I read this one in the middle of the night somewhere above the Sonoran Desert.
Needless to say my recollections may be fuzzy, but IIRC there’s a big fight about a horse.
More people show up because of course they do. Smoting happens. We encounter our first multi-classed knight. A lot of people argue about a horse. You know, the usual Orlando Furioso stuff.
When we last left off Aldigier, Ricciardetto, and Ruggiero were riding along to free Vivian and Malagigi from some bastard, when a mysterious knight blocked their path. This knight instantly starts with the challenges, but Al, Dick, and Roger say they can’t fight because there’s an army coming with prisoners they need to free. The mysterious knight then says, “A whole army! I’ll fight them with you.” So now it’s a whole adventuring party and the Mysterious Knight turns out to be Marfisa, Saracen Lady Knight Extraordinaire.
Eventually the army shows up. The knights charge. They kill Bertolagi the Bastard then attack the army. Smiting, smoting, skicking, and snicking ensues. They win, free the prisoners Viviano and Malagigi, and loot all the random money that was in the caravan. Ruggiero and marfisa are impressed by each other’s smiting and flex for each other. It’s some chaste, gym rat stuff. Everyone’s happy and off they go to a nearby fountain.
This fountain was made by Merlin and works like a widescreen TV. First it shows them a beast defiling Europe. Then some brave kings defeat the beast and I think this is all a political reference towards the Guelph/Ghibelline strife, but it could also be a depiction of Europe being threatened by Islam. I don’t know. The knights watch it for a bit and are like what’s all this. Malagigi then tells them these are pictures of the future and the beast will attack Europe and these kings will unite to fight it. Like I said I think Ariosto is doing a propaganda here but I don’t know the history well enough to get the references.
The most important bit of all this to me is that Malagigi is both a knight and a wizard! How cool is that?
The knights are interrupted by a damsel. She’s Ipplaca who was tasked with giving Frontino to Ruggiero only to have Rodomonte steal it. She managed to track Ruggiero down and promptly tells him the news. He goes straight to Dick and says, “Are we good?” Dick’s like yeah. Ruggiero’s like seeya! And off he rides with Ipplaca. They reach a crossroads and take the high road hoping to catch Rodomonte. But of course, Rodomonte is on the low road. He, Mandricard, and Doralice come to the fountain where Viviano, Aldigier, Malagigi, Marfisa, and Ricciardetto are lounging. Marfisa’s in woman’s clothes at the moment and Mandricard promptly demands she be handed over (so he can give her to Rodomonte and keep Doralice for his own.) Marfisa says hell no. The knights take to their horses and are promptly defeated. Marfisa then says:
“I belong to no one but myself; and so you see,
Who wants me must do battle first with me.”
The smashing ensues except both have magic armor on and make little progress. Rodomonte then breaks them up and reminds them that they’re all on the same side. He shows the king’s message ordering all the knights back to Paris. Mandricard and Marfisa make peace.
Meanwhile Ruggiero and Ippalca have realized they went the wrong way. He gives her the letter he wrote for Bradamante and returns to the fountain. And here all hell breaks out because there’s Rodomonte with Frontino, Ruggiero’s horse, and Ruggiero refuses to make peace until he has the horse back. Things escalate. Mandricard gets drawn into the argument. Weapons are drawn. And where there was peace discord appears. Marfisa tries to part them, but nothing she says or does works. Before long she’s pulled into the fray. Viviano and Ricciardetto too. It’s a mad free for all. At last Malagigi casts a spell that sends Doralice’s horse bolting. Mandricard and Rodomonte set off in pursuit. Ruggiero wants to pursue but knows none of the available horses are fast enough. Marfisa says we’re all going to Paris anyways, we can finish our fight there.
So they bid farewell to Mal, Al, Dick, and Viv, then set off for Paris.
Where I am sure a whole bunch more crazy stuff will happen!
See you then.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Aldigier, Ricciardetto, Ruggiero, Marfisa, Bertolagi the Bastard, Viviano, Malagigi, Mandricard, Rodomonte
Damsels: Ippalca, Doralice
Horses: Frontino, the cause of so much trouble
Swords: Balisarda, Ruggiero’s adamantine sword that cuts through iron like paper
Monsters: One seen on the magic widescreen fountain TV that is a political metaphor I don’t understand
Magic Items: Merlin’s magic widecreen fountain TV, the usual magic armor forged for Hector or crafted from dragon bones
Buckle up, we’re about to meet a half dozen new characters!
Rodomonte and Mandricard (at Doralice’s urging) have pledged to keep peace between themselves until the war’s over. They ride off and before long find a group of knights hanging around a well with a damsel. Ariosto tells us to remember how Ruggiero threw Atlante’s magic shield in a well, but before telling us what happens he decides to see what Ruggiero’s doing.
