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Forever Onward
Battling The Beast of Dartmoor

Email: lawrencewrites31

Sabine Baring-Gould

Sabine Baring-Gould (1834 - 1924) was one of those gentleman scholars whose very lives seem to define what we think of as the Victorian Age.


As a self-taught archaeologist, he helped excavate Dartmoor’s Neolithic ruins. Indeed, many of the moor’s stone rows and circles are preserved thanks in part to his work.


He also collected folktales and songs from the mouths of local people, often when visiting their rural hostelries.


As a prolific author, he published no fewer than 1,240 books, pamphlets and articles.


One of these, ‘The Book of Were-Wolves’ is the inspiration behind the novel, Forever Onward, Battling The Beast of Dartmoor.

Sharp Tor Dartmoor.jpg


Here you will find the opening chapter of the book...

Forever Onward! 

Battling The Beast of Dartmoor 


by Lawrence McNeela 


Chapter I, Les Loups-Garoux

I SHALL NEVER FORGET the walk I took one night in Vienne, after accomplishing the examination of a Druidical relic, the Pierre Labie, at La Rondelle, near Champigni.

I was a young man of nineteen and travelling through France with my parents. Having arrived at a remote rural hostelry one summer afternoon, I learnt about the existence of this rarely-visited site from our garrulous innkeeper. The dolmen was ten miles away, he told me, but well worth the journey. With the enthusiasm of youth coursing through my veins, I set off immediately to see it.

The better part of an evening was spent sketching the venerable stones, and I became so engrossed in my work that I barely noticed the sun start to set. Indeed, it was only when I saw the evening star lit that I realised nightfall was upon me.


The thought of hiking back to the inn after dark didn’t appeal, so I ventured instead in the opposite direction, where a small hamlet stood. I hoped to hire a trap there, that it might ferry me back to my lodgings in comfort and speed. In that hope, was I left disappointed.

The first dwelling I tried belonged to the local priest, an elderly man of some seventy or so years. We spoke easily, for I’d been taught French when a boy. Monsieur le Curé said he couldn’t help with my request, for he assured me there was nothing better to be found in that place than a common charue with solid wooden wheels. Furthermore, there were no horses fit for riding such a distance.

To be fair to the aging cleric, he proved to be both friendly and kind. He even offered to give me a bed for the night, so I could return to my lodgings the following day.

“That’s very good of you, Father.” I said. “But I’m afraid I must decline. You see, my family are also there, and they expect me back tonight.”

Until that point, my situation seemed frustrating, but nothing more. Suddenly, it took a turn for the strange.

I was surprised to see the priest’s tired grey eyes widen in an expression of alarm when hearing my words. Gnarled hands played anxiously on his lap. As one might expect from a man of such age, his lips were thin and stumpy teeth brown. I got a good view of those tobacco-stained gnashers when he hurried into an impassioned sermon.

“Non Monsieur, vous ne pouvez pas partir ce soir. C’est tard. Et sombre. Je ne serais pas content que tu marches seul si tard dans la nuit. Vous devez dormir ici ce soir. J’ai du jambon et des pommes de terre, et une cruche de bon vin. Veuillez rester ici, ou vous serez en sécurité et à l’aise.”

The crux of the old cleric’s speech was that he wanted me to stay the night at his crumbling presbytery. There, I’d be served ham and spuds, washed down with vast quantities of wine.

A generous offer. And typical of a priest or vicar, for our cellars are seldom dry! Very tempting, too. If I hadn’t needed to return to my parents, I’d have happily stayed and got drunk with him.


Sadly, I had to leave, and I told my host this for a second time. Realising I couldn’t be persuaded to stay, he grew even more agitated, and insisted I remain whilst he fetched me an escort. He was away for five or so minutes and I heard him rouse the hamlet’s other households. When he returned, he had with him a handful of local men and the promised jug of claret.

Once seated, and with a glass of red liquor in their hands, the villagers started discussing my plan.

They were surprisingly animated about something as mundane as a stranger attempting a long country walk, arguing to and fro with passion in their voices. Being Gallic, they spoke also with their hands. Strong points were forcefully made by throwing their arms into all kind of shapes and sentiments.

One of the men was especially bald and especially fat. Judging by the way the others deferred to him, he was clearly some kind of mayor in that tiny community. He spoke at length, and with a great deal of confidence in himself, which seemed to confirm my deductions. After all, I’d never met a politician before who didn’t like the sound of his or her own voice!


Parts of his speech were in the rustic local dialect, parts in French, and he used a hundred words where five would’ve done. The occasional Latin phrase was even thrown in for good measure, to prove his education and standing. This is the gist of what he said.

“Monsieur can never go back tonight across the flats…The fens are unsafe…A traveller must not venture there alone…He must not venture there alone because...”

(And here his confident voice suddenly faltered, dropping to the hushed tones of the cemetery)

“...les loups-garoux.”

Les loups-garoux? My translation wasn’t perfect because my boyhood tutors never felt the need to discuss such things when imparting enough French to navigate everyday life. However, I thought I knew what the pompous oaf said. He was talking about werewolves!

“The young Englishman says he must return to his family tonight,” the priest interjected. “This is not open to debate. I have summoned you all here to ask but one question. Who amongst you will go with him?”

