Copyright Robin Gordon, 2013
Auksford index -- Index to Robin Gordon's works --
Index to Roquana
I: Savark Court
2: Lord Savark's household
The road to Savark Court was long and Roquana was sleepy, but not too
sleepy to be impressed by the magnificent gateway that led into the
park: tall columns topped by mythical creatures, a wide entrance
between them, with crimson gates topped with gold spikes, wide enough
for two carriages to pass each other, pedestrian gates to the sides,
and then a pair of handsome lodges.
The road then led through an extensive park, with
specimen trees dotted here and there in artistically arranged copses,
and then, through gardens of bright flowers, towards a splendid
chateau, with towers and turrets, gables, battlements, verandas,
terraces, pillars and columns, arches both Romanesque and Gothic, and
indeed every fanciful form of architectural ornament that had ever been
known on Humanity’s home planet, the long-lost, and ever
The carriage swung away from the main front door and
continued round the side of the house before swinging under a massive
archway in the Gothic style and into a courtyard surrounded by
two-storeyed buildings, with cloisters on both floors. Fat
pharaonic pillars on the ground floor, ornamented in Egyptian style
with carved lotus blossoms, supported a balcony enclosed by light
cast-iron arches, ornamented with tracery and sporting above each arch
a gargoyle: heads of elephants, baboons, eagles and totally fanciful
beasts. Impressive, I thought, but not in the best of taste.
The Housekeeper bustled Roquana out of the carriage
and called a boy to carry her luggage, then, as the carriage turned out
of the courtyard, she led us into the colonnade and through a corridor
to her office. There she outlined to Roquana the nature of her
duties before calling in a girl of about Roquana’s own age, whom
she introduced as Franette.
“Franette will be your housemother,” she
explained to Roquana. “She will guide you and tell you
about the house routine, and for your first week here you will go with
her and perform your duties under her guidance. Now she will show
you to your room, and you will find your belongings already
Franette showed Roquana her bedroom, quite small and
plain, not unlike the one she had at home. She told her that her
own room was further along the corridor, and that she would make sure
she was up, breakfasted and ready for work next morning. She took
her along to the maids’ dining room and introduced her to her
fellow workers, then, parting from her at night, told her not to lock
“The Chatelaine doesn’t like locked
doors at all,” she said. “She feels it shows a lack
of trust in the rest of the household, so, though there are locks on
all the doors, they are never used.”
Roquana nodded. “I wouldn’t lock
doors at home,” she said, “and this is my home now.”
“That’s the spirit,” said
Franette. “Oh, by the way, you’ll sometimes hear a
lot of noise from the boys’ side of the house, they do get quite
riotous sometimes, especially when they have a new boy.
They’re quite different from girls, and I’ve heard that
have all sorts of initiation ordeals. Anyway, that’s all
their affair. It gets very loud sometimes, but you needn’t
worry: their part of the house is completely separate and the only door
between is kept firmly locked at night. The Chatelaine
wouldn’t want boys and girls to get up to any sort of
naughtiness, would she?”
“Of course not,” said Roquana.
Franette was right about the boys and the
noise. Roquana couldn’t sleep at all: she could hear them
shouting and cheering, and from time to time a thunderous crashing of
running feet. Then she thought she heard someone in the corridor
outside, the rattle of door handles and loud roars in the
distance. Suddenly her door was flung open and someone darted
inside, slammed it shut and locked it.
Startled, Roquana immediately flicked on the
light. The newcomer turned, shocked. Despite
Franette’s assurances, it was a boy, a young man of about
Roquana’s own age or perhaps a year or two older. His mouth
dropped open, he uttered an inarticulate sound, midway between a gasp
and a groan, and clasped his hands to his groin.
He was trouserless.
“Sorry,” he spluttered. “I
… didn’t know there was any one here … I
didn’t know I was in … in the girls’ area. I
… I … I’d better go …”
He fumbled with the key, with one hand holding down
his shirt-tail, got the door unlocked and was turning the handle when
there came renewed uproar. It sounded as if it came from the
The boy kept the door closed, leaning against it.
“Wait,” said Roquana. “Lock
The boy did so.
“What’s happened?” she asked.
“Oh, nothing really,” he said, looking
over his shoulder at her, keeping his front pressed to the door and
holding down his shirt, back and front. “I’m new
here, and it was just my initiation. I’m sorry to appear
before a lady without my trousers, but the lads took them off me.
I suppose I must be a bit of a coward. I ran away from
them. I don’t suppose they’d really have done any of
the things they said.”
“What sort of things?”
“I couldn’t say in front of a
lady. I’m sorry. I’ll go.”
“No,” said Roquana. “Stay
here until they’ve gone. When the noise has stopped you can
“You can’t mean it,” he
stuttered. “What would the League of Purity say if I stayed
in your room after dark – especially without my trousers.”
“Here” said Roquana, pulling off one of
her blankets and holding it out. “Wrap yourself in
this. You can sit in the chair there, and I’ll stay here in
bed. We know we haven’t done anything wrong. The
worst they can do is dismiss us, and I wouldn’t mind that at
all. I’m new here too, and I’d much rather have
stayed at home with my mother.”
