, but it didn’t feel right. Instead, her hands felt round the string and involuntarily placed it round her own neck. It dangled next to the golden oval locket she wore with her dad’s ashes in. All of a sudden, Athena experienced a strange sensation, even though the weight of it had added to her own mass, she somehow felt lighter, free, as if there  was no weight on her at all; it was liberating. She felt like all her worries had been taken away and deposited in a far long-gone land, as if she needn’t care anymore. Then the abrupt feeling faded, but still lingered slightly, in her heart. She sighed and then sat down to read whilst her mother got ready.

 

Athena turned to a headline entitled: ‘The Friendship Bond.’ It seemed like more of a sub-heading, but it intrigued her, she read:

‘The friendship bond is a most loyal and powerful gift, if you have it, you don’t always recognise this most high honour. It is a seemingly unbreakable bond of friendship between two people. These chosen ones have such a trusting and loyal gift that for centuries men have sought to create this bond. But it has become apparent that unless you have known someone since childhood or have had unique experiences with them, you are not often blessed. Men crave it, to have a so called sidekick to watch their back, however all experiments have failed as loyalty can fade as quick as blood spurts from an artery.’

‘Grim’ thought Athena this Charles guy had some morbid thoughts. She continued reading:

‘The bond is unlike any other, you are bound to it for life, but it differs in the way that you are bonded by choice, because you want and need this person. Without your other you are lost; you become frail, worried and anxious without their guidance or company. You become an open wound. The friendship bond has a small but uniquely relevant symbol. This symbol is a small black round pebble-like stone that has a hard shell of smooth, shiny black rock and a centre that is impossible to break open. Men have tried to break it for centuries, each one has failed. It is said that it is as impenetrable as the unspeakable Diávolos himself. There is a simple reason for why the stone is the symbol of the friendship bond; it shows just how impenetrable it is. It also shows that friendship bonds can take many a hit and never be broken. Over the years the stone has been given many names, the most common being: tying stone, friendship stone, loyalty vow, the unbreakable and the bond keeper. It can be found in places around the Mainland but there is also a legend about a particular breed of these stones. The legend is that in Hope Fountain, the river is full of the loyalty vow and that once you pluck one from its depths; it becomes flimsy, unless you’re one of the blessed. In which case it melts and reforms into a stone that hardens or weakens on how strong your friendship is. However, Hope Fountain has never even been proven to be a true place, although I do believe that it could be. There is no evidence however so it is deemed legend.’

‘The friendship bond is a stone’ thought Athena. As touching as it seemed she couldn’t give Tom a beach pebble, what would be the point? If he wanted one he could pick one up any time and it would mean anything as it wasn’t even from this ‘Mainland’. However, it had given her some ides; she could find her own symbol of friendship for them, her and Tom. Their own ‘unbreakable’, the only question was: but what?

Hilary knocked on the door and Athena hastily shoved the book under her pillow and sat on the bed, hands in her lap.

“Come in” Athena called. Her mum’s head poked round the door.

“We’re leaving now” she said blankly, with a false interest she continued “know what to get Tom yet?”

“Kind of” said Athena, hopping down from her bed and departing out the door, followed by her mother.

“Always so mysterious” she sighed “just like your father.” Athena smiled; she was regularly compared to her father and it made her feel special. Like a part of him lived on in her.

 

They arrived in town.

“Here, have these” Hilary said. She handed Athena two £10 notes “whatever you don’t spend we can put in his card”

“Okay” Athena nodded

“I trust that you’ll be careful with it, there are some bits I have to get, meet me back at the car park in one hour” she planted an awkward kiss on her cheek. Athena looked around warily and then departed for the first gift shop she saw, and there were a lot of gift shops in Perrenporth.

To most people it may have seemed that Hilary was giving her daughter a responsibility, but Athena knew that her mum only left her because of yesterday’s argument. She didn’t mind, in fact she was quite glad that her mum wasn’t there to rush her, but what annoyed was that her mother was running away, abandoning her daughter for her own selfish needs. Her own mother: a coward.

