Catherine Cavendish’s latest novel – Wrath of the Ancients – is largely set in Vienna, Austria’s imperial capital and surely one of the most beautiful and enchanting cities in the world. Its streets teem with culture and its proud residents are almost fiercely protective of their enigmatic, sometimes quirky, and endlessly fascinating home, where everyone from Strauss to Klimt and Freud lived and worked.
Many buildings date from hundreds of years ago. Some were devastated by Allied bombing towards the end of the Second World War and one which suffered especially badly was the now fully restored, magnificent Gothic edifice of St Stephen’s Cathedral (St. Stefansdom) in the heart of the city. It is the tallest building in the inner city and, by law, it must remain so, for nothing can be built which will obscure the view of the cathedral.
Needless to say, this beautiful place is a major tourist attraction and many thousands of visitors enjoy its architectural splendor every year. A unique view over the city may be obtained from climbing to the top of the tall towers, while, deep beneath street level, a series of crypts house an increasingly spooky collection of remains and are open for guided tours.
Visitors are lulled into a sense of false security by the first of these, which contain sarcophagi of bishops and other important religious figures. Nothing too creepy here. But when they reach the Ducal Crypt, things take on a more eerie tone. The guide will tell you what the urns you can see actually contain. The remains of Archduke Rudolf IV lie here (dating from 1365) but from the eighteenth century, the monarchs and their heirs were buried in the Kaisergruft of the Augustin Chapel not far away. However, they are not buried intact. In the urns of the Ducal Crypt, are the internal organs. As for their hearts, they rest in a third place: ‘the little heart crypt’ of the chapel of St Augustin.
As the original cathedral was built starting in the twelfth century and was originally surrounded by a cemetery, the tour of the catacombs leads under St Stephen’s Square into a dark and forbidding crypt where the bones of some 11,000 people lay. These were bodies removed from other cemeteries in Vienna at the time of the great outbreak of bubonic plague. The catacombs continued to be used for burials until 1783 when Emperor Josef II outlawed all burials within the city confines. Until then, whenever the caverns had become overcrowded with bodies, prisoners were sent in to perform the grisly task of stacking them to make room for more.
It is still possible to look down on the stacked bones and skulls–quite a sobering and spooky experience it is too. The whole atmosphere is heavy and dark and it takes little imagination to feel a chill down your spine or raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Needless to say, people have reported feeling presences of a spirit nature.
There are other legends associated with the cathedral and one involves Death himself. He is said to have challenged the tower warden – a rather cocky fellow called Franz – to a game of skittles. Franz prided himself on being an excellent player – always hitting all nine skittles with one throw. So successful was he that no one could beat him, so they didn’t want to play with him anymore. One night, he was, as usual, playing skittles by himself. A tall thin man with a grey cloak and hood, which covered his face, approached him out of the dark.
“Are you still playing at this hour?” he enquired. It was midnight.
Startled, Franz recovered himself quickly. “Why? Do you want to play with me? I always win, you know.”
The man replied, “So do I. I never lose.”
Franz hurled the skittle ball at the pins, blasting them all. “All nine! Now match that.” He set up the pins, ready for his companion to have a go, but he hid one of them under his cloak and, thinking the man hadn’t seen him, he threw one out of the window. Now his companion would not be able to match his score.
Or so he thought.
“Oh no, my friend. You do not win that way.”
The hooded man straightened, and grew taller and taller. He spread his cloak and Franz saw he was a skeleton. “I am Death,” he said. “I always win. I merely need to hit all eight – plus one.” He took aim and blasted all eight pins – and Franz, who fell down dead amongst the skittles.
To this day, Franz haunts the tower, whimpering and moaning as he searches endlessly for the ninth pin. Without it, he will never find salvation.
Wrath Of The Ancients
Eminent archaeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus has unearthed the burial chamber of Cleopatra. But this tomb raider’s obsession with the Queen of the Nile has nothing to do with preserving history. Stealing sacred and priceless relics, he murders his expedition crew, and flees—escaping the quake that swallows the site beneath the desert sands.
Young widow Adeline Ogilvy has accepted employment at the mansion of Dr. Quintillus, transcribing the late professor’s memoirs. Within the pages of his journals, she discovers the ravings of a madman convinced he possessed the ability to reincarnate Cleopatra. Within the walls of his home, she is assailed by unexplained phenomena: strange sounds, shadowy figures, and apparitions of hieroglyphics.
Something pursued Dr. Quintillus from Egypt. Something dark, something hungry. Something tied to the fate and future of Adeline Ogilvy.
About the Author:
Following a varied career in sales, advertising and career guidance, Catherine Cavendish is now the full-time author of a number of paranormal, ghostly and Gothic horror novels, novellas and short stories. She was the joint winner of the Samhain Gothic Horror Anthology Competition, with Linden Manor. Cat’s novels include the Nemesis of the Gods trilogy – Wrath of the Ancients, Waking the Ancients and Damned by the Ancients, plus The Devil’s Serenade, The Pendle Curse, Saving Grace Devine and many more. She lives with her long-suffering husband and a black cat who has never forgotten that her species used to be worshiped in ancient Egypt. She sees no reason why that practice should not continue. Cat and her family divide their time between Liverpool and a 260-year-old haunted apartment in North Wales.
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