Prologue

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(Extract from R. E. E. Stubbs, 'Hangingstones and other Villages of West Yorkshire, a short history' (London, 1898):

May 1518

Three days after they hanged Widow Harding at the hanging stones, there came upon the village nearby a terrible storm, so great the roof of the church fell in and the tower crumbled. Several of those huddled inside were killed, but those who escaped reported tales of a large black dog with deep red eyes like the burning pits of Hell who came amongst them and tore many limb from limb... 

Indeed, it was reported there that when the bodies were recovered from the church, they showed signs of tearing rather than crushing, as if they had been rent asunder by a wild, ferocious beast.

Of the survivors of this terrible atrocity, it was said that they were never themselves after, and that on the nights of the full moon they could be seen on the tor capering around the stone circle there and shifting their shapes to roam the moors as beasts.

In the year 1520 there was sent a certain priest to that place to see if what was said was true, but he came away saying there was nothing to the tale but superstition and tragedy - but the priest himself was rumoured to have the power to shift his shape at will, a slur against his character levelled by the Protestants, and he was burned at the stake some fifteen years later for refusing to recant his Roman Catholicism.

Nevertheless, the superstition has arisen that every hundred years or so (for these things are never terribly precise) the black dog with burning eyes is seen again, plaguing travellers and locals alike, sometimes to blame for the deaths of livestock and for spooking horses along the road, at other times driving people to madness, and still at others taking vengeance if called upon for this purpose.


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