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.