First Hycath War
The First Hycath War was a conflict lasting from 1135 to 1141 between the Temple of Hycath and the Catholic Church. Mainly taking place in England, it centred around the campaign waged by Empress Matilda “Maud” Beauclerc. Its goal was to recover her rightful place on the English throne from her cousin, Stephen of Blois, who had usurped her; for this reason, it is also often referred to as The Clash of the Cousins.
The First Hycath War marked an important turning point in the political and religious structure of England. The Hycathic victory at the Battle of Lincoln ushering in the First Age of Hycath, whose matriarchal system replaced the patriarchal Church-backed rule of old.
Hycathism endured centuries of persecution before the war at the hands of the Church, who saw it as one of many pagan religions that ought to be converted to theirs. Violent attacks were meted out on the religion, from the sacking of Hycathic temples to the Norman Conquest of England. The strict Hycath codes prohibited Hycathae from using their magic to fight back; the penalty for this was reckoning. These codes would be amended in 1100, in the wake of the New Forest Incident. However, after that Hycathae were still compelled to lead clandestine lives. Even those who married into the Scottish and English Royal families had to adopt illegitimate sons to maintain the line of succession in this strictly patriarchal time.
King Henry I of England and his Hycathic wife, Edith – now known as Matilda of Scotland – were one such case. They adopted Henry’s bastard son, William Adelin, as their heir ahead of their biological daughter Matilda “Maud” – the later Empress. However, William died by drowning in the White Ship Disaster of 1120 and, since the King and his new bride Adeliza of Louvain had not produced another heir, this created a succession crisis. With Maud ruling Italy as Holy Roman Empress, her cousin Stephen of Blois attempted to persuade King Henry to name him heir, but the King held out for Maud’s counsel and named her his heir in 1127. Stephen agreed to swear an oath of fealty to her.
The Onset of the War
King Henry died in 1135, whilst Maud and her second husband, Geoffrey of Anjou, were consolidating their territories in Normandy and Anjou. Exploiting her absence a second time, Stephen gathered the support of several nobles who had previously sworn fealty to Maud, with the help of his brother Henry, a powerful papal legate. Robert of Gloucester, Maud’s half-brother, unsuccessfully attempted to stop Stephen, who, victorious, had himself crowned King in December, usurping Maud and abandoning on his own oath.
Once news reached Maud in Anjou, she was furious and issued an edict in which she condemned Stephen and vowed to bring about an Age of Hycath in revenge. Historians generally see this edict as a formal declaration of war.
Mobilisation and Machinations
Remaining in Anjou for the meantime, Maud began to make arrangements to build up Hycathic support in England with Gloucester’s assistance as a channel of communications. On her instruction, he commissioned Alice Eymor, a Baethla from Coventry, to travel the length and breadth of England on a recruitment mission. Alice was the daughter of Meredith Eymor, one of three Hycathae accused of involvement in the New Forest Incident and a pioneering Hycathic community leader.
Alice set out from Gloucester town in early 1136, using cryptic letters to keep her employers informed of her yield. She proved to be a most adept recruiter of Hycathae and Hycathi alike. She made significant gains in the West of England, where Maud and Gloucester were held in greater favour, and convinced her mother to enlist her own community in Coventry as well.
Lucy of Bolingbroke, from Lincoln, was the Nyridia most closely available to Maud, but the two had a fractious relationship, and Maud was unsure on whether or not to trust her. To that end, she commissioned her close friend and ally, Roosmarijn Doolaard – a Cyntha of Dutch origin – to travel to Anatolia and recruit Nyridia there. Roosmarijn set out from France in 1137. Her arrival at a Hycathic refugee camp outside Constantinople would set her on a different path, though, when a Hycathic orphan, Nuray, convinced her to accompany a delegation from the camp to the Hycathic city of Aktau. After receiving three months of detailed instruction in Hycathic society, Roosmarijn successfully recruited Elmira, the Nyridia leading the city.
