Elspeth Sherman was Cyntha and community leader active in pre-Hycathic England. She is noted for having co-founded a pioneering Hycathic community centred around her hometown. This community provided clandestine support and stability in the century between the Norman Conquest and the First Hycath War.
Willem the Conqueror came to Coventry in the autumn of 1069 to engage in a pitched battle with the town’s forces. The town was savagely attacked and its forces massacred. Godwin and Steffan both died at the hands of Norman soldiers.
Elspeth was not inclined to fight the Normans; she would later write that she recognised the futility of resistance and the penalty for misuse of Hycathic powers as laid down by the Oculus. Risking her own life, she rescued Meredith, who was unwilling to surrender. They both retreated to Elspeth’s father’s lands, hiding in one of his barns as Norman soldiers set the fields on fire around them. Elspeth lost track of her father during the attack but would later learn of his death from her mother, one of few survivors to remain in the area.
Hycathic community leader
Sheltering in the Sherman barn, Elspeth and Meredith vowed to avenge the deaths of their fathers by bringing together the Hycathae in their area and forming a community. Initially, it comprised themselves, Elspeth’s Hycathic relatives and their close allies. Over the years the community grew as refugees joined as a result of the Harrying of the North, as did their allies. Elspeth and Meredith are noted in history as some of the earliest gatherers of Hycathi in organised numbers.
Elspeth led the instruction of young Hycathae in the craft, with her mother Wulfhild lending support where needed. More widely, Elspeth was a polymath, turning her interests to a wide range of topics and becoming an expert on Hycathic life, both magical and socio-political. Her activities provided a useful complement to Meredith’s cause, vision and ambition. It allowed Meredith to focus her leadership on morality and motivation, though their differing approaches could bring them into conflict at times. Elspeth wrote widely on her experiences, and her writings have been partially preserved by her descendants, though excerpts continue to surface in diverse locations, mostly within the Anglia Isle. Some of the excerpts are thought to be permanently lost to the Great Torrent of 1921.
Hycathic Self-defence and the New Forest Incident
Elspeth actively and vocally championed reform of the Hycathic codes before even Meredith did so, most notably on matters of self-defence. Drawing on a blend of growing academic knowledge and personal experience – not least her survivor’s guilt from 1069 – she persuaded several members of her community to support pledge after pledge for a lawfully recognised defence of self-defence to the Oculus. Meredith often led the charge. The two were united in their opinions on this matter more than most others, particularly as the especially cruel Willem Rufus took the throne and began terrorising Hycathae and Hycathi alike.
Elspeth took sole responsibility for the community as the new century dawned, with Meredith pursuing missions away from home. One such mission, undertaken with accomplices Sybil Hart and Gwendolen Read, saw them take the life of King Willem Rufus, for which all three were sentenced to be Reckoned by the Oculus. By this time, Elspeth and other Hycathic leaders and activists around England had built up sufficiently strong support for a defence of self-defence that they were able to protest this decision, undoubtedly strengthening the defendants’ position in the dock. The Octal of the time, initially resistant, capitulated and approved the defence. However, wilful murder or serious harm by Hycathic magic with no immediate threat present would remain a Reckonable offence.
Personal Life and Death
Elspeth was bisexual, and maintained an active romantic life in tandem with her Hycathic activities. She had four daughters and two sons.
Elspeth died of cancer in 1151 at the age of 95, two days after Hecate’s Day. She was accorded a Duchy funeral in West Mercia by order of Duchess Mered Eymor, who delivered a personal eulogy.