Ruggiero’s eager to complete his quest (rescue the transvestite knight) and meet Bradamante (so he can be baptized before the two get married), but up rides one of those messengers from Agramante urging him to return to the battle. This sparks introspection as to what course he should follow. In the end he sticks with the damsel who was taking him (and Bradamante) to rescue the transvestite knight. They reach the town where the knight is to be burned, and Ruggiero’s like “OMG, that’s Bradamante tied on the pyre!” He charges the crowd and the smoting ensues. It goes on for stanzas and Ruggiero is compared to a bird of prey and the common people to pigeons. Also his sword gets some lore “the cruel sword which Falerina made to slay Orlando in Orcagna’s glade.”
I have no clue about any of this.
Smoting done Ruggiero rescues Bradamante only to realize it’s not Bradamante at all, but a young man! They ride away, and Ruggiero’s really confused. At last the youth explains he’s in fact Bradamante’s twin brother Ricciardetto (the translator’s calling him Richard by the end of the canto and I will do the same). And so starts a story about Bradamante rescuing a damsel named Fiordispina, Fiordispina falling in love with Bradamante because she thinks she’s a guy, Bradamante’s attempts to clarify things, Fiordispina’s refusal to accept things, Bradamante’s leaving Fiordispina behind, going home and telling her family everything, and Richard realizing he always loved Fiordispina, and him thinking he might be a able to replace his sister in the damsel’s affections with a magical sex change from a nymph story. Yes, it’s a lot. But it works! Until he’s caught “planting his standard” and sentenced to death on a bonfire.
Ruggiero and Richard eventually reach a castle held by Aldigier. He’s Buovo’s bastard son (I don’t know who that is) and his brothers are Vivian and Malagigi. Are these people important? Again, I don’t know. But Vivian and Malagigi are supposed to be sold off to pay Aldigier’s debt to an actual bastard named Bertolagi and wouldn’t it be great if some brave knight were to step in and stop that from happening. Richard volunteers Ruggiero, but Ruggiero is super-conflicted right now. He has no idea whether to meet Bradamante, help Aldigier, or go back and serve his king and defeat the Christians outside Paris. Much internal conflict ensues, but in the end Ruggiero decides to return to his king. He writes a long letter, but before he can send it he’s duped into escorting Vivian and Malagigi to where Bertolagi awaits. Or some knight waits. But who? To learn that we have to wait.
Until next time!
Whenever that is…
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Rodomonte, Mandricard, Ruggiero, Ricciardetto, Bradamante (in a flashback), Aldigier, Vivian, Malagigi, Bertolagi
Damsels: Fiordispina, Doralice in the background
Swords: Ruggiero’s sword “the cruel sword which Falerina made to slay Orlando in Orcagna’s glade.” Foreshadowing!
Magic Items: 0
“For what is love but madness after all”
Welcome to Orlando Furioso, Part 2.
We’ve come a long way, but have further still to go. Come on!
Ariosto didn’t intend his epic to be split into two parts, but publishing wants what publishing wants. This volume has a whole new dramatis personae. Oh boy!
When we last saw Orlando he was running wild smashing things. When we return to him now he’s still doing it. Knocking down trees. Smashing rocks. Sullying rivers. Eating animals raw, innards and all. The shepherds don’t much like that and try to stop him, but he just attacks them, killing one and using the corpse as a weapon to kill the others. Soon the whole landscape is up in arms against Orlando and marching against him. But Orlando don’t give a sh**. He’s like a honey badger. You come at him. He comes at you. And he’s impervious to weapons except on the soles of his feet or something. He slaughters many, wanders far, reaches a bridge, and there Ariosto leaves him for Zerbino.
Zerbino and Isabella ride along and find a trio of knights in the woods. It’s actually two knights and a third kept prisoner. Both Orlando and Isabella know them. The prisoner is Odorico, the guy Zerbino left Isabella with and who promptly tried to assault her. I think this happened in a canto we read, but I’m too tired to look it up. The other two guys are Corebo and Almonio, Zerbino’s other pals. They explain how they captured Odorico and were bringing him to face justice. But now that Zerbino’s there, they can give the miscreant over to him for judgment.
Odorico promptly begs for his life. Zerbino listens, but knows only death will right the wrong done. Still for friendship’s sake he stays his hand. Then, as if sent by God to deliver him from this decision, a horse and rider appears. Who can this be who will solve all his problems? Why it’s none other than Grabina, our favorite evil crone! They catch her horse and drag her down. By rights Zerbino should punish both, but instead he gives them to each other. He makes Odorico pledge to protect Gabrina for a year just as Marfisa made Zerbino pledge. Odorico accepts and rides away with Gabrina, and out of the story they go! Ariosto can’t say what happens to them, but he read a story in a book that killed Odorico killed Gabrina a day later and then Almonio killed Odorico. But it’s a story he heard and can’t say whether it’s true or not.
Goodbye, Gabrina! You will always be my #1 meanie.