In 1138, Robert of Gloucester gave Maud’s campaign a boost by mounting a rebellion against Stephen. King David I of Scotland, Maud’s uncle, seized the opportunity to move into northern England in her interest, and Stephen was forced to quash him. He later appeased David by handing over some of the northern lands. This, in turn, angered several English landowners who found themselves disinherited, among them Ranulf, Lucy’s son and 4th Earl of Chester.
Meanwhile, Lucy had received Alice at Lincoln at the beginning of 1139, where she provided Alice with two Hycathae for reinforcements and encouraged her to take direct action. In response, Alice and her new compatriots set fire to several fields in Cambridgeshire, destroying an important food source for Stephen’s troops and creating a famine. The three Hycathae were arrested in Cambridge, but Alice avoided execution by claiming kinship to nobility in the form of Lucy, who ultimately came to her rescue by obliterating the prison in which she was being held.
Maud Returns to England
In early 1139, Maud encountered Aurélie Paquet, a young Cyntha from a farming family that resented her Hycathic powers. Convincing her of a different outlook, Maud took her on as her maid and protégé and, that July, they sailed to England together. Following an offer from Adeliza, Maud and Aurélie travelled with their entourage to Arundel Castle, where Maud began teaching Aurélie to hone her magic.
The proceedings were interrupted when Stephen arrived and laid siege to the castle, spurring Maud to violent fantasies so acute that Aurélie had to use her growing powers to calm her. The siege lasted until Stephen unexpectedly released Maud and her entourage after three weeks. History does not record the reason for him doing so, but there have been rumours over the years of Maud using Hycathic magic to shapeshift into Stephen to frighten him – a less harmful use of the magic suggested by Aurélie.
Gearing up for Gloucester
Having escaped the Siege of Arundel, Maud and her entourage travelled to Gloucester and made it their base of operations, where they were soon joined by Alice. Roosmarijn arrived some months later, in 1140, with two new Nyridia recruits, Elmira of Aktau and her acquaintance Tanoute of Damanhur, whom they had met in Ouadane, West Africa.
Battle of Lincoln and Victory
Sometime in late 1140, Ranulf and his half-brother William de Roumare recaptured Lincoln Castle by devious methods, and Stephen conceded them the lands. However, Ranulf’s cruelty – it is said on his mother Lucy’s advice – to the citizens of Lincoln prompted them to complain to Stephen, who returned in early 1141 and laid the castle siege. Lucy, in her turn, appealed to Maud, who made the decision to ride to Lincoln and help her. Maud’s entourage briefly stopped in Nottingham, where Gabriella Fitzwalter was recruited as the Hycathic army’s general, along with her partner Margareth Loxley and the soldiers of the Earldom of Huntingdon. Ranulf, too, would join the Hycathic forces following mediation by Gloucester, who had Ranulf swear fealty to Maud.
The two cousins clashed for the final time at the Battle of Lincoln on 2 February 1141, where Stephen was killed, though not before he had killed Alice. The circumstances of Stephen’s death remain unclear, with either his baron William of Ypres or Gabriella suggested as his killer. The fact of his death, though, handed victory in the battle to Maud. Thanks to a ploy to gain the capitulation of Stephen’s brother Henry, she would subjugate what was left of the Church in England in the weeks that followed.
Upon reaching Lucy in the castle in the immediate aftermath of the battle, Maud learned, to her consternation, that the Nyridia had in fact engineered the White Ship Disaster, her motive being to hasten Maud’s succession to the throne. For Maud, this was an unacceptable act of subterfuge, and Lucy was sentenced to be reckoned despite her protests.
On the Throne
Maud proclaimed the First Age of Hycath in London on 7 April, 1141, installing herself as Empress of England and creating sixteen new Duchies whose leadership was entrusted to Hycathae and others who had given distinguished service in the war. England became a matriarchy and a pioneer Hycathic state in Europe and stayed that way for several centuries.