This is it. This is the end!
Ariosto starts with a bit of meta about himself being on board a ship and piloting it to shore where all his friends and favorite writers are there waiting eagerly for him. He thanks his patrons and their wives, their holdings, their subjects. Needless to say he goes on. (But I will admit if he you look up most of the people he mentions on wikipedia, such as Julia Gonzaga they’re interesting rabbit holes to get lost in.) At last, we get back to the story.
“Enough of this delay: the wind is right
And of my course remains but little more.”
Everyone’s searching for Ruggiero. Melissa really wants Ruggiero and Bradamante to wed, so Melissa uses her magic powers to send spirits out searching for him. The spirits find him in the gloomy woods and Melissa hies herself over there. Along the way she bumps into Leon and convinces him to accompany her.
They find Ruggiero near death. Leon asks why he suffers and Ruggiero explains the whole thing. He loves Bradamante and suffers for the sake of love, especially now that his actions have allowed him, Prince Leon, to marry her. Leon’s moved by all this and quite surprisingly he relinquishes any desire he had for Bradamante. He will not stand in Ruggiero’s way. At this, Melissa does another magic and brings all of them back to Paris.
Ruggiero recovers in an abbey. Frontino gets saddled. Ruggiero dons his armor again that hides who he is. All three head to court where they come upon a group of Bulgars. It turns out the Bulgars want to make Ruggiero their king. Leon then addresses the assembled court.
He points to Ruggiero and says this is the knight who fought Bradamante. Everyone’s confused because they all thought it was Leon. Marfisa draws her sword and gets ready to attack the knight. It’s then that Ruggiero reveals who he is and at this everyone’s delighted. Marfisa embraces him. Orlando. Sobrino. The whole crew gives him hugs. Leon gives the full account. This moves everyone even Aymon, Bradamante’s dad. He relents and grants Ruggiero permission to marry his daughter. Of course, it also helps that Ruggiero is now also the King of the Bulgars.
A wedding gets planned, and heralds travel the land proclaiming the news. Melissa magics over a pavilion from Turkey. It once belonged to Cassandra the Trojan Princess. The one who had the gift of prophecy, and the tent’s decorated all over with pictures from the life of Ariosto’s patron. Ruggiero and Bradamante stay there to entertain their guests. I don’t go into it here but Ariosto goes on and on about the pictures on the tent.
In the end the wedding party goes on for nine days. On the ninth day there is a tumult. A fearsome knight approaches. Who’s this now? It’s Rodomonte.
Rodomonte was last seen taking a vow to pray for a year after his defeat at the hands of Bradamante. He’s heard all about Agramante’s defeat, but stuck to his vow. Only now that it’s done will he raise his hand. He rides into Paris showing the inhabitants contempt and makes straight to Ruggiero who he calls apostate for abandoning the faith. All the gathered knights are ready to fight on Ruggiero’s behalf, but he’s like no, I got this.
And so a duel commences. The last duel.
It’s the usual lance shattering escapade. Swords are drawn. Horses gambol nimbly as their riders slash and make stabbity-stabbity upon each other. Balisard is much to be feared, especially since Rodomonte abandoned his dragon scale armor after his defeat at Bradamante’s hand. But his strength is great. Soon he’s smashing Ruggiero on the head until the poor knight’s stunned. Rodomonte’s sword shatters. Enraged, he lifts Ruggiero from Frontino’s saddle and throws him to the ground. The crowd gasps. Bradamante’s face turns crimson with rage and fear. Seeing this Ruggerio steadies himself. Rodomonte spurs his horse forward. Ruggiero stabs him in the leg and thigh. He drags Rodomonte down from the horse. They stand there a moment, gasping. Rodomonte throws the remnants of his sword at Ruggiero. Ruggiero’s stunned. Rodomonte charges, but the wound in his leg makes him slip. Ruggiero wastes no time and charges. Rodomonte’s knocked down, but he gets up gain. He takes hold of Ruggiero and puts him in a clinch. It’s now a full on wrestling match with Rodomonte losing blood the whole while. At last, Ruggiero manages to break free and throw Rodomonte across the ground. Rodomonte makes to stand but barely can. His blood loss is too great. Ruggiero crosses over to him and kneels on his chest. Out comes a dagger.