All that done, Zerbino sends Almonio and Corebo away and continues on (with Isabella) looking for either Orlando or Mandricard. Soon they come upon the devastated landscape left by Orlando’s passage and find his horse, armor, and weapons. They gather it all up and put a sign over it saying don’t touch property of Orlando. Then Fiordiligi arrives. Who’s she? She’s Brandimarte’s wife. Who’s Brandimarte? He’s a knight, Orlando’s best friend gone to in search of him, and most recently seen as prisoner in the knight motel. This all happened in Canto whatever. Really, people, try to keep up!
Fiordiligi rides up all weepy because she’s been searching for her husband for months. (He’s actually back in Paris by now according to Ariosto.) I suspect she and Brandimarte are to be another pair of tragic lovers in this story. She recognizes all Orlando’s gear and fears what must have happened, but before she can do anything up rides Mandricard and Doralice. He asks what’s going on and whose stuff is all this? Zerbino explains it’s Orlando’s, and Mandricard says well, Orlando stole my dad’s sword so I’ll be taking it back now and if Orlando wants it back he can come find me. And Zerbino’s like the hell you will. And Mandricard takes the sword and says come and stop me.
So before long the two are duelling and I will tell you true: this is actually a great bit.
Both knights have been set up as interesting characters over multiple cantos, and the fight is depicted in heaps of the swordporn of smoting and smiting. Lances shatter. Horses die. The damsels look on awestruck and afraid. At last, Mandricard wounds Zerbino so savagely, Isabella screams at Doralice to do something. Doralice implores Mandricard to show mercy. He does and leaves with Doralice. Fiordiligi also leaves. But what of Zerbino?
First, Isabella urges him off his horse. Then he lies in the grass and the two share sweet words and weep together. Isabella says she’ll kill herself right after Zerbino dies and maybe some pious folk will come by and bury their bodies together. More weeping, then Zerbino dies and Isabella prepares to kill herself when a hermit appears. He talks her back from the brink and convinces her to join a convent. He says he knows just the one and will take her there. And for once the hermit seems all right. He doesn’t try to rape Isabella. He has a casket made for Zerbino. They then ride south through the devastated countryside where a knight appears and insults them. But enough about them. What about Mandricard?
Doralice and he ride away straight into Rodomonte. To remind you, Doralice was betrothed to Rodomonte before Mandricard “seduced” her. Soon another duel begins and this one is like a storm. More horses die. It looks bad for Mandricard, when up rides an envoy from Agramant, the Saracen King. Agramant needs them both back with the army to defeat the French. So Rodomonte and Mandricard swear an oath before Doralice to call a truce to their strife until the war is ended, and off to Paris they ride.
Until next time!
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Orlando, Zerbino, Odorico, Corebo, Almonio, Mandricard, Rodomonte
Damsels: Isabella, Gabrina, Fiordiligi, Doralice
Horses: Brigliadoro (Orlando’s horse)
Magic Items: Mostly magic armor
This is it.
This is the canto.
The canto where Orlando sees a thing he shouldn’t see and goes completely, as the picture above shows, Furioso.
How’s it happen?
Well, pull up a chair and I’ll tell you…
… but first, Ariosto needs to talk a bit more about that bastard Pinabello and his bastard dad Anselmo. He’s a jerk through and through: cowardly, dishonorable, and just all around awful. And that’s why it was great that Bradamante killed Pinabel dead. That done she goes back to find Ruggiero, only he’s long ridden off, so she sets up camp, admires the stars, and heaves many long sighs. She blames herself for losing her love. In the morning she goes back to where the Knight Motel stood. She finds Astolfo there and he’s happy to see her because now he can give her his horse Rabicano and fly away on the hippogriff. Zip… he goes and Bradamante goes on in search of Ruggiero.
She wanders about until she sees a castle. This she recognizes as the place where her mother lives and she’s happy-sad to see it. Happy to have a place to rest. Sad because she knows if she goes there everyone will try and get her to stay and forget Ruggiero. So, she turns her back on safety and is about to ride on her way when her brother, Alard of the Unfortunate Name, appears. Well, now she can’t leave and she goes to the castle where she is compelled to stay longer than she would like. So she finds one of her maids (Ippalca) and puts her on Ruggiero’s horse, Frontino, to meet Ruggiero at the agreed place and tell him that she will be there as soon as she can.
Ippalca sets off and after a bit bumps into Rodomonte on the road. He’s like “Nice horse” and Ippalca’s like “It is and it belongs to a knight better than you.” Rodomonte’s then like “Oh yeah? Who?” and Ippalca says “Ruggiero” and Rodomonte’s like “Well, if he’s as tough as you say he can get the horse from me.” And so he hops on Frontino and bears the horse and a screaming Ippalca away with him.
But, enough of that… back to Zerbino and Gabrina.
