Orlando Furioso, Canto III
Did you know that Ariosto was sponsored by the D’Este family?
Do you know who the ancestors of the D’Este family were?
Turns out they were Bradamante, that lady knight of great virtue, and Ruggierro, that guy knight of great virtue. But wait you say, aren’t they on opposite sides of this war between Christian and Saracen? Why yes, that’s true. They are on opposite sides of the war, but they have destinies, and one of them is to get married, found the D’Este family, more to Ferrara, and make it the best place on Earth to live, or at least so says Ludovico Aristo, native of Ferrara and proud supporter of the D’Este family.
And that’s this canto.
Pinabel suspects Bradamante is still alive and decides he should vacate the premises. He does so, but not before stealing Bradamante’s horse. Bradamante survives her fall and discovers a door in the cave. This door leads to a bigger, better cave of finely crafted columns. In the center is an altar with a lamp burning on it, and the sight of this makes Bradamante kneel and pray. A sorceress appears and starts talking. The sorceress knows many things. For one she knew she and Bradamante were destined to meet. She also knows the cave was built by Merlin and serves as his tomb, since it was here that the Lady of the Lake betrayed him (???), and it’s here in this cave that his spirit will forever dwell until Judgment Day. She says Merlin’s spirit still talks and that’s why she was here, to get some magical advice. Merlin’s spirit then appears to say hey, and the sorceress offers to conjure a vision of all Bradamante’s heirs.
Here are the wiki pages for the House of Este and the Dukes of Ferrara. If they lived before the 16th century Ariosto mentions them. It’s like that bit in the Iliad where Homer lists all the boats and who was on which so his audience can be like “That guy came from my hometown!” Except it’s more ass-kissy.
D’Este propaganda concluded, the sorceress escorts Bradamante out of the mountains towards the Castle of Steel (where Ruggierro is imprisoned). The way is hard and to pass the time the sorceress tells Bradamante how to defeat the necromancer who lives in the castle. This is the knight on the flying horse from Canto II who has that shield that knocks people out with laser beams or something. However, there is a ring and it can defeat the necromancer. This ring protects the wearer from enchantment and all evil spells.
And where is this ring? It’s currently in the possession of an awful man named Brunello.
Brunello (as we’d know from the first Orlando book that we didn’t read) is a master thief employed by Agrimante the King of Africa. Brunello is also a dwarf and very ugly. Agrimante wants Ruggierro freed because he’s the greatest knight in the African army. To that end he gave Brunello the magic ring and the mission to bring back Ruggierro. Now what Bradamante needs to do is meet Brunello at a nearby lodging, keep him away from her wallet, and join him in this mission, then, according to the enchantress, when they reach the castle Bradamante should kill Brunello and steal the ring. Sounds like a plan, so the two women part company. Bradamante rushes on to the hostel and meets Brunello. The two don’t trust each other and it looks like they won’t join forces at which point a mighty uproar smites the ear. Its cause?
Maybe Aristo will tell us in the next canto.
Or maybe we’ll be off to some other knight having a bad time of it.
I look forward to finding out.