“Ruggiero holds the dagger at the sights
Of Rodomonte’s helm; he makes it clear
By threats that his surrender he invites,
And says that in exchange his life he’ll spare.”
Rodomonte tries to throw Ruggiero off. Realizing this is hopeless, he draws his own dagger. It’s poised to strike Ruggiero in the back. But Ruggiero sees it there and knows Rodomonte will never surrender.
Only death will end this feud.
“He plunged his dagger in that awesome brow,
Retrieving it not once, but more than twice.”
And so Rodomonte dies, a dagger to the eyes. And that’s it. Another few lines as Rodomonte’s soul flies free and then Finis.
The book is over.
Pretty wild, huh?
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Ruggiero, Prince Leon, Marfisa, Bradamante, Rinaldo, Orlando, Dudone, Oliver, Sobrino, King Charles, Rodomonte
Magic Items: Cassandra’s Pavilion, Hector’s Armor worn by Ruggiero
The penultimate canto… let’s do it!
To start we get some expounding on the nature of fortune and how “Good follows Evil, Evil follows Good, shame ends in glory, glory ends in shame.” Ruggiero has just wrought havoc upon the Greeks. Now he wants to sleep. He arrives at an inn but is recognized. The Greek king has him abducted, and the king’s sister urges him to treat Ruggiero harshly since he killed her son in the battle. In the end Ruggiero gets locked away in some deep dungeon full of snakes, where he’s chained around hands and feet and forced to eat moldy bread.
Back in France, word spreads about Bradamante’s oath to only marry a man who can defeat her in battle. This has made her parents furious. Much moping ensues.
Back in Greece, Prince Leon hears how the knight that defeated the price’s army is being held captive in a dungeon. Leon “loves” this knight because his kink is apparently masochistic self-destruction by proxy. He goes down to the dungeon with his assassin henchmen. They trick the gaoler to open the prisoner’s cell, then the henchman kills the gaoler.
They go into the cell where Ruggiero is on the brink of death. Leon professes his love/admiration for Ruggiero and together all leave the dungeon, Ruggiero pledging himself to assist Leon in any way he would wish. It’s about now that Bradamante’s challenge to any suitor reaches Leon, and he starts hatching a plan.
We can all see where this is going here.
Leon will accept the challenge, then he’ll have Ruggiero fight wearing his armor, then when Ruggiero defeats Bradamante, he’ll say it was himself and marry her.
When Ruggiero hears the plan he gets all torn and twisted. But chivalry is chivalry and his word is his bond and all that. He accepts and they head off for Paris. There’s a good bit here where Ruggiero hammers the edge off his blade so as not to harm Bradamante, while Bradamante sharpens her sword thinking she’s going to have a chance to kill Prince Leon.
The duel begins.
Bradamante’s doing her best, but Ruggiero is like a rock. This goes on all day. Finally the sun goes down, and since Bradamante couldn’t defeat the challenger it’s declared that she lost and was bested. Ruggiero however doesn’t stick around. Once he can he rides straight away returning to Leon. Leon’s delighted. He showers Ruggiero with hugs and kisses. Once that’s done Ruggiero rides off to mope in the nearest dark forest.
Meanwhile Bradamante’s pretty upset. She doesn’t want to marry Leone and is thinking of poisoning him. Fortunately, she has a pal in Marfisa who goes to King Charles and says Bradamante can’t marry Leone because she already married Ruggiero in a ceremony she witnessed. This sends the court into a tizzy. Prince Leone is disappointed but takes things in stride. It’s Aymon, Bradamante’s dad who is a complete ass over this news. How can a Christian marry a Muslim? Etc. Etc. Assholery.
King Charles can’t decide what’s what, so Marfisa steps in again and says how about we have Ruggiero fight Leone and decide it that way. Leon says that’s fine. He thinks he can have his secret knight fight Ruggiero. (Yeah, he doesn’t know the knight’s name only that he is a great warrior.) But when he gets back to his tents, there’s no Ruggiero there and no one can tell him where he’s gone.
One canto left!
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Ruggiero, Ungiardo, Bradamante, Leon the Greek Prince, Marfisa, King Charlemagne
Awful Parents: Constantine the Greek King, Theodora his sister, Aymon, Beatrice
Magic Items: Hector’s Armor
We only have ten cantos left!