They’ve discovered Pinabell’s body and wonder who he was and why he died. Zerbino’s says he’ll ride off to see what information he can gather. Gabrina’s left with the body, which she promptly loots for all its jeweled finery. Zerbino comes back with no answers but sees a castle nearby. It’s Altaripa where Anselmo, Pinabell’s dad, lives. When they get there everyone is having a sad because Pinabell is dead. Anselmo says he’ll pay a reward to anyone who can tell him who killed his son. Gabrina promptly connives an audience with Anselmo and shows her the jewels she looted and tells him how Zerbino did the deed. Forthwith Zerbino gets tossed in prison to await execution, but that doesn’t happen. What happens is when the people take Zerbino to the forest for dismemberment, Orlando shows up with Isabella (Zerbino’s girlfriend). She implores Orlando to save Zerbino and so that’s what he does. Out comes Durindana and with it the stabby-stabby. That done, he frees Zerbino.
At first Zerbino is delighted to see Isabella, but then he remembers all the talk Gabrina fed him (she was alone in a cave with twenty dudes!) But Orlando tells him all that was the hag’s lies and he was there and relays the truth of it. Fears dismissed, the two lovers give great thanks, but this gets cut short because Mandricardo shows up and he’s been itching for a fight with Orlando.
Boasts and challenges ensue. Glances rake the other up and down. Swords get talked about. At last the joust begins. Lances shatter. Spears break. By the end the two are whacking at each other with sticks like peasants arguing in a ditch (good one, Ariosto!).
Mandricardo then tries to use some wrestling move on Orlando, but Orlando doesn’t yield. In fact Mandricardo strains so hard he busts his bridle, spooking his horse and sending it and himself atop it fleeing into the woods. Doralice rides after him. She offers to give him her bridle, but he’s like “you’re a girl.” Fortunately, Gabrina appears. Her plan gone to shit, she’s taken off in search of safety. Mandricardo has no problem taking her bridle since she’s ugly and old, so that he does, and everyone’s happy. Except Gabrina who is sent through the woods now on an uncontrollable horse.
Meanwhile, Orlando’s been waiting for Mandricard to return, but the pagan hasn’t come back. He rides off in search of him, leaving Zerbino and Isabella behind.
Off he rides through the forest.
Riding. Riding. Riding. Lazy cattle loll about. The wind whispers by on a gentle breeze. But lo, what’s this? Some letters carved on a tree. Names, twined around each other with hearts and lovers knots. And whose names? None other than Angelica’s and Medoro’s.
Dafuq, Orlando says and he starts trying to figure out some explanation. But there’s none coming. But, still, maybe it’s some other people, so he rides on until he finds… a cave. And this cave is covered in writing and verses and it’s all about how great their sexy times were together, and yeah, isn’t cool that a common born bisexual mercenary like me, Medoro, gets to do the sexy with Angelica, the beautiful virgin (up until now *wink*) princess from Cathay.
Kaboom! goes Orlando’s wits right then and there. He reads and rereads the words. Each time his sanity and wits flee further. Swooning ensues. Sorrows flood his bosom. Nothing makes sense any more. And yet, he can’t bring himself to believe it’s true. Maybe it was written as a slander. He staggers along until he finds the shepherd who housed Medoro and Angelica. Orlando asks them what they know, and they, not knowing what they’re doing, fill him in on everything.
Yes, it was that Angelica. Yes, Medoro is a common-born mercenary. Yes, they did the sexy. Yes, they did it a lot. Yes, they liked it.
And that’s the last ax blow to Orlando’s wits. He flees in tears, throws himself down on the grass, realizes Angelica and Medoro probably did it right there. He screams. He wails. He uproots trees and smashes every stone in the cave. He sullies the fair water of the stream and throws off armor and weapons.
Goodbye, Durindana! Goodbye, wits!
Hello, horrendous madness!
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Pinabello the Awful (RIP), Anselmo (Pinabello’s awful dad), Bradamante, Ruggiero, Astolfo, Alard younger brother to Bradamante, Rodomonte, Zerbino, Orlando
Damsels: Bradamante’s mom Beatrice, Bradamante’s nurse Callitrefia, Bradamante’s errand girl Ippalca, Doralice, Isabella
Horses: Rabicano, Frontino,
Monsters: Gabrina the Hag, the hippogriff
Magic Items: some mentioned, none used
In this canto we learn Ariosto is more likely to name a horse than a squire.
We also learn what happened to Grifone, Aqualant, and Sansonetto. Also the Knight Motel and the wizard Atlante put in an appearance.
But first, let’s finish with Zerbino and Grabina.
When last we left them they heard some great commotion ahead and rode to see what it was. What they see is a knight lying dead on the ground. Who is it? Well, Ariosto says we need to wait a bit before he’ll tell us. The tease.
Next it’s off to Astolfo. He’s decided to walk back to Europe from the Levant by way of Armenia. Travelogue ensues, but only a small bit. Before long he’s back in England where he hears how everyone has gone over to the continent to help Charlemagne. So that’s where he goes: back to Europe. As soon as the ship lands, he mounts Rabican and sets forth with his squire (who doesn’t deserve a name I guess?). Traveling is hard, and the heat unbearable. He stops to drink some water when a filthy peasant hops out of the bushes and steals Rabican. (Good job, squire…) Astolfo chases and before long he spies a strange palace in the wood. And we know the place!