The boy stayed. They talked long into the
night, telling each other their histories.
The boy’s name was Tommuz. He came from
Gollerley, where he had lived with his widowed mother until Gulls and
Madame LaTower had invited him to join Lord Savark’s household
staff – an invitation that he and his mother knew could not be
refused, though, like Roquana, he had not wanted to leave home.
So they talked, until, eventually, they became aware
that all the noise had stopped and the corridors were quiet.
“I’d better go,” said
Tommuz. “I hope I’ll see you again.”
“I hope so too,” said Roquana.
Tommuz got up carefully from his chair, keeping his
back turned to Roquana until he had his shirt-tails carefully arranged
and held down to conceal those parts that a young man ought not to
display to a young lady he has only just met.
“Goodbye, then,” he said, and held out
his free hand. Roquana touched it lightly, and instantly I felt
her thrill as the electricity passed between them. Tommuz felt it
too and turned away quickly.
“See you tomorrow, I hope,” he said, and
slipped out of the door.
Roquana sighed and settled down to sleep.
The following day Mrs Broyn sent her to be
interviewed by the Chatelaine, which Roquana found a daunting prospect,
for, though at her initial interview at home the Chatelaine had hardly
spoken, leaving the conduct of the interview entirely to the
voluble Monsignor Gulls, she had exuded a formidable presence, so that
Roquana and Mrs Smuff had no need of the Secretary’s encomium to
realise that Madame LaTower was a person of considerable importance
and, more importantly, strength of character, whom it would be unwise
ever to cross.
The Chatelaine welcomed Roquana to her large and
imposing office with cold formality.
“You are doubtless aware,” she said,
“or if you are not aware it would certainly be surprising, that
His Lordship is not only, as is most right and proper given his role in
the exploration and development of Sunday, one of the richest and most
influential men on the planet but also, and I cannot stress this too
strongly, the President of the League of Purity, which is devoted
entirely to the maintenance of chastity among our young people and the
avoidance on Sunday of the sort of sexual free-for-all that pertains in
some newly colonised worlds.
“This being so it is of vital importance that
His Lordship’s household maintain an unsullied reputation for
purity, chastity and devotion to the dogmas of the League, you
“Yes,” Roquana quavered.
“It will therefore come as no surprise to you
if I ask you, formally as Chatelaine of His Lordship’s household
and therefore as His Lordship’s personal representative, whether
you are a virgin.”
“Yes,” said Roquana.
“Do you mean by yes that you are a virgin, that you agree that it will come as no
surprise if I ask you, or that you disagree
and are indicating that it will
come as a surprise?”
“Erm … “ said Roquana, “I
mean … yes I am a virgin.”
“And you have had no man in your bed?”
“Of course not.”
“If you tell lies you must expect the truth
eventually to be exposed. I will ask you once more: have you
slept with any man or boy, have you allowed any male to deflower you,
or are you still virgo intacta.
“I am a virgin, Madame,” said
Roquana. “I do not lie. If you don’t believe
me, why don’t you send me home?”
“You have heard of the Inquisition, of
course,” said Madame LaTower. “Suppose his Lordship,
at my request, were to ask his intimate friend the Grand Inquisitor of
Sunday to instruct an Inquisitor to penetrate your mind and discover
whether or not you have told the truth.”
“I have told the truth,” said
Roquana. “You may ask an Inquisitor to examine my mind if
you like. I have nothing to hide.”
Suddenly the Chatelaine smiled – a frosty
smile, but nevertheless a smile. “I am pleased with you,
child,” she said. “You have answered well. I
shall comfirm your assignment to Mrs Broyn’s staff and you will
have the opportunity of waiting on the great ones of Sunday next time
they gather here at Savark Court.”
Franette was waiting for Roquana outside.
“How did it go?” she asked.
“Horrible,” said Roquana.
“She kept on asking if I was a virgin, almost as if she believed
“But you stuck to your guns.”
“Of course. Anyway she sort-of smiled at
the end and said she was pleased, so I’m on Mrs Broyn’s
staff with you.”
“Good-oh,” said Franette.
“You’ll like Mrs Broyn. She’s nearly like a
mother to her girls, but as for Madame LaTower, well you might as well
talk to an iceberg. We all think she’s ghastly, but
don’t let anyone else hear you say so. Anyway, on Mrs
Broyn’s staff you get plenty of time off, so you can go and meet
your boyfriend for a walk in the garden … if you’ve got
one, of course.” Here she tittered girlishly.
Roquana thought it meant that Franette had a
boyfriend and said nothing. As for me, I was still seething at
the Chatelaine’s suggestion that Lord Savark could demand an
Inquisitor to investigate a particular, chosen person just by asking
his intimate friend the Grand Inquisitor – and if you had ever
heard the Grand Panjandrum’s opinion of Lord Savark, expressed
only inside the department and to trusted and dependable Inquisitors,
you wouldn’t be taken in for a moment by that claim of intimate friendship.