Roquana


by
Robin Gordon


Auksford crest: a great auk displaying a book with the words "Ex ovo sapientia"
Auksford 2013

© Copyright Robin Gordon, 2013

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Book V: The verdict and its aftermath
***
Chapter 16: The balance restored



    High Court judges arrived from Yowkoy One and the trials began.  Some, like Sir Muckswill Savark, were accused of gross indecency, others, like Jamal Fittlutt were rapidly convicted of pederasty.  The more complex cases involved the monopolists, accused of manipulating the government of Sunday for their own ends, while the worst of them, Lord Savark and Monsignor Gulls, were charged with High Treason.  Most of the guilty were shipped off to the penal colonies on Battnuboye.
    When a spitfire was sent to bring Lord Savark back to Sunday for his trial, it was found that he had left his space yacht.  CCHQ, which was analysing recent communications, reported that, while the original tribunal had been conducting its examinations, Savark had liquidated large sums of money and changed them into Commonwealth Interplanetary Credits.  A further transaction had transferred these credits to the computer aboard the stolen Spitfire.  Under questioning the Chatelaine, Madame LaTower, admitted that Lord Savark had arranged to be picked up by Gulls in the stolen craft, and had donned his space-suit and disembarked from the yacht behind Monday, out of sight of watchers on Sunday, leaving the yacht to continue its orbit as if he were still on board.
    Trackers aboard the Ark Royal were sure, however that Gulls had set off in a completely different direction and had not gone anywhere near Monday.  Several small ships headed for Monday, and on the far side of it they found Lord Savark’s corpse floating in space.  This, it was clear, was a final betrayal by Gulls, who had escaped with a superb craft, capable of taking him anywhere, and with a colossal fortune in Commonwealth Interplanetary Credits.

