So, I’m starting a new book…
The Thracians were an ancient people who lived in various places on the Balkans north of Greece, and spoke a language that was (maybe) distantly related to Albanian, the Balto-Slavic languages, and Greek. They were Christianized in the 4th century, then died out. But what if they didn’t?
By the 4th century, the Thracians (specifically the Thracian tribe called the Bessi) were restricted to the Rhodope Mountains in southern Bulgaria, an area famous for its caves. What if the Thracians retreated to those caves? What if they only pretended to Christianize? What if they continued to worship the old gods and speak the old language, pretending to be whatever religion or ethnicity was politically convenient and killing anyone who found out the truth? What if the tumultuous history of the Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires was actually the result of the cryptic machinations of the cave-Thracians?
Then comes the Russo-Turkish war and the Treaty of San Stefano. In the spring of 1878, it’s clear that the Ottoman Empire is falling apart, and the Thracians’ land is going to be carved up into newly independent nation-states. The young, Swiss-educated oracle-priestess knows that to survive, her people must finally come out of the shadows and join the nations of the world. It is an uphill battle.
Then a Russian doctor defects from the Tsar’s army and flees into the western Rhodope Mountains. Ignoring the warnings of local shepherds about the terrible monsters up there, he sets up camp in the mouth of a cave. In the middle of the night, he is awakened by a strange, wet, fungal smell, and the hands gripping his ankles, dragging him down into those pitch-black depths.