Buckle up sweeties because someone’s about to die!
That’s right. One of the nine hundred named characters in this story is about to exit this story. Now there’s only nine hundred minus one named characters left in this story. Can you guess who it is?
When last we saw Rodomonte he was accosting the poor monk riding alongside Isabella (and Zerbino’s coffin). Rodomonte quickly has enough of the old man, grabs him by the beard, spins around three time ,and hurls him like a discus into the sea.
Monk dispatched, Rodomonte looks to assault Isabella and much is made of the Ugly Saracen trying to sully the virginal womanhood of Isabella. But Isabella has a crafty side, and she tells Rodomonte that if he doesn’t rape her, she’ll tell him all about this magic potion she knows how to make that will make the body impervious to blades. Rodomonte thinks whatever, I can wait, let’s make this potion. Herb-gathering commences, followed by potion crafting. Rodomonte gets drunk while Isabella cooks the brew. When she’s done she says, let me put some around my neck so you can try to chop off my head and see how good it works. Rodomonte says sure. Isabella anoints herself. Rodomonte swings.
Isabella’s head bounces three times. She says “Zerbino” and dies. Ariosto extols her virtues and heaps her soul with praise. Rodomonte is overcome with emotions and has a great mausoleum built where Isabella and Zerbino can be entombed together. He also has a tower built beside a narrow bridge that crosses a ravine. He sets himself up there to challenge everyone that goes past. And so he does, and after a bit some wild-haired maniac approaches.
It’s our boy Orlando, still doing the ole’ Furioso!
Rodomonte tries to stop Orlando from crossing the bridge and Orlando doesn’t care. He punches out Rodomonte’s horse and takes to rassling with him. The two grunt and groan then both fall off the bridge. Orlando being unarmored exits the river first and continues on. (Up above unseen by both Fiordelisa sneaks across the bridge. Remember her? She’s still looking for her husband Brandimarte. Remember him?.
Orlando rages on across the country and smashes people animals things. I think he even resorts to some cannibalism. At last he crawls into a hole to suffer, where he does. Until up rides his ex, Angelica, (well, they never dated and the whole relationship was in Orlando’s head) with her new boyfriend, Medoro. He leaps forth and off Angelica flees with Orlando in hot pursuit. Angelica’s afraid of what he’ll do if he catches her, so she puts on her ring of invisibility and hides while Orlando runs on, grabs her horse, and wears it around his shoulders like a lion’s skin. He then continues on screaming.
Until next time, keep on screaming!
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Rodomonte, Orlando
Damsels: Isabella, Fiordelisa, Angelica
Commoners: a monk, Medoro, unlucky youths torn apart by Orlando
It’s now time for a sexy story, but before Ariosto tells the sexy story he advises his women readers to skip ahead a few pages as the whole thing is slanderous garbage not meant for their ears.
You can do as you wish.
To refresh, Rodomonte had his heart broken by Doralice and abandoned his king and cause. He wandered a bit and then he reached an inn where the landlord learned the cause of his problem and said let me tell you a story.
“What could please me more
At present than to hear an anecdote
Which will confirm the view I held before”
This story is about guys named Astolfo, Fausto, and Giocondo. Astolfo is a king. Fausto is his friend and Giocondo is Fausto’s brothers.
One day Astolfo is admiring himself in the mirror, saying how he has to be the handsomest guy in the world, and his beloved friend Fausto says “Well, you’re really handsome but you’re not as handsome as my brother Giocondo.” Astolfo then says, “Oh yeah, go fetch him.”
So off Fausto rides to his brother’s castle, where his brother refuses to go back with him.
Giocondo’s married and loves his wife and wants to spend all the time with her. Fausto begs and eventually Giocondo agrees and his wife sheds many tears. His wife says here take this jeweled crucifix and keep it with you always. Giocondo takes it but then after spending his last night with his wife he forgets the crucifix at home. He goes back to get it and of course when he does he finds his wife asleep in a heap with her spent young lover. Giocondo slinks away too ashamed to wake them, but now he’s all sad and sickly and not the good looking guy he was. Fausto notices and sends word to the king saying, “Listen I know I said my brother is the most handsome guy but something’s happened to him and he looks all sad and ugly now, please don’t think I’m crazy.” Astolfo takes this in stride and when Fausto and Giocondo arrive, the king has Giocondo put up in luxury and seen by doctors. But Giocondo refuses to explain what happened to him and mopes around the castle.
While on one of these mopes he hears some strange sounds and upon investigating he finds a crack in the wall from which he can spy on the queen doing the sexy with her deformed lover. The sight cheers him up immediately, because by his reckoning at least his wife cheated on him with a handsome guy and not some misshapen dwarf.
Astolfo notices the change over Giocondo and demands an explanation. Giocondo hems and haws but finally says okay I’ll show you, but no matter what you see you can’t punish anyone involved. The king agrees and off they go to spy on the queen. Astolfo nearly goes mad. The two promptly damn the female gender, but then relent and say well, what’s the point of staying virtuous then? So off they go on one of those Eurosex tours that requires disguises and what not. They say they’re looking for a virtuous woman, but really they’re humping everything that offers itself. At last they tire of this and hatch upon the idea that a wife can only be satisfied by two husbands so they purchase a teenage bride in Spain and share her between themselves.