As Athena entered the gift shop, a bell chimed over-head. There was a sweet smell in the room of incense candles and it clogged up Athena’s nostrils and she coughed a bit. The shop had old statues of Gods in it and some feathery dream catchers along with several clinking wind chimes. But other than that, nothing caught her eye and certainly not anything for her best friend’s birthday. For a long time she wondered round more shops but there was nothing suitable.

Eventually Athena came to one last store; this shop was always popular with the tourists and holiday makers. Leon sometimes helped out in it as his best friend’s dad owned it. As she walked in she saw shelves of bracelets, shells, windmills, flags, rings, beach toys, magnets, t-shirts, books, wind chimes, key rings, boxes of fudge and toffee, glass figurines, miniature wooden beach huts and loads more. There would have to be something in here. She walked round several times before finally stopping at the jewellery section. Knowing Tom didn’t wear jewellery, it was a risk to even look at it. There was a cluster of boy surfer bracelets in a woven basket on a shelf. She decided to rummage through them; they were all on offer for £1.00. Athena thought that Tom’s wrists would look handsome in them, so0 she chose five and held them between her fingers. As she turned towards something else, a shimmering flash of colour caught her eye. She spun back around and noticed a shelf of mood rings. Dithering over to it, her brain had a thought that didn’t feel like her own: ‘mood rings to show that no matter what mood you are in, you will always stay friends, through every circumstance’ the voice whispered.  It was crazy but it was a good idea, would Tom think so? ‘Who cares?’ the voice said ‘it’s brilliant.’ They too, were on offer for £1.00, buy one get one free. Luckily she wouldn’t get told off for spending money on herself so she picked up two; that would do for now. Maybe fate would bring another gift to her. she paid for everything at the counter, if she spent 4 more pounds she could put £10.00 in the card, but she needed to buy one first.

Athena set off for the card shop down the road. When she arrived, the woman behind the counter smiled at her and she returned it, if a little awkwardly. Straight away she saw the card that she wanted and, it was only 50 pence. The front was a dark navy and a cartoon piece of note paper on it with the words ‘stick photo here’ in the middle. It said ‘Happy Birthday’ in white block writing on it too. On the inside it read ‘Have an awesome day.’ Athena also picked up some 50p wrapping paper and a 50p ring box for the mood ring. She paid for it then placed everything in the carrier bag and walked towards the car.

It seemed strange, buying a boy a ring, but she had faith that Tom would wear it. As this though crossed her mind, she saw a poster stand where the posters were £2.50, which was the exact amount of money that she had left! Athena wondered over to it and sifted through them. Surprisingly, she found a Green Day poster, Tom liked that band a lot so Athena bought it and carried on to the seafront car park.

She was 10 minutes early but she thought that her mum would turn up soon.

As if the day couldn’t get any better and more convenient, she saw Gregworth Handsan sat on the wall facing out to sea. This was her chance to ask all of her questions. Athena wondered why fate was suddenly on her side for once, before rushing over to him.

“Hello Greg” she said

“Oh hello Athena, how lovely it is to see yeh” he replied

“Where’s Grettle?” she didn’t want to speak about any of it in front of her.

“She’s gone to find some bits and pieces for dinner; I’d rather stay here, less crowded, more...”

“Peaceful” Athena finished his sentence off, sitting down beside him; she too stared out to sea at the temptingly-dangerous, rolling blue waves. There was always a current. “I need to ask you something”

“Ask away m’dear”

“Do you know anything about” she paused “Camp Thárros?” Greg’s face lit up.

“I wondered when you’d ask” he grinned. Athena was confused. “You’re dad went, Tom’s parents went, I knew you’d go too, eventually” Athena still looked vacant “you are going?” asked Greg.

“Hopefully” she answered; he smiled again “I wondered what you knew about it”

“A great deal” he said “what do you want to know?”

