I’ve not done much to publicise the release of Kurgan.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Primarily, I’ve been a little under the weather. A sensible approach would have been to delay the launch but I’d promised the book would be out on this date, and I didn’t want to let anyone down, so it’s been released without the usual fanfare.
Secondly, I’m a superstitious idiot and I have never been a huge fan of the number FOUR. With Kurgan being the fourth in the series, I figured I would let this one slip out into the world at its own pace.
This is not to say there’s anything wrong with this title. Kurgan brings back Ellie from Fearless, as well as Sharon and Anjali from Unearthed. It also introduces us to some of the events that are going to feed into the story’s developing ideas, such as the Esoteric order of Dagon and the representatives of the Elder Gods.
This is how the story begins:
The Thurston lecture hall lights dimmed. An audience of students, scholars and interested layfolk filled the tiered seats. The murmur of their expectant chatter susurrated from the ceiling and walls. Dr Ellie Green thought it was exceptionally busy for a lecture on an investigation into the roots of Proto-Indo-European language, but she was not surprised by the large numbers. Given the upset and notoriety that had plagued the investigation, Ellie had expected this lecture to be packed with ghouls and the macabrely curious. She recognised the faces of a handful of reporters in the auditorium and inwardly cursed each of them.
“This lot are going to eat us alive,” Anjali muttered in a soft whisper.
“We’ve faced worse,” Ellie reminded her.
Anjali pursed her lips, as though biting back a comment. Clearly she felt as though she didn’t need to be reminded about the worse things they had faced, particularly not now when her anxiety was already at insane levels.
The lecture hall lights dimmed again, a prompt that they were expected to begin and, after checking her watch, Ellie gave a light sigh and said, “I suppose we should make a start.” She stepped away from the shorter woman and went to the podium beside the screen. Her shoulders were back. She stood tall and defiant and ready to face anything. Dressed in a form-fitting suit, predominantly charcoal over a white blouse, and with a gold broach in the shape of an ugly mermaid pinned to her left lapel, she presented an imposing figure. She was tall, redheaded and austerely attractive.
With a click of the mouse she turned on the screen and silence blanketed the hall.
The screen at the front of the lecture hall bore the title: KURGAN. Beneath that were the words, presented by Dr Ellie Green and Dr Anjali Hill. Beneath that were the words: respectfully dedicated to the memory of Dennis Waite, PhD, FHEA, MCIfA. In the bottom right hand corner of the screen was the message: Sponsored by the Esoteric Order of Dagon.
“Good evening,” Ellie began. She spoke with a cool confidence that did not betray any suggestion of nervousness. “It’s a pleasure to see so many faces in the hall this evening,” Ellie said brightly. “I had no idea that the field of archaeolinguistics was enjoying such a vogue of popularity.”
There were a handful of chuckles, but this sound was lost beneath the uncomfortable shuffling of feet from those who clearly had no knowledge about archaeolinguistics or its related disciplines. These feet-shufflers, Ellie knew, were the ghouls who had come to hear a first-hand account of the ill-fated research project, and to see how her version of events married with what they’d read in the tabloids and seen on the viral videos about the Dzhebel Caves Massacre.
“Our project, as you can see, has been given the single word title, Kurgan.”
She pressed the mouse and the next screen appeared. Ellie paused for a moment allowing her audience to read the definitions she had placed there.
KURGAN: noun ARCHAEOLOGY; a prehistoric burial mound of a type found in southern Russia and the Ukraine.
Adjective; relating to the ancient Kurgans.
The words were black over an image of a lush green burial mound that sat beneath a cerulean Ukraine sky. The photograph was one of the many she had taken during the first hours of their investigation and, she realised unhappily, it had been taken before the first of the tragedies had befallen their research group.
There was a short, sharp cough and she saw that someone in the shadows of the hall had their hand in the air. Rolling her eyes, not sure how she was supposed to handle this sort of break with lecture hall protocol, Ellie said, “Is that a question already?”
“I thought the Kurgan was that really tall bloke from the Highlander film.”
Ellie glanced toward Anjali. Without bothering to lower her voice she said, “We’ve really attracted the intellectual elite this evening, haven’t we?”
“If we can save questions, even stupid ones, until after this presentation, it will be much appreciated.” Not waiting for her audience to acknowledge this, Ellie clicked to the next slide which displayed a subtitle: Proving the Proto-Indo-European root.
A voice in the audience gasped.
Ellie grinned. “It sounds like there’s at least one person here who understands the enormity of our discovery. Since we seem to be breaking with protocol this evening, perhaps you’d care to share your insights with the rest of the room?”
“You can’t talk to them like they’re a bunch of first years,” Anjali whispered.
“First years in my classes would have a damned sight more knowledge than this ignorant rabble,” Ellie returned.
Anjali was shaking her head, and looked set to argue, but the figure in the auditorium was standing and clearing his throat. “Proto-Indo-European is the theorized common ancestor of the Indo-European language family,” he began. “It’s the single root of all modern languages.” He spoke with the clear tones of a lecturer and sounded confident in the definition he was supplying. Ellie recognised him as Graham McLaughlin, one of the senior researchers from the Cognitive Science Unit. “Its proposed features have been derived by linguistic reconstruction from documented Indo-European languages,” Graham went on. “But no direct record of Proto-Indo-European is known to man.”
Ellie smiled at him and shook her head slowly. “No direct record of Proto-Indo-European was known to man. But that was before Dr Hill and I made our discovery.”
“Good Lord,” Graham muttered, before settling back down into his seat.
Ellie clicked to the next screen.
Someone in the auditorium screamed.