Ariosto is in full on tie loose ends together mode. Or sort of. Narrative conclusion is not something he’s worried about. A few characters have simply walked out of the story because he might have been sick of writing them.
Honestly, I feel like they’re the true winners here.
But on to our canto…
Ariosto starts with more of that D’Este hagiography. Except it’s not really fun stuff. It’s a pretty grisly retelling of how his patron’s son was captured by Slavic mercenaries and killed by having his head chopped off. It made me think what it must have been like to live at a time when capital punishment was done on the regular in front of audiences. So many people must have walked around with PTSD simply from stopping by the marketplace. This also helps Ariosto highlight his own chivalric fairy tale and say how knights of old weren’t like the thugs with swords now a days.
Back to the tale…
Serpentino, Grandonio, and Ferrau all gather together and wonder at who the knight might be that defeated them. Ferrau figures out it must be Bradamante, and at this love once more rekindles in Ruggiero’s breast. But why has she come to challenge me? This makes him pause as he ponders what to do, and gives Marfisa the chance to get out there and try her hand against this unbeatable Christian knight.
Bradamante welcomes her and asks her name. Marfisa tells her. Bradamante gets filled with hate. Here’s the very woman who stole Ruggiero’s heart. And BANG! Marfisa is knocked from the saddle, but it’s not enough to stop her. It’s another slam bang duel between named characters. And now a crowd’s starting to gather because these two aren’t dueling any more as waging one-person war upon each other. Which makes all the gathered knights decide it’s time the war resumed, and so trumpets sound.
Ruggiero’s watched all this and realizes he loves both women, if not in the same way, and he would give anything for them to stop fighting – but honor dictates the duel continues. Except once the mass battle begins there are too many people on the field for Marfisa and Bradamante to continue their fight. Ruggiero rides out with the rest of the soldiers, and Bradamante sees him and charges. Words get spoken. Accusations made. But when the time comes to attack, she can’t do it. Ruggiero wants an explanation and Bradamante can’t answer him. She rides off. He pursues. They end up in a grove beside a tomb.
Marfisa sees all this and follows. The three meet in the woods. Bradamante sees Marfisa and makes more accusations. Marfisa won’t stand for it. The duel once more ensues. Ruggiero tries shouting, “Ladies! Ladies!” but there’s nothing for it. The women are going to kill each other. Ruggiero can’t let that happen. He gets between them and pulls them apart. Marfisa can’t believe he would do such a thing and turns on him. “You are discourteous, you are uncouth,” she says. And then she attacks him. This makes Ruggiero angry and he counter attacks. He would have killed Marfisa but his sword strikes a tree.
And that’s when things get crazy.
The ground shakes. A voice cries out. It is the inhabitant of the nameless tomb. They command Ruggiero and Marfisa to cease their fighting. Why? Because the tomb is their mom’s and they’re actually brother and sister!
Back story ensues and it’s cribbed from classical sources, but instead of being about Theseus or Perseus it’s about Ruggiero and Marfisa. And the truth about King Agramante’s involvement in killing their dad is revealed. And there’s a prophecy! Ruggiero will die if he becomes a Christian and that’s why she had the wizard Atalante put him in the Knight Motel (remember that?) Back story finished everyone is happy. Marfisa and Ruggiero cease their fight. Bradamante forgives Ruggiero. The mom ghost disappears her duty done, but the matter of whether Ruggiero should abandon King Agramante or not remains. Honor dictates he can’t despite everything. But he’ll keep his eye out for a loop-hole by which he can abandon the cause without any slight to his honor. Bradamante’s sad. Marfisa tells her not to worry. Ruggiero gets ready to ride back to the army. And then a woman’s voice cries out from deeper inside the wood.
Who can it be?
Maybe we’ll find out in the next canto.
Ten more to go!