“Everything”

Greg launched into what you study there, hi time there and, to Athena’s surprise, he started talking about The Mainland.

“You went to the main land” interrupted Athena. Greg’s face fell.

“I’ve said too much” he looked angry “away with you” this was unlike Greg, what secret was he hiding?

Athena strolled off- confused and panicked. It seemed that her luck was too good to be true. Her mum arrived back to the car.

“Sorry I’m late” Hilary muttered “ran into someone.” Athena looked dismayed and broken-hearted; Greg had never looked like that before, he had never sent her away. “Are you okay?” there was concern in Hilary’s voice.

“Yeah” gulped Athena.

The car journey back was silent, until her mum parked the car on the driveway.

“Mum, can I go to a summer camp?” Athena blurted out

“Yes of course, which one did you have in mind?”

“Camp Thárros”

“No” said her mum sternly “anywhere but there”

“Why?”

“Because it’s dangerous, you’ll end up like your father”

“Maybe I want to end up like him”

“No.”

“What does everyone have against it?”

“Your father wouldn’t want you to go”

“Yes he would, he went there- Greg told me!”

“Oh did he?”

“Yes! And don’t try to call him a liar- he wouldn’t lie about something like that!”

“The answer is still no. I don’t know where you got this crazy idea from, but it ends here”

“Tom’s going!”

“Then he’ll be going without you”

Athena glared at her mum, she was so angry.

“I’ve already filled out the form” she yelled triumphantly

“Well, I’m going to un-fill it”

“You can’t”

“Watch me!” her mum was hysterical. She stormed out of the car; Athena grabbed her presents and followed. The door was un-locked, courtesy of her mother. Hilary marched through the house and turned on the computer, she logged on. It took a while for Athena to realise what she was doing.

“What’re you doing?” she asked, even though she knew perfectly well what was about to happen. Her mum was on the Thárros website, she clicked on the recent history, the application came up and she moved the cursor towards ‘delete application’

“NO!” Athena yelled, her mum clicked it and Athena stared at her mother, mouth-open and motionless. Her mum turned round, a maddening glint etched in her eyes. For a moment their eyes were fixed on each other. Athena dropped Tom’s present bag and ran upstairs.

 

She was full of cold-hearted hatred towards her mother; she belonged at Thárros, she knew that- Tom knew that. If it was dangerous why were Tom’s parents so proud to see him go, but her mother was adamant on her to not go? She had to tell Tom. Ringing, his mobile, she focused her eyes on her bedroom door.

“Hello? Thee?” Tom said

“I have news”

“Can you go to Thárros?”

“No, see that’s why I’m ringing, I ran into Greg in town today”

“And...? You asked him about the camp?”

“Yes”

Athena launched into the story about what Greg had said and then what had happened just now with her mum.

“He started telling me about how he found The Mainland”

“He’s old, he’s making it up”

“He can’t be Tom, he got defensive when I asked about it, and he told me he’d said too much!”

“The mainland might not be what you think; it could just be a place where everyone hangs out”

“You don’t believe that”

“What’re you saying Thee?”

“I’m saying” she paused “what if the myth’s not a myth?”

“Meaning?”

“What if it’s all true?”

“Even if it is, which it won’t be, you won’t find out now and neither will I. Remember our deal?”

“Of course, but don’t delete your application. I’ll go or get hurt trying”

“Whatever, you’re starting to sound like mum; she’s made Leon and Chloe go now too”

“Really?”

“Yeah, something about how she can’t believe that no one has asked sooner”

“Interesting”

“It’s not. It’s hell. Anyway, I’ve got to go, mum’s calling”

“Okay, bye”

“See you tomorrow”

“See you” she hung up. Could this be happening? Could she really be starting to believe that Griffins and Minotaur’s were real, that Zeus ruled the skies, all in The Mainland? ‘Is this what insanity feels like?’ she thought. It sounded crazy, even to her, but it all fit, it all made sense.

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