    Next the Lord High Admiral set about reforming the constitution of Sunday, modelling it on the most preferred version as used on Yowkoy One and the Home Planets.  The Holy Synod and the Office of Procurator were both abolished.  The office of President was replaced by that of Governor General, the holder to be appointed by the Crown, and the Lady Ontoonia Furtescyow-Broyne, formerly known as Old Bonita Bananas, was appointed as first Governor.  Finally and most importantly, the Senate, which previously, like the Holy Synod, consisted of appointees nominated by the Monopolies Control Commission, was replaced by a directly elected two-chamber Parliament.  The MCC had already been effectively abolished by the arrest and conviction of all its members.  Parliament, once elected, appointed a new commission, strictly subordinate to the elected representatives of the people and charged with carrying out the normal functions of such a body: the prevention of monopolies that would inhibit the business ambitions of new immigrants.
    In accordance with Commonwealth principles the aboriginal inhabitants of the planet received full rights of citizenship.  Unglush remained the official language both in order to maintain links with the rest of the Commonwealth, and because there were so many different dialects of the Tohu languages that tribes who lived more than a few miles from each other had great difficulty in communicating.  Across the seas the position was even more confusing, for the languages there seemed to have no common ancestor with Unglush unless one traced them far back into the mists of antiquity before humanity left Earth.  The first to be found seemed to be descendants of the Franchu, which rather pleased Monsignor DaClue who claimed to have Franchu among his very distant ancestors. 
    When all the constitutional preparations were in place elections to the Parliament were held, and then it was announced that the Queen herself would attend the first State Opening of the new Parliament and also personally invest the new Governor General in the Pantheon.
    That building had been cleared of the Guild of Eunuchs, who were sent off to a distant colony in the wilds, and the crypt handed over to a persistent but fundamentally harmless sect, the Crustu or Crusty Ones, who claimed that there was only one god, whose son, Crust had been executed by the imperial authorities of some ancient civilisation as a sacrifice to save humanity from eternal damnation.  They are regarded as heretical, of course, but Crust himself seems to have been a good man who preached altruism, so, despite their denial of our Commonwealth gods, His Holiness, the Dolloy Pope of Conterbrew, has decreed that they should be tolerated.
    So we found ourselves seated in the body of the Pantheon among the great and the good, we few whom fate had decreed should be instrumental in the reform of Sunday – and, by the way, the Privy Council decided that our world should still be called Sunday lest the Omarrigu, the Choinezzu or the Razhu should decide to try to claim it.  There was little chance that they would find out about our discovery if the name were not changed to Earth: the Razhu were constantly dealing with internal revolts against the mafia-style oligarchs who ruled their worlds, the Choinezzu were now far across the Universe, leaving behind a trail of settled, exploited, devastated and then abandoned planets, while the Omarrigu, thanks to their unshakeable belief that every citizen should have the right to bear arms, were reduced to a single planet, Orrizoona, where every minor quarrel was likely to lead to murder and thence to long-standing feuds, and every slight, whether real or imagined, might provoke a massacre.
    There we sat among the great and the good: my wife and I, Roquana and her parents – for you’ve probably guessed by now that Moiku Stoon, who had discovered the Government’s plans for genocide, was Roquana’s long-lost father – and Tommuz and his mother.
    The Pantheon had been given a good clean, and the images of the gods and their prophets were fresh and shining.  In the centre stood the father in his red robes trimmed with white fur, his blue eyes twinkling, his cheeks as red as his robes and his beard as snowy as the fur.  By his side stood the unfathomable sack from which he drew all the gifts he gave to mankind, and on his right stood the chief of his servants, the deer headed and antlered Lord Rowdulf, with his lantern and his red rose, while on his left stood the god to whom our cathedral was dedicated, the dog-headed Lord Grommet, carrying a cheese, and, with him, a tiny figure at his feet, his apostle, Saint Jack Russell, with his little dog.  The image of the man was eight feet high, more than life size, but the god he served towered mighty above him.  Beyond Rowdulf, further to our left, stood the Lord Vollintayn, with his burning heart on display within his crystalline breast.  He is the god of all true lovers, and the flames that rise from his heart are the fires of passion.  On the other side, beyond the Lord Grommet, stands the Lord Gay Fox, a young man with a fox’s head and brush, holding a firework and smirking in a rather camp manner.  He, of course is the god of homosexuals and pyrotechnicians.  Beyond him stand the Maiden, the Mother, surrounded by her children, and the Crone, while on the other side are the Singer, the Soldier and the Judge.
    Other gods fill the other panels.  Away to my left I saw the Lord Gondulf, and at his feet his prophet, St Joyur Tullkine, while far to the right I could just see the god who watches over Inquisitors, the Lord Arcoyl Pyaroo, with his consort, the Lady Oruodnigh Ullavir and his three servants, Hasty, Chop and Lady LaMoon.
    The ceremony was led by the former Archbishop of New Jackrusselham, now resplendent in the red robes of a Cardinal and elevated to Metropolitan Patriarch of Sunday.  The Big Cheese was sitting next to him in the full ceremonial clobber of the Inquisition.  A throne had been placed in the centre for the Queen, Luzzubith XII.  Beside her sat the Lord High Admiral, and next to him, our former President, Old Bonita Bananas, now to be inducted into the office of Governor General under her real name, the Lady Ontoonia Furtescyow-Broyne.  Her father, whom the Admiral had referred to as Bonzo, was in the same row as our party.
    The Patriarch offered prayers to the gods, especially to the Father and the Lord Grommet, then the Queen announced the appointment of Lady Ontoonia.  I can’t remember all the details of the ceremonies and the speeches, but part of her Majesty’s speech stuck in my mind.
    “It has often been said,” she began, “that those who fail to learn from history are obliged to repeat the mistakes of their ancestors.  Both the Choinezzu and the Omarrigu are living examples of this dictum, but even here on Sunday old errors almost triumphed again as they triumphed on this same world so many generations ago.  In the time of my great, great, ever-so-many greats, grandfather, Shorrudge III, the lands held by the Omarrigu were part of the Commonwealth, for they had been settled by Unglush colonists.  Now these colonists found in their new lands across the ocean a race of people, human like themselves, who lived a nomadic life, hunting the herds of grazing animals that roamed the plains.
    “Shorrudge and his government insisted that these people should be treated well and their human rights respected, just as the Commonwealth does today, but the settlers were determined to take all the land for themselves and to exterminate the aboriginal people, just as Savark and his associates tried to do here on Sunday.
“They therefore determined to secede from the Commonwealth, just as Savark and Gulls tried to do here, and, to justify their actions they spread false rumours that Shorrudge’s government intended to impose extremely high taxes on them.  This was entirely untrue, for the government of the day taxed the colonists at lower levels than its citizens at home, hoping that by thus subsidizing them they would be all the stronger, all the more able to develop the new lands, and less likely to be attacked by rival colonies sent out by the Franchu.
    “The Omarrigu revolted, and Unglind, already at war with Francha, had to let its colonies go, though about a third of the people then fled to lands that were still part of the Commonwealth.  Protected then by the might of the Commonwealth the Omarrigu became a great nation, but plagued forever by the guilty memories of how they had treated the aboriginal natives.
    “Fortunately, thanks to the bravery of a young girl and her boyfriend, the vigilance of an Inquisitor, and the loyalty of the Sunday colonists, we have avoided that outcome, so that, in this world, both colonists and native inhabitants can share equally in Commonwealth citizenship and the great and wonderful gifts of the Father and the other gods.”