They think this is great and all their problems solved. But the girl, Fiammetta, had a lover, Greco, of her own before these guys and when chance reunites them, this lover wants to sleep with Fiammetta himself. She’s like that’s impossible, and the guy’s like no it’s not, just wait until tonight. Night comes. Astolfo and Giocondo are in bed with the girl between them. In slinks Greco silent as a gecko, under the covers from the foot of the bed between Fiametta’s legs and commences with the sexy.
Then as dawn approaches he slinks back out.
When morning comes Astolfo and Giocondo each think the other was doing the deed, and are complimentary in their appraisal, but both deny sleeping with Fiammetta. Puzzled, they ask her and she breaks down in tears and explains everything. Astolfo and Giocondo nearly die from laughing, give the girl a dowry, and set Greco up to marry her. They then go back home where they live happily ever after with their wives.
Once done one of the bar patrons stands up and comes to the defense of women kind. Rodomonte doesn’t give a damn and rides off. He wants to get back to Africa but on the way he comes upon a lovely abandoned church and thinks, Gee that would make a nice home.
And that’s what he does, park himself in this church where he can watch the road. And what does he eventually see coming down the road? A beautiful maiden and an old monk riding along escorting a coffin. That’s right, it’s Isabella from Canto XXIV escorting the dead body of her beloved Zerbino before going off to join a convent.
Rodomonte rides down and asks where they’re going and why. When he hears Isabella’s plan he says that’s dumb and she should enjoy life. The monk takes umbrage and does the diatribe. Rodomonte takes umbrage to the monk’s umbrage and falls upon the old man. At which point Ariosto stops lest his words cause umbrage by exceeding what is acceptable.
But that’s a ship that’s long gone.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Rodomonte, King Astolfo, Fausto, Giocondo, a dead Zerbino
Commoners: Fiametta and Greco
Welcome back. I was away for a bit.
You know how people put up a notice about taking a break and then never come back?
Well, I figured if I didn’t say anything that would increase my chances of coming back here and finishing this damn project. And lo, here I am.
So let’s get back to it. But be warned. I’m going to be blunt here. This is one of those bad cantos. This is one of those cantos where some dude gets annoyed at some other dude because the first dude says the second dude has his rightful sword shield gauntlet armor horse whatever and this happens over and over with multiple dudes arguing over multiple things that it’s nigh impossible it all straight. Nothing but dickheads wagging their dicks around because they think the other guy’s dick should be their dick. Not to even mention I don’t remember who is who anymore. Do you?
Didn’t think so.
So let’s get at it.
Ariosto starts with some gender essentialist advice. To wit, women give better instinctive advice if given spontaneously, while men give better advice when they take the time to ponder the subject. This is used to say that Malagigi should have thought for a second or two before using magic to send Mandricardo and Rodomonte back to Paris where they would resume killing Christians. If he had thought a second or two he would have just sent them off to the bottom of the sea. But, what can you expect when you employ demons, ammirite?
Meanwhile all the other Saracen knights are headed for Paris (at the behest of Satan no less) where Charlemagne’s now in deep water since Orlando and Rinaldo have abandoned him. Scenes of devastation ensue. Soldiers drowned in lakes of blood, headless torsos, split skulls, limbs lopped, the whole cruel slaughter bit. King Charles flees and counts himself lucky to have survived the day, because it was a bad one. So bad, the angels noticed. In particular Michael who now feels like he failed in his mission to recruit Dame Discord when the Big G told him to. So he flies around until he finds Discord and drags her back to the pagan camp and tells her to do more than she already did.
So she does, and we enter the dick wagging dickheads section of this canto I mentioned above.
The Saracen knights all appeal to King Agramnte asking him to decide on the order of duels between them over their various disputes. Marfisa wants to fight Mandricard. Rodomonte wants to fight Ruggierro. Mandricard wants to fight Ruggiero. In the end Agramante decides to have them draw lots for the fight. So, that’s settled. The duels start in the morning. Except they don’t. Mandricardo has Graddasso’s family’s sword and wants to fight Mandricard before the first fight.
It goes on with this for a good bit with people claiming swords armor horses as theirs by right and must be settled for before the duels can be settled. It becomes a whole fracas with other knights taking sides or trying to keep the combatants apart. King Agramante then tries to settle things again and we get a lot of discourse about what should belong to who and why. In the midst of this Marfisa sees Brunello the Thief who stole all her gear. Marfisa takes him and says she’ll hang him if no one comes to challenge her and take him away. And off she goes. Now Brunello’s loved/hated by Agramante and would go after Marfisa to rescue him, but one of his advisers says it’s beneath his dignity to do so and there are enough quarrels already before him.
At last, Agramante tells Doralice she needs to decide between Mandricard (her abductor) and Rodomonte (her betrothed). So she does, picking Mandricard. Rodomonte takes this poorly and prepares to attack. King Agramante however sides against him, and so Rodomonte tells every one to drop dead and rides away. Ruggierro and Gradasso then set off after Rodomonte (something about a horse). Events prevent them from catching him and Rodomonte rides on bad-mouthing all women as he goes until he reaches an inn where the proprietor hears his complaints and says let me tell you a story.
And so, I expect here comes some casual misogyny for us in the next canto.
Until then, keep your sword sharp.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Richardetto, Rodomont, Mandricard, Gradasso, Sacripant, Marfisa, Ruggiero, King Agramant, King Charles, some other knights whose names I don’t want to type.
Horses: Frontalatte, some knight’s horse they fight over
Monsters: Satan, Michael the Angel, Dame Discord
Magic Items: All that junk these people are fighting over
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