CANTO SCORE CARD
KNIGHTS: Ferrufino and Cantelmo (real life sons of the duke, Cantelmo was the one beheaded), Serpentino, Grandonio, Ferrau, Ruggiero, Marfisa, Bradamante, a bunch of people in Ruggiero’s mom’s back story
HORSES: Rabicano (still Bradamante’s)
MONSTERS: Mom Ghost
MAGIC ITEMS: Bradamate’s Golden Lance, Ruggiero’s sword
“Who will ascend for me into the skies
And bring me back the wits which I
Ariosto starts us on the moon with an allegory about fame and glory. Astolfo sees an old man collecting name cards and dumping them into the river Lethe. There birds tear the cards apart. Except for a very few which get saved by swans and taken to some temple full of nymphs where the names can shine forth and impress the world. The whole thing gives Ariosto a chance to further kiss the butts of his D’Este patrons. That done he returns to earth and Bradamante.
Bradamante is riding along looking for people to fight when she encounters Fiordiligi wailing on about how her husband has been captured by Rodomonte. Bradamante agrees to help and sets off for the bridge and tower. When she gets there she sees Isabella’s mausoleum and becomes enraged. Words get spoken. Challenges made. Rodomonte charges. Bradamante charges. And KLONK. Down goes Rodomonte and possibly out of the story.
“He went; and nothing more of him was heard,
Except that he took refuge in a cave.”
She frees everyone in the castle* but doesn’t stick around long. Once the door’s are open she and Fiordiligi are off for Arles where the Saracen army is encamped. Bradamante sends Fiordiligi into the city with a message for Ruggiero attacking his honor and saying come fight me. Of course she doesn’t sign her name.. Message given Ruggiero is like “What did I do?” and goes to seek counsel with King Agramante.
And so begins a long list of knights saying ‘Don’t worry, bruh. I got this” before riding off to get their butts whooped by Bradamante. And after each one Bradamante says the same thing, “Go back and tell Ruggiero I am still waiting for him.”
And so Ruggiero dons his armor and gets ready to do battle unknowingly against the woman he loves.
Until next time!
* Rodomonte had already sent many of the captives to Africa including Brandimarte, Fiordiligi’s husband. Sorry sister.
CANTO SCORE CARD
KNIGHTS: Astolfo, Bradamante, Rodomonte, a bunch of knights stuck in Rodomonte’s tower, Ruggiero, King Agramante, a bunch of Saracen knights who get whooped by Bradamante (Serpentino, Grandonio, Ferrau)
HORSES: Rabicano, Frontalatte
MONSTERS: Christian saints, Fates, Allegorical figures
This canto has something for everyone. Polemic, Romance, Interstellar Adventure.
We start with Astolfo pursuing the harpies down to Hell.
(Actually, we start with Ariosto wailing and gnashing his teeth over the suffering Italy has faced over the years; there’s actually been a lot of commentary on the contemporary politics of his era that I’ve mostly glossed over in my posts. That said…)
We start with Astolfo pursuing the harpies down to Hell. The place is basically a pit belching out toxic fumes. But this isn’t Dante’s Hell, but Chivalric Romance Hell! The outer caverns are haunted by the shades of damsels, while the deeper caves are populated by fallen men. Astolfo stops to listen to one of the shades (who linger around the caves ceiling like bad gas) who goes on to tell him her life story.
She’s Lydia. A princess. She had a knight-lover named Alcestes. He defeats all her dad’s enemies. But then Lydia’s dad refuses to let them marry. Alcestes gets pissed, switches sides, and starts attacking Lydia’s dad. Soon Lydia and family are all holed up in their last castle and the dad’s like “Go forth daughter and give yourself to that knight.” She does, sort of. She goes forth but does no giving. Instead Alcestes is on his knees begging for forgiveness. So Lydia’s like “Forgiveness? After all you did? Go defeat your new allies and then we’ll talk.” So, he does and afterward expects Lydia to be warm to him. But she keeps giving him tasks and quests to perform while plotting against him.
I actually don’t remember how the story ended, but both Lydia and Alcestes are in Hell now, and Lydia feels bad for having been so proud. Astolfo is like, “Sure, Jan” and wants to press on deeper into Hell but the fumes get to strong so he decides to leave. He hops back on top of his hippogriph and decides to fly to top of the mountain. If you remember that’s where Heaven is. But if you also remember, I sometimes feel like this story is a sci-fi story dressed up as a fantasy story, and the whole thing in my head is a space elevator with a space station at the top. Inside the space station are saints and bible prophets, but… eh… whatever. Space elevator!