    Roquana married Tommuz, of course, and they had four children, two boys and two girls, and I’m proud to say that they named one of their sons Sulamun.  Tommuz joined the diplomatic service and did very well, in fact, shortly before I retired I met him on Yowkoy One, just after he had secured the plum job of High Commissioner of Sunday to New Lundun.  I have no doubt that Roquana’s presence as his wife had helped many a mission, and they both well deserved their new titles of Lord and Lady Crumptin.
    I myself was on Yowkoy One as an Assistant Commonwealth Inquisitor, and I had the immense privilege of working with Monsignor DaClue for several years before he retired.  He stayed on Yowkoy One, of course, but I was determined to go back to Sunday, which had become a very different place.  The colonists and the natives intermingled happily, and, free of the lies about savage Tohu, the farmers were able to spread across the fertile lands, while the cities, no longer enclosed in their imprisoning walls, became pleasant and beautiful places, with wide, tree-lined streets and handsome buildings.  The clutter of tents and booths was cleared away and the people lived and worked in proper, salubrious conditions, and – perhaps surprisingly – when they were no longer crammed together like battery-farmed animals, they no longer felt the need to impose their noise on their surroundings and the former cacophony came to an end.
    While I was still on Yowkoy One Tommuz and Roquana often came to visit my wife and me, and we visited them at the High Commission.  Then one day Tommuz had some quite surprising news.
    The Commonwealth had sent a mission to Orrizoona to try and persuade the government there to stop Omarrigu pirates attacking Commonwealth ships, and, if possible, to secure the release of a number of Commonwealth citizens who had been captured and sold into slavery.  When the diplomats were taken on a tour of one of the estates, a slave suddenly rushed up to them and claimed to be a Commonwealth citizen, a Monsignor, a former Procurator.  He just had time to give his name as Gulls and his home planet as Sunday before he was dragged away.  When the mission returned to Yowkoy One its leader reported this to Tommuz, who asked him to find out more.
    It appeared that Gulls, having escaped with a Spitfire and a colossal fortune in Commonwealth Interplanetary Credits, and wishing to get out of reach of Commonwealth justice, fled to Orrizoona.  There he flaunted his wealth and checked in to the most luxurious of Omarrigunish hotels, only to find that his CICs were worthless outside the Commonwealth.  The hoteliers, feeling cheated, seized him at gunpoint and sold him to slave traders.  These took from him his credit-key and his Spitfire and sold him to a plantation owner, where he slaved for quite a number of years before seizing his chance of escape on seeing members of the Commonwealth mission.
    “What,” asked Tommuz, “should be done?  Ought we to add the name of Gulls to the list of Commonwealth citizens to be ransomed?”
    I thought not, but decided we should consult Monsignor DaClue.
    “It seems to me,” said the retired Deputy Commonwealth Inquisitor, “that we are under no obligation to rescue Gulls.  He had his chance to accept the sentence imposed by Commonwealth justice, and he refused it.  In the words of the old proverb, he has made his own bed, and now he must lie on it.”
    “There is the possibility,” I said, “that, as a slave who attempted to escape, he will be castrated and then sent to work in the goldmines, never to see the light of day again.”
    Monsignor DaClue smiled.  “Yes,” he said, “there is that possibility.  He’ll probably find it much less pleasant than life on Battnuboye, but that’s what he has chosen.”
    So the name of Gulls was not added to the list of those to be ransomed.

    Soon after that I retired and we moved back to Sunday, where our children had remained.  They are doing well too, in fact our eldest son was recently installed as Big Cheese, or, as he prefers to be known, Grand Inquisitor of Sunday.
We now live in a pleasant suburb of New Jackrusselham, not far from the Stoons.  Moiku was Permanent Secretary in the Department of Integration for many years, though he is now retired, of course, and we quite often see the Crumptins, Roquana and Tommuz and their children, so, all in all, things turned out not too badly in the end.  My wife and I are over seventy but still in remarkably good health, and we know quite a few people who are nearly eighty, in fact Old Wullum lived to be eighty-six, an extraordinary age for any human since the Great Exodus and proof that our original home planet is the healthiest of all.
    When I say eighty-six, I don’t need to specify Commonwealth or planetary years, for in our case they coincide.  Our world is now well-known for its curative properties and people come on short breaks from all over the Commonwealth to “recharge their batteries” as the saying is.  We have a really flourishing tourist industry, and export herbal remedies by the ton – and you won’t be surprised to hear that the Royal Family’s favourite holiday home is in the mountainous areas in the north of our island, and there are even suggestions that the Commonwealth Government should move here lock stock and barrel.
    A more significant contribution to the sum total of human happiness was the rediscovery by a team of botanists, just a few years ago, of a species of tree that we have never been able to establish on any other planet.  The ancient records were consulted, and small-scale processing facilities successfully established.  As a result, we poor humans can taste again the food of the gods.  For the first time since the Great Exodus – we have chocolate!

   

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