The mayor took it upon himself to answer for everyone present.

“Ah ha! Monsieur le Curé, it is all very well for one of us to accompany the Englishman. But think of the coming back alone!”

“Then two of you must go with him, and you can take care of each other as you return.”

“Which sounds wonderful. Except, what use are plain folk against the works of the Devil? Surely we’d be better off with you undertaking the trip. That way, the stranger can rely on your prayers, holy water and crucifix.”

“Yes,” agreed a third man, “that’s a fine idea. And we can then see for ourselves whether they’re really as good as you claim!”

The conversation went backwards and forwards like this for a while, before one of the peasants made the most outlandish of statements.

“Picou tells me that he saw the werewolf only this evening,” he said with a shudder. “My friend was down by his buckwheat field, and the sun had set, and he was thinking of coming home, when he heard a rustle on the far side of the hedge. He looked over and there stood the wolf, as big as a calf against the horizon. Its tongue was out, and its eyes glared like marsh fires. Mon Dieu! You won’t catch me going over the marais tonight. Two men could no nothing if attacked by that wolf-fiend.”


Such cowardice would not silence their priest, nor persuade him that his flock should remain safely behind closed doors. He all but demanded an escort for me, right to the door of my room at the inn. It was, he said, his parishioners’ Christian duty to look after a traveller to their district. One of the more cunning amongst them knew the perfect rebuttal.


“Yes, but it’s also tempting Providence,” he said slyly, “and worse besides. For no man has a right to expect God’s help if he throws himself wilfully in the way of danger. Is that not the case, Monsieur le Curé? I’m sure I’ve heard you preach this from the pulpit many times.”

“Indeed so,” the mayor agreed. “In fact, I’m pretty sure it was your sermon during the first Sunday in Lent.”

The poor old priest had no answer to this! His own words were quoted to outwit him.

“His tongue hanging out, and his eyes glaring like marsh fires...” Picou’s friend recalled. “And as large as a calf.”


The mayor gulped down his wine. He was keen to bring the meeting to a close, so he could return to the safety and comfort of his home. There, no doubt, a comely wife and more claret awaited.

“If the loup-garou were a natural wolf, then things would be different,” he said. “After all, we Frenchmen are renowned the world over for our bravery and courage. But, Monsieur le Curé, we are not discussing such an animal tonight, only something far worse. It is a fiend that patrols the wastes outside the village. A man-fiend. And even worse than a man-fiend, it is a man-wolf-fiend.”

“But what is the young monsieur to do?” The priest asked in terror. “Will nobody go with him?”

Every pair of eyes descended to the room’s dusty floor. It was clear that nobody would.

Now, I’d grown pretty tired of the debate by this point and, since the evening wasn’t getting any earlier, I decided it was time to swallow my own wine and press on for the road. Having no fear about what I considered foolish superstitions, I thanked my host for his kind offer of a bed for the night, and his attempts at procuring an escort from his cowardly neighbours.


I was at the presbytery’s solid oak door when he said his goodbyes. He knew I was English, and a Protestant, yet still thought it appropriate to thrust Papish tokens on me, in the mistaken belief I’d welcome such gifts. An amber rosary was placed in my hands, its crucifix crafted from base metal, maybe tin. Alongside it, I was given a bottle of holy water, crafted in the shape of the Blessed Virgin.

“Ces objets sacres vous serviront bien lors de otre retour a l’auberge,” he said sombrely. “Fiez-vous a eux et au pouvoir de la priere. Ce sont peut-etre les seules armes que vous possedez si le loup-garou attaque!”

The words were strange to me. Ridiculous, fantastical, yet clearly very genuinely felt.

The old priest was as serious as the grave when he told me to rely upon the sacred objects now placed in my hand. They were, he assured me, the only weapons I had, should the werewolf attack.



Reviews on Good Reads

A rattling yarn set in the highly atmospheric Dartmoor countryside, Forever Onward combines local knowledge with chilling horror of the lupine variety. I loved the idea of taking the real historical figure of Baring-Gould and placing him in such an evocative setting. The descriptions of the werewolf also didn't disappoint! - Saskia S, Cambs

A wonderfully gothic tale that delivered on all its promise - atmospheric, steeped in mythology and a sense of place, and not afraid to subvert some of the genre conventions. It feels authentically Victorian with the inclusion of some modern insights about social class and prejudice of the time. There's humour here too, which adds to the mix. - Derek T, London

This book was a fantastically creepy story set on Dartmoor where something untoward is stalking the parish. This book is a real page turner; you desperately want to know what happens next. It is also a story that sticks with you. I certainly walked home up the lane rather faster than normal on the next full moon! - Claire W, Peterboro

"Forever Onward, Battling the Beast of Dartmoor" is a testament to Lawrence Patrick McNeela's storytelling prowess, seamlessly blending horror, suspense, and triumph. The characters' journey from fear to resilience is both relatable and compelling, and the author's vivid descriptions create a palpable sense of tension throughout. The novel's conclusion not only provides closure but also prompts reflection on the enduring strength of those who faced the unimaginable. This work stands as a captivating exploration of the human spirit in the face of supernatural adversity, leaving a lasting impression on fans of supernatural fiction. - Karen K, Poland

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