It’s Atlante’s Knight Motel, which Astolfo promptly enters and gets lost in. After a bit of wandering he declares enough is enough and takes out Logistella’s manual of magic. In there he reads all about enchanted palaces and how to destroy them. It turns out that Enchanted Palaces are created by a sprite concealed under the threshold stone. Of course, Atlante, that bastard, is nearby watching all this and he’s not about to let Astolfo destroy his Knight Motel. He puts some illusions on Astolfo so all the knights captive in the Motel will think Astolfo’s the cause of their problems. They attack. Astolfo draws his horn, and BLAP. The blast shakes the whole place, causing Atlante (the sprite under the threshold) to flee. This breaks the enchantment and the Motel dissolves. Of course, all the knights inside also flee, but not before gathering their stuff. Astolfo finds Rabicano and Ruggiero’s hippogriff as well. Back on Alcina’s island he learned how to ride the creature, and that’s what he gets ready to do, except he’s worried about leaving Rabicano behind. (How he feels about his squire is unknown.)
But, enough about Astolfo!
Ruggiero and Bradamante were prisoners in the Knight Motel and now that they’re free, they engage in a lot of chaste flirtation. But Bradamante will only marry Ruggiero if he becomes a Christian. No problem he says, so off they go to find some high level cleric to do the deed. But before they can get there they find an old woman sobbing for some prince doomed to die because he cross-dressed his way into his princess/lover’s bedroom. The old lady implores the knights to help the transvestite prince, and they say sure let’s do the thing. Off they ride until they come upon a crossroad. Here they can choose the quick dangerous way or the long safe way. Of course, they choose the dangerous way.
And why is it so dangerous?
Well, that’s because there’s this awful knight over there who has shamed three champions into fighting for him, and these champions attack everyone they see. The champions defeat their challengers and take their clothes in order to rectify the great shame done to the awful knight and his awful girlfriend. Yes, that’s right. It’s that bastard Pinabel. And if you remember, it was Pinabel that betrayed Bradamante all the way back in Canto II. Things are set for trouble. But who are these champions stuck serving Pinabel? They’re Grifone, Guidon, Aqualant, and Sansonetto who were forced to pledge loyalty to Pinabel under duress.
All this is a long way of saying Bradamante and Ruggiero ride to Pinabel’s castle. They get there and an old man comes forth and tells them to just give up and leave their weapons, armor, and clothes on the ground there. Ruggiero is like “hell no” and so Sansonetto comes out to (reluctantly) kick his ass. But, it doesn’t go that way. You see Ruggiero has Atlante’s shield. Remember that from Canto IV? It shoots rays and knocks people out? When Sansonetto hits Ruggiero’s shield he rips the silk covering over it and zappity zap the beams are shooting forth. Sansonetto gets knocked out, then the rest of the gang follows suit. Meanwhile Pinabello rides out and Bradamante is like “that asshole stole my horse” and charges him. He flees. She pursues. Back at the castle no one notices as they’re all attacking Ruggiero and getting konked out by his laser-shield. That done, unlike most D&D players, he realizes he defeated all his enemies by nefarious means and decides the shield needs to be pitched down a well. So that’s what he does, leaving everyone unconscious on the ground behind him.
Meanwhile, Bradamante has caught up with Pinabell and “a hundred times pierces his cuirass”. Goodbye, Pinabello! Only now it looks like she and Ruggiero are separated again and “fortune to the lovers is unkind, for divergent and divided their paths stay.”
And so, on to the next canto.
Which is the last canto in Part 1! We are about to finish the book!
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Zerbino, Astolfo, Ruggiero, Bradamante, Grifone, Guidon, Aqualant, Sanasonetto, Pinabello, a dozen other knights trapped in the Knight Motel
Mages: Atlante, Alcina, Logistella (both mentioned in passing)
Damsels: Gabrina the Crone, Pinabel’s Awful Girlfriend
Horses: Rabican the Horse Astolfo might abandon for the hippogriff
Monsters: Gabrina the Crone, a filthy peasant (who is an illusion?), the hippogriff,
Magic Items: the Knight Motel, Ruggiero’s Magic Shield, Astolfo’s Horn of Blasting, Logistella’s Magic Encyclopedia
In this canto we learn all about… her:
We also get another half dozen new characters, because of course we do.
To start Ariosto gives advice about promises and contracts that’s more wishful thinking than sound. That done he returns to Zerbino and the crone riding across the countryside. They encounter another knight who actually knows the crone and says she deserves to die. Zerbino says he can’t allow that because of the vow he took. Lances get unlanced and before long there’s a joust going on. Zerbino wins and the other knight is gravely wounded. Zerbino then asks the knight why he hates the crone so much.