Astolfo gets to the top and hangs out in Heaven. Saint John tells him how Jesus is punishing Orlando for shirking his Christian duties by putting his love for (non-Christian) Angelica above his love of the Lord. But, that’s gone on long enough the saints say, and they tell Astolfo where he can find Orlando’s lost wits.
And that’s when Astolfo goes to the moon!
You see everything lost on our world is remade on the moon, and not just physical items but ideas and moods. Lost love, broken promises, empty words – they’re all remade on the moon. I’ll give Ariosto props and say these moments are pretty cool. Saint John shows Astolfo where the contents of lost minds have gone and there he finds Orlando’s wits in a bottle. He also finds a vial of his own and takes a good long huff off of it.
Quest complete, he remounts his steed, and sets off back for Earth. Where we’ll likely start again next time.
Until then, keep your swords sharp, but your wits sharper!
CANTO SCORE CARD
KNIGHTS: Asolfo, Alcestes
MONSTERS: the harpies, the hippogriff, Christian saints
MAGIC ITEMS: Horn of Blasting, Elijah’s chariot that they use to fly to the moon, bottled wits, whatever autofac is on the moon making lost things
This canto has three bits. The Bradmante bit, the Rinaldo bit, and the Astolfo bit. The first bit’s the most blah, but they get better as they go on.
We pick up where we left off: after dinner in Tristan’s castle when all the guests are strolling around the hall looking at the paintings. These were all painted by Merlin and show events in the history of Italy yet to come. Ariosto uses the moment to give several cantos worth of history lessons. This is actually a neat trick, since the book he’s writing is taking place in the 8th century and he’s writing in the 15th century so he can write history as if it’s prophecy.
Except it’s not so cool. It’s a whole lot of Italian names and politics I only recognize because I’m a Renaissance dork and I’ve read Barbara Tuchman. It is a bit nice getting the romantic version of events Tuchman writes about as military mistakes, but overall I skimmed. I won’t even attempt to write down all the names mentioned.
That done, Bradamante sleeps and dreams of Ruggiero. It’s not a bad dream, but she wakes, gets angry, and rides forth where she promptly encounters those Arctic Knights who are eager to win back their honor after losing to Bradamante the day before. She kicks their asses again. Bjork then shames them that they got their asses kicked by a girl. The knights grovel. Bjork reveals her name is Ullania. The knights take vows of poverty. Bradamante rides away. She stops at an inn, and Ariosto leaves her there to go back to Rinaldo.
Rinaldo is dueling Gradasso. They’re away from their respective armies and with Durindana (sword) and Baiardo (horse) as the prizes. Gradasso currently has Durindana and he’s giving Rinaldo a time of it. Rinaldo’s doing his best to dodge the slashes, when suddenly Baiardo starts making a fuss. Both knights turn and see a terrible bird attacking the horse. Rinaldo secretly thinks it’s Malagigi the Wizard playing tricks again, but Gradasso and he quit their duel to save the horse, which has run off into the forest. The two say they’ll fetch the horse and come back to continue their fight, but of course it’s more complicated than that. They get separated. Rinaldo gets lost. Gradasso finds the horse, but instead of going back to the fountain he decides to ride home saying if Rinaldo really wants the stuff he can come get them.
From there it’s on to Astolfo.
He’s the guy who got turned into a bush, got better, found a flying horse, and took off around the world on its back? I think he’s also a Prince of England. Well, he’s still flying around and we get some more travelogue scenery. Look it’s the Pyrenees! He flies in to Africa where he reaches Ethiopia and the Kingdom of Prester John. I’ll assume you know who that is. If not, to Wikipedia with ye.
Astolfo lands and goes to meet the king, but finds him terribly afflicted. Every day when he tries to eat a whole flock of demon harpies attacks his table and shits all over everything. This is his punishment for trying to attack heaven which is accessible from a mountain nearby. Astolfo says he’ll take care of things and at first he tries to do the slashy-slashy but that fails, so he uses his horn and does the blasty-blasty and that works. The demon harpies flee. They fly into caves in the mountainside that go to Hell and Ariosto stops there, promising to continue on with Astolfo in another canto.
