The night is dry but you swear you can still feel a storm coming, your hair on end, electricity in the air. The wind whips through the trees, unleashing an otherworldly howling that puts you on edge. It’s a bad night, you can’t explain why, you just feel it deep in your bones.
You’re not the only one. The entire village seems on alert, everyone checking over their shoulder, hurrying from place to place. No one seems to dare to linger or make small talk with their neighbors tonight.
A powerful gust shakes the forest beyond the village, and as your eyes follow the road to the place it disappears into the woods, you swear you see a single, big red eye blazing at you from the darkness. You realize that maybe the wind is not the only thing howling tonight.
Time to test your luck with Old Shuck, friend.
Nightmare dogs and hellhounds have a long history in European folklore, with stories of massive black dogs roaming the countryside hailing from pretty much every corner of the continent. Specifics vary from region to region, and local monster dogs tended to develop distinct identities: for example, Old Shuck.
Written accounts of Old Shuck encounters date all the way back to 1127, when nightmarish dog sightings seemed to spin off from stories of the wild hunt. Packs of ghostly dogs became a singular creature, a giant hound with a flaming eye (or eyes, depending on the source). It’s written that Old Shuck stalked the countryside and lurked in church yards, and was capable of collapsing buildings and causing people to keel over dead with its very presence. It seems to wreak the most havoc around churches, drawing comparisons to the churchyard-bound grim and earning speculation that Old Shuck is the devil himself. A church in Suffolk still bears the scorch marks left by a visit from Old Shuck back in 1577, an encounter that left four people instantly dead without so much as a mark on them. The sudden appearance and swift destruction that accompany Old Shuck have been associated with lightning, but it’s unclear if the creature actually conjures it or just leaves a wake of lightning-esque damage.
If you are fortunate enough to survive crossing paths with Shuck, that fortune may be short lived. Old Shuck is said to be a harbinger of ill omen, and seeing it means you’ll be dead by the end of the year.
Since Shuck seems to be largely intangible and there are zero descriptions of physical attacks from the giant cyclops dog, trying to face off in combat probably won’t go well. Your best defense against Old Shuck might be to stay out of church.
Though Old Shuck and its fellow nightmare dogs are most often described as ominous and threatening creatures, there are some stories of Shuck acting as a guardian, accompanying women home safely or helping lost travelers find their way. There aren’t any obvious patterns that dictate if Old Shuck will be a help or a threat, so good luck if you decide to try and get on its good side.