And so starts another story…
This knight’s name is Ermonide. He’s from Holland. His brother Filandro was also a knight and Filandro traveled throughout Greece. There he met and befriended a Serbian Baron named Argeo. While staying with Argeo, Filandro met Argeo’s wife and she instantly developed the hots for our good dutch boy. She kept doing all she could to lure him into some smutching. But Filandro resisted so well her lust turned to loathing and she wanted nothing more than to destroy him. First she accuses him of attacking her, then when Argeo has him locked in prison, she conspires to trick Filandro into killing Argeo. This done she smutches with Filandro as her price for letting him go free.
It’s all very Femme Fatale like a Noir movie except with words in it.
The shame of it all sends Filandro fleeing back to Holland. But even there Gabrina conspires against him. Finding a shifty doctor, she has the man poison Filandro and so it goes. Filandro dies. Ermonide now despises Gabrina. Zerbino has vowed to protect Gabrina. Ergo Ermonide must fight Zerbino. The knights weep for each other then some servants show up to carry Ermonide away for treatment. Zerbino bids him goodbye then rides away with Gabrina, cursing her and his fate the whole while.
They go on like this for a bit, each trying to out-insult the other, until when, “lo to the west, the sound of clashing and shrieks was heard and Zerbino and Grabina towards the clamor spurred.”
And what happens then, our next canto will show.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Zerbino of Scotland, Ermonide of Holland, Filandro also of Holland, Heraclius Emperor of the Greeks, Argeo the Serbian Baron, Morando another Serbian Baron
Damsels: Gabrina the Crone
Monsters: Gabrina the Crone, a poisoner
Magic Items: Poison
If you remember last time, Ariosto teased a big reveal for the Black Knight. Going into the canto I was trying to guess who was it going to be? Brandimarte? Ruggierro? Sacripante? But no, it was none of those guys. It was…
… Guidon Selvaggio!
A. Whole. New. Fucking. Guy.
That’s right. Ariosto’s big reveal is to just add a whole new fucking guy.
But, more seriously, Selvaggio is a chivalric character who was once popular but who hasn’t come down to our era like Lancelot or Parsifal has. At least that’s what this Bodelian Library PDF suggests. Fascinating! Back to the canto, Selvaggio of course has a story to tell and it’s all about how the city of women came about.
It all happened because the Greeks went to fight the Trojan War. After twenty years they came back and found their wives had all shacked up with other men and their houses were full of bastards. The husbands forgave their wives, but couldn’t forgive all the bastards and demanded they die. Some were killed, but others were expelled. These exiles took to the wandering life. And one, Phalanthus by name (bastard son of Clytemnestra), recruited others into a mercenary army. They went to Crete to fight a coming war. There they took wives among the populace. Except the war never happened and the Cretans told the mercenaries to move on. They were happy to go, but their wives weren’t and begged to go with them. The mercenaries refused. The women didn’t care. They robbed their Cretan parents and piled into the boats with the men. For a bit things were okay, but after a time the men grew bored and wanted nothing more to do with their wives. And so they abandoned them on a rocky shore.
Here the women went hysterical for a bit, until they decided to hell with men. Let’s get revenge! And that’s what they did. Any boat that landed on their shore they captured and murdered the crew. This went on a while, but then the women started to realize they needed men if only to keep their country populated. And so the ten champions ritual was established. Before long the whole place took on a eugenics cult kind of atmosphere with the women killing or selling male children and sending agents out into the world to trade for girls and money. Then a stranger showed up, Elbanio a Greek hero descended from Hercules. Of course he’s handsome and beautiful and the local princess, Alessandra, falls for him. She pleads with her mom to spare Elbanio, and after much discourse the City of Women add the smutch ten women bit to the defeat ten champions challenge. Elbanio agrees to the challenge, wins, and the rest is history.
History lesson finished, Guidon then laments how he needs to kill Marfisa and her friends the next day. Also, he’s tired of being a boy-toy sex slave and is ashamed of wasting his youth in that way. Sadness ensues. But Astolfo leans in and tells Guidon that they’re actually cousins and he can free himself from shame if he joins them in destroying the City of Women. And between that and Marfisa’s urging, Guidone agrees to join them. He says one of his lovers (Aleria) can be trusted and she’ll prepare a boat for their escape. But they’ll have to cross the arena to reach the port.
Morning comes. Once more the knights set off for the arena. All the women have gathered there to watch the combat, but what’s this? Guidon’s entered and made for the far door with the captured knights right behind him. Treachery! Soon all the women are shooting arrows at the knights, but the knights give as good as they get. The smiting and smoting begins. Sansonetto’s horse gets killed and the knight thrown. Astolfo realizes they’re in a desperate way and their chance of escape is fast dwindling. He busts out the horn of blasting and lets toot.
People are thrown from windows. Buildings collapse. Everyone panics. Women. Knights. Everyone!
Astolfo’s just done Hiroshima’d the City of Women!
And he doesn’t stop.
He keeps riding around the country blasting things apart. Meanwhile all the other knights have panicked and fled for the ship. They don’t care that Astolfo’s not with them. They haul anchor and go. Only when the ship’s way out on the horizon does Astolfo realize he’s been left behind. And so Ariosto leaves him and follows Marfisa and the other knights as they reach Marseilles. There Marfisa says goodbye to her companions, since she’s technically on the other team being a Saracen and all, and sets off alone.
