Orlando Furioso, Canto IV
I made the comment on twitter that I am glad I skipped the introduction because I fear it would’ve tried to make me think this was a book to be taken seriously. A Dante’s The Divine Comedy, instead of what it actually is: a 16th century run of Avengers comics. The whole thing reads like Ariosto took all the legends and epics he knew and mashed them into one continuity Crisis on Infinite Earths style. And I’m here for it.
Plus it’s really good bedtime reading.
Last canto we ended with Bradamante meeting Brunello. Surprisingly in this Canto we stay with them. The crashing that ended Canto III turns out to be the necromancer flying by on his winged horse.
“Sometimes high up among the stars he flies
At other times close to the ground he’ll skim,
And any lovely woman whom he spies
He snatches up and carries off with him.”
Bradamante and Brunello agree to join forces and travel together to the necromancer’s castle. Both have their own reasons to want Ruggiero freed. Surprising me again, nothing happens to them on the road and after about three dozen lines of hill and dale climbing descriptions, the pair come to in sight of the necromancer’s castle. Promptly, Bradamante attacks and defeats Brunello, stealing the magic ring he carries. However, contrary to the enchantress’s advice Bradamante doesn’t kill Brunello but leaves him tied to a tree. She then goes on to the necromancer’s castle and blows her horn in challenge.
“Not long the man of sorcery delayed
When he had heard the challenge of the horn.
On his winged horse, towards the warrior Maid,
Whom he believes to be a man, he’s borne.
A word here about our necromancer: it’s hard not to read him in science-fictional terms as someone from an advanced tech civilization living on a primitive world. He has a winged “horse” that makes a loud booming roar when it flies, access to magic items (a shield that shoots a stunning light and a book he uses to conjure weapons), and he lives in a towering castle made of steel. I’ve read Gene Wolfe. I’ve played Numenera. I recognize this guy.
“His shield in a vermilion cloth was draped.
In his right hand he held an open book,
Whence marvelous phenomena he shaped:
A lance which hurtled through the air and took
His adversary by surprise, who gaped
At nothingness, with an astonished look;
Or with a dagger or a club he smote
From far away, by a control remote.”
By a control remote. . .
You can’t fool me Ariosto! This ain’t no wizard. This is a traveler from the far future fighting with a stun ray and nanite swarm. There’s also something, something about his horse.
Bradamante and the necromancer fight, and the necromancer enjoys himself, drawing the duel out to get his cruel kicks. Bradamante however feigns being worse off than she is, and when she swoons before the stun ray she does so while completely unscathed. But the necromancer doesn’t know this and goes to claim his prize when Bradamante leaps upon him and strikes the magic book from his hand. She quickly subdues him and claims his gear as her own, then gets ready to chop off his head only to realize he’s a withered old man. He’s like kill me already, and she’s like no. You need to tell me why you’re kidnapping knights. And he’s like I kidnapped the knights to keep Ruggiero company. And Bradamante’s like why are you keeping Ruggiero captive? And the guy is like because if Ruggiero becomes a Christian he’ll die. He also says his name’s Atlante. Bradamante commands him to open his prisons and PLONK, out come a host of knights and their horses.
There’s Gradasso, Sacripante, Prasildo, and Iroldo, all people I assume had their own comic books in the 16th century. At last, there’s Ruggiero. And there’s much gladness when he sees Bradamante – but Atlante escapes and takes his steel castle with him. The winged horse however stays behind and all the knights try to catch it. It flies in little hops, first here, then there, all the while it’s being controlled by an invisible Atlante. At last the horse lands in front of Ruggiero, and he climbs astride it. At which point, Atlante launches the horse straight into the sky. Atlante hasn’t given up on his mission yet.
And then Ariosto does a scene change…
When last we left Rinaldo he was on a boat making for England and the waves were high and all looked lost, but it actually wasn’t that bad. They land and Ariosto’s Britain is a chivalric hellscape of Arthuriana where the never ending clash of arms echoes through the forests. All of which sounds great to Rinaldo who sets off at once to seek adventure. Staying one night at a monastery he learns how the local king has condemned his daughter to death because she slept with her boyfriend, and Rinaldo is like you’re king’s an ass. He then gives some sex positivity discourse on how it’s no big deal that a damsel gave her lover solace in her bed. Long story short, Rinaldo sets out to rescue the princess. And promptly assists another damsel in distress being attacked by ruffians.
How did she end up here? Well, that’s what Canto V will attempt to make clear.
Until next time! May your sword stay sharp!