CANTO SCORE CARD
KNIGHTS: Bradamante, Arctic Kings, Rinaldo, Gradasso, Astolfo, Prester John/Senapo (astute readers will notice Ariosto cribs the story of King Phineas from classic myth for the Prester John section)
MAGIC ITEMS: Merlin’s magic paintings, Durindana the sword, Astolfo’s horn of blasting,
MONSTERS: The Harpies
This canto is all about the fights.
It has about half the surviving cast in it and there all getting in each other’s faces. But first we get a bit about Bradamante feeling sad and jealous. Oh no! Ruggiero saw another woman! Oh no! He is obviously now in love with her. Ariosto foreshadows it’s only going to get worse. But that doesn’t stop him from leaving her and following after Rinaldo.
Rinaldo and the Gang are off to Paris to help King Charles kill Saracens. Ricciardetto’s there, Viviano, Alardo, Malagigi, the whole gang. They promptly find their progress blocked by a knight with a damsel riding behind him. Challenges ensue. Damsels dismount. The Gang decides who will be first to joust and so on. Of course this knight’s awesome and unseats everyone until Rinaldo gives it a try.
Slash. Bang. Boom. Etc.
Neither can beat the other. Rinaldo invites the knight to camp with them. The knight says sure and when he takes off his helmet everyone’s happy to see that it is Sansonetto. (Remember him? He was the champion boy-toy back in the city of women.) He and Rinaldo exchange the kiss of peace and Sansonetto joins the gang. There’s a whole thing here about how Sansonetto and Rinaldo are related.
All continue on to Paris where they come upon Grifon the White, Aquilant the Black (Sansonetto’s pals), and Fiordiligi.
Fiodiligi’s still looking for her husband Brandimarte and she’s quick to tell the other knights how furioso Orlando was the last time she saw him (back on the bridge fighting with Rodomonte). Rinaldo corroborates. Fiodiligi then says how the Saracens took all Orlando’s stuff and now his horse is here, his armor there, and the sword with this other guy. Rinaldo weeps, but then resolves to reach Paris by any means.
So there’s a night raid on the Saracen camp. Mayhem ensues. People die. Limbs are hewn. King Charles rallies and rides forth to assist. With him comes Brandimarte (Fiordiligi’s husband). Fiordiligi rushes forward. There are hugs and kisses, and Ariosto does two things: highlights the May/December nature of their relationship, and starts insinuating that he has a new pair of tragic lovers to torment.
Fiordiligi tells her tale again, and Brandimarte, being a great pal of Orlando’s, decides to rescue him. He and Fiordiligi ride forth to the bridge where Rodomonte fought Orlando. Rodomonte is still there. He has that whole tower nearby where he lives beside the mausoleum that houses Isabella and Zerbino. Brandimarte issues a challenge and another duel ensues.
Smash. Bang. Boom. Etc.
The two fall off the bridge, but Rodomonte recovers while Brandimarte can’t. Fiordiligi wails and begs Rodomonte to save her husband, and so he does, stripping him of arms and armor and taking him back to his tower as a prisoner. Fiordiligi flees to seek help.
Back to Paris…
Maim. Slash. Stab. Etc.
Rinaldo’s slaughtering people. The Saracen camp’s in disarray. King Agramante flees along with the unconscious Ruggioro, but Gradasso doesn’t flee. He’s eager to fight Rinaldo and straps on his arms and armor.
The two were supposed to fight once before but Malagigi used Phantasmal Force to trick the two out of fighting. Both agree that won’t happen this time. They’re actually quite cordial and polite to each other in their chivalric way. They meet at the appointed place, embrace, and take their places.
Where Ariosto leaves their fate for another canto to reveal.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Bradamante, Rinaldo and the Gang, Sansonetto and the Gang (anyone else think Sansonetto sounds like an upscale brand of ice cream cone?), Brandimarte, Rodomonte, King Agramante and the Gang, Gradasso
Damsels: As yet unnamed damsel who rode with Sansonetto, Fiordiligli
Horses: Baiardo (Rinaldo’s Horse), Batoldo (Brandimarte’s horse – RIP)
Swords: Durindana, which is currently in Gradasso’s hands
Mages: Malagigi who gets blamed for every sneaky dishonest thing the Christian knights do.