Marfisa rides for a bit and comes upon an old crone sitting by the road. She’s the crone from Canto XIII And she’s been having a bad time of it. Marfisa tells her to hop on her horse and the two ride off. Soon they encounter a knight and his lady. It’s that asshole knight Pinabello from Canto III and his unnamed asshole girlfriend. The girlfriend sees the crone and laughs at her, which insults Marfisa’s honor. She challenges Pinabello to a joust and trounces him. As a prize she claims the girlfriend’s horse and clothes and gives them to the crone. Eugene Delacroix did a painting of the scene. Marfisa decides to make this her schtick: ride around with a crone, get laughed at by a knight, trounce knight, ride away.
And look, here comes Zerbino. He sees the crone and laughs, and before long he and Marfisa are trading barbs. At last they agree to fight with the loser having to claim the crone as theirs. Both agree and Zerbino gets his ass handed to him. Marfisa reveals she’s a Lady Knight, gives Zerbino the crone, and rides away.
Now if you remember from Canto XIII this crone was kept by a group of bandits to watch over their prisoner, Isabella. Isabella’s Zerbino’s betrothed and the crone had to listen to Isabella go on and on about the guy while they were captives. So she knows who he is and starts using her info to torture him. Stuff like “I saw your girl. She’s alive and she was with twenty dudes. Twenty. Dudes.” Zerbino threatens to kill the crone and she’s like fine kill me, but you won’t learn anything else about Isabella if you do. Knowing he’s beat, Zerbino simply bows his head.
And in silence the two ride on until the canto ends.
What will happen next?
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Guidon Selvaggio Sex Slave Knight, Phalanthus an Ancient Greek Bastard, Elbanio a Greek descended from Hercules, Astolfo, Aquilante, Grifone, Sansonetto, Marfisa the Lady Knight, Pinabello an Asshole Knight, Zerbino
Mages: Atlante and Knight Motel Magic Castle mentioned in passing
Damsels: Orontea founder of the City of Women, Alessandra daughter of Orontea, Aleria Betrayer of the City of Women and Guidon’s favorite, Pinabello’s unlikable girlfriend
Horses: Sansonetto’s unnamed horse (RIP)
Swords: None named
Monsters: The Man-Hating Lesbians of the City of Women (the city’s named Alessandretta), A Crone (currently my favorite character)
Magic Items: Marfisa’s Hell forged magic armor, Astolfo’s Horn of Blasting
Once upon a time I regularly posted my favorite reads here every month. Then for no reason at all I stopped. Now for even less reason I’ve decided to start again. A reminder that these aren’t reviews so much as reactions. And I likely read other stuff during the month, but these are what I finished and now admit to having read.
Viscera by Gabrielle Squailia
Take a bit of Leiberesque sword & sorcery, mix it with Patricia McKillip style fantasy by way of William S. Burrough’s Naked Lunch, let ferment, and serve with slivers of calcified god-flesh. There are bug-drugs, cults, gender identity exploration, and a whole lot of grotty weirdness. If you like your fantasy world to make sense (who’s growing the grain in this world?) and have logical magic rules than you won’t much enjoy this. But if you like reading things and saying “That’s messed up” then give this a shot. It’s a book that’s much more about the ride than the destination.
Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica
This book is not at all pleasant. Remove all the humor of Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” and replace it with the all brutality of McCarthy’s The Road and Orwell’s 1984 and you’ll have some idea of what to expect. A plague causes the death of all animals, but it’s okay because we can just eat people. But first we must change the language so we can differentiate between people and “special meat”. Yes, Tender is the Flesh is also satire, but in a horror movie way. The whole book is one grisly depiction of dehumanization after another until an ending that leaves you feeling awful. Despite all that, if you appreciate how horror let’s us explore our own broken world, then give it a read.
The Saga of Grettir the Strong by Anonymous
This is a must-read for anyone into low-fantasy or sword and sorcery. Grettir’s not a bad guy, he just solves all his problems with violence. The setting’s decidedly local despite international travel occurring. Many of Grettir’s adventures detail him trying to get a position in some lord’s household and failing due to bad luck or his bad temper. The whole thing has a Western feel to it with one gang of landowners fighting against another for grazing rights and each supplementing their households with violent men except when ghosts, trolls, or berserkers get involved. If you’ve ever been curious to read a Viking Saga, then Grettir’s absolutely the place to start. I read this copy off Gutenberg and had no complaints with it.
Another week. Another canto. This one brings back some of that weirdness. Also… it has Sword Lesbians!
