by Christine Collinson
Before the battle, we said that Boye was bulletproof. A white devil-dog with a black heart and enchanted blood: a shapeshifter, a sorcerer.
In woodcuts Boye appeared, alongside his princely master, arrayed with fangs and a curling mane. Here, squared up muzzle-to-muzzle with a plain Roundhead-dog. Crafted by the block-cutter’s hands, this Boye displayed his true lion’s traits. And so his image was pressed in ink over and over, clear for all folk to see the satanic signs.
Rupert, we know, is Boye’s kindred spirit, tainted by a shared wickedness. We spill scorn and whisper to our fellows: by night, man and beast share a sinful bed. We endeavour to sow his disgrace far and wide like a poisonous ivy trail. More and more pamphlets traverse the land, more sermons are delivered in louder voices, more tales traded in taverns and market-places. If it is so that Boye is the devil’s imp, his loyal owner is cursed as surely as a witch will float.
Our struggles move ever onwards, discord mounts wherever we turn. As the summer heat rises, rumours burn around the Cavalier-dog. Besieged troops dig in behind town walls while Rupert rides with confidence over Yorkshire hills, his faithful Boye beside him. What truth that remains is churned, like the earth crossed by dawn marching troops. We sense the devil-dog speaks in foreign tongues, is truly an enchantress of Lapland in animal guise, his fur as stark as the northern ice. He transmutes into human form and spies for the king’s cause.
So it follows one July day, when across the trampled fields Boye makes chase, Rupert seeks shelter from his own wretched defeat. But in our army’s trained hands, musket balls find their target. The devil-dog’s last whine is muffled by battle yells, by the steel-clash of pikes, by the thud of passing hooves. We wait now, for the prince’s shameful sorrow.
In his print elegy Boye turns inky-black: one more lasting picture from our staunch pamphleteers. But after he fell, we saw he was not bulletproof. Not enchanted, not demonic: just a white dog, who bounded his last across the blood-soaked fields at Marston Moor.
Christine Collinson writes historical short fiction. She’s a Best Microfiction ‘20 nominee and has been long-listed by Bath Flash Fiction Award and Reflex Flash Fiction. Her work has also appeared in Ellipsis Zine and The Cabinet of Heed. She tweets @collinson26.
Drawing from a pamphlet, “The Cruel Practices of Prince Rupert” (1643) via Wikimedia Commons.