I guess we’re nearing the end of the book. Less than twenty cantos to go. Ariosto’s started to tie up the loose ends and the deaths are starting to show up fast!
We start with Orlando raging around wreaking havoc with a dead horse around his shoulders and the intestines of his victims staining his lips. He’s killing everyone he comes across, one-punching his fists through their skulls, screaming, and all around carrying on in a bad way.
He lays waste to here. He lays waste to there. The devastation done to Malaga is worse than that he did everywhere else. At Algeciras (AKA Gibraltar) he spies a boat full of revelers at sea. He decides he wants to be there and rides his horse straight out to sea. The horse dies. Orlando nearly drowns, but washes up in Ceuta (which is in North Africa but still governed by Spain to this day). There he sees an army and marches towards them.
But enough of that… Ariosto flits over to Angelica and appears to write her out of the story. She’s fine he says, but it would take a hand better than his own to tell the rest of her tale. GRRM should take note. That’s how you do it.
At last Ariosto returns to Mandricard and Doralice. They’re not happy. Mandricard keeps brooding. His pride’s been hurt by Ruggiero and Gradasso. Doralice implores him to get over it. But he won’t. And neither will Ruggiero nor Gradasso. They demand Mandricard turn over Hector’s shield (to Ruggierro) and the sword Durindana (to Gradasso). Neither will concede to the other and at last King Agramante tells them to cast lots to determine who will fight Mandricard. Ruggiero wins. Gradasso sulks. And Mandricard broods. Doralice almost convinces him to give up the fight, but at the very moment he’s about to relent Ruggiero shows up and challenges him.
The whole Saracen army comes to watch. Some see only disaster from this fight between Moor and Tartar. Others are there simply for the thrill of watching the two klonk heads.
And what a klonking it is!
Helmets gleam, trumpets shrills, lances shatter and fly so high in the air their bits get singed by the sun. Melee ensues with the two trying to jab their swords through their opponent’s helmet visor. Mandricard wounds Ruggiero. Ruggiero wounds Mandricard. Mandricard casts aside his shield for a two-handed strike… and Ruggiero, gravely wounded, slips his sword Balisarda through the cuirass and unimpeded the blade reaches Mandricardo’s heart. Ruggiero then collapses from his wounds and for a moment Mandricard stands. Some cheer. Some wail. Then Mandricard falls.
A doctor rushes to treat Ruggiero. Gradasso seethes (that glory now being heaped on Ruggiero should be his!) And Ariosto insinuates that Doralice quit mourning Mandricard the moment Ruggiero won the day. Ariosto leaves Ruggiero under all their care and hies off to where Bradamante pines.
In case you need a refresher, Bradamante is the Christian Lady Knight who is in love with Ruggiero but got separated from him when Ruggiero went back to Paris. She’s been in her family castle pining away for him in vain. Ippalca returns and tells the tale of all that happened to her. Then Ricciardetto arrives and continues the story. When he mentions Marifisa (Muslim Lady Knight) Bradamante gets sadder because obviously Ruggiero has shacked up with her. She’s so sad that when Rinaldo arrives recruiting for his warband to take to Paris, Bradamante stays home and lets the others go on and without her.
And what happens on the way to Paris, the next canto will say.
CANTO SCORE CARD
KNIGHTS: Mandricard, Agramante, Marsilio, Ruggiero, Gradasso, Sobrino, Marsilio, Bradamante, Ricciardetto, Vivian, Rinaldo
DAMSELS: Doralice, the most beautiful maiden in Europe now that Angelica has left for Asia and Isabella is dead, Ippalca
MAGES: Falerina who crafted Ruggiero’s sword Balisarda, Malagigi
SWORDS: Durindana, Balisarda
HORSES: Brigliadoro, Orlando’s horse, then Mandricard’s, currently Ruggiero’s
MAGIC ITEMS: Hector’s Armor
MONSTERS: Orlando, the guy’s too Furioso for his own good!
ANOTHER GUY: Turpin, Ariosto keeps talking about this guy as if he’s an expert on everything that happened to Orlando. He’s a mythical Bishop credited with fighting alongside Orlando and writing the account of all this back in the 8th century, six hundred years before Ariosto.
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