We start with Medoro and Cloriando in running in the woods. Cloriando is far ahead, while Medoro is struggling to catch-up because he’s carrying Darindello’s body. Close behind are Zerbino and his rowdy Scotsmen. They corner Medoro in a clearing, where he drops the body and prepares to defend it with his life. Hearing the tumult behind himself, Cloriando returns stealthily. He sees Medoro’s about to get killed so he starts shooting arrows into the Scots. Zerbino then goes to kill Medoro, but can’t because the boy is just too beautiful. Medoro begs that he may at least bury his king before he dies. Zerbino’s moved by the boy’s loyalty and ready to allow the boy his wish. But an uncouth Scotsmen steps up and stabs Medoro. Cloriando sees this, leaps out of hiding and starts doing the stabby. Unfortunately, he’s outnumbered and the stabby gets done to him and he dies beside his friends. The Scots ride away, leaving Medoro to bleed out.
But he doesn’t bleed out, because a shepherdess comes traipsing through the woods. Only it’s not a shepherdess. It’s Angelica in disguise!
She comes upon the scene and is moved by the sight of the dying boy. In fact, that wee bastard Cupid’s shown up here because he thinks it’s time Angelica quits being such a virgin tease. PEW goes Cupid’s arrow straight to Angelica’s heart. She’s like I need to save this boy-guy. (I think they’re both like 16 and it might be like only the second age appropriate relationship in this meshugganah book so far.) Healed a bit, he does his duty by his friends and buries them. Then he and Angelica ride off.
Angelica’s been hiding in the woods with an old shepherd and his family. She takes Medoro back to the hut, and before long they’re doing the sexy.
She lets Medoro pluck the morning rose
Which no despoiling hand had ever touched;
No one so fortunate that garden knows,
No one its virgin flowerbeds has smutched.
The two are inseparable after that (for now? Angelica is described as the “tragic” heroine of the story… so good luck Medoro! Smutch that flowerbed which you can!) One fun thing they like to do is wander around the woods carving their names surrounded by hearts in trees. After much smutching, Angelica says she wants to go back home to India. Yeah, Angelica is Asian and Medoro is African but you’d never guess that from any of the artworks inspired by these two.* They set out for Spain where they will take ship for the east, but as they near the port they come upon a mad man who leaps towards them ready to attack.
But enough about those two.
Let’s see how Asolfo, Marfisa, and friends are doing.
Last we left them, they were on board a ship making their way for Europe. But lo, a storm struck them and for a good bit I was ready for them to have some kind of underwater adventure. After three days the storm lets up and after some competent sailing, the ship hobbles towards a port. Except the captain recognizes the place and wants nothing to do with it. Why? The knights ask. Because Lesbians the Captain says. Although I think Ariosto calls them Amazons even though they are in Syria. They hate men and either kill or enslave them, unless they can survive the challenge. It’s some real death by bumwah shit!
All prisoners were killed, or must remain
As slaves; and freedom only he could boast
Who of the captive males could vanquish ten;
And further labor too was his that night:
Ten women he must serve for their delight.
The penalty for failure in either test is death!
Well, the knights hear this. Kill ten guys. Smutch ten ladies. They think it sounds great and command the captain put into port. The ship lands. Astolfo doesn’t play around and gives a loud toot with his horn. The Lesbians approach. Their leader, an old crone, walks up and makes the usual challenge. Outdo ten men. Satisfy ten women. Which of you knights is man enough to accept.
Marfisa and the boys gather round and decide to draw lots for who will be the one to accept the challenge, and the boys are like but how are you going to satisfy any women Marfisa, and she’s like let me worry about that. So they draw lots and of course Marfisa wins.
Needless to say my prurient interests have started paying close attention. Is a maci sex-toy going to show up? I don’t think one will, but if there ever was a 15th century story that had a magical sex-toy this would be it!
All go to the arena where the Lesbians pack in eager to watch the killing. Marfisa rides in and no one knows she’s a woman, because her armor was forged in Hell and tempered by Avernus and has a helm like this.
The first nine men Marfisa defeats easily enough, but the last, a knight all in black, has hung back believing it not chivalric to fight in anything less than single combat.
Now alone together, the two start to size each other up. Marfisa’s tired and the black knights suggests they halt until the next day. Marfisa says no, and the two engage. Crash. Bam. Lances the size of pine trees gets shattered. But neither has been outdone. They switch to swords. Slash. Clang. Still neither yields. At last the sun goes down and it’s too dark to keep fighting. Marfisa and the Black Knight end their fight for the night. The Black Knight invites everyone back to his place, because he’s come to respect Marfisa that much. All the knights agree and away they go.
Once settled in, Marfisa takes off her helmet and the Black Knight’s like “You’re a lady!” Then he takes off his helmet, and Marfisa’s like “You’re just an 18-year old boy!”
Marfisa asks for his name and story, and he says…
… a name Ariosto will tell us in the next canto.
* Ariosto does talk about how white and blond these two are, so it’s an eye-roll from the source.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Medoro and Cloriando, Zerbino, Astolfo, Aquilante, Grifone, Sansonetto, Marfisa the Lady Knight, an as yet unnamed Black Knight
Horses: None named
Swords: None named
Monsters: Man-Hating Lesbians
Magic Items: Marfisa’s Hell forged magic armor