Dante encounters Beatrice for the last time before her untimely death, while strolling along the Lungarno
In Chapter Two, Scrying Moon, Gnoccho finds himself hostage in Dante's Pugatorio, and tries to entertain him while waiting to be rescued.
"So, shall we get properly acquainted, boy?” Apprehensive, Gnoccho shrank back a little. “What is your name boy and what is your city?”
“My name is Marcello Valori-Pinna and my city is Florence.” he recited obediently.
“Florence, eh? How marvelous Marcello, we are countrymen, nearly brothers!” the man cried in delight, “don’t you want to know who your host is, Marcello?”
“Sure”, he shrugged indifferently, afraid of making a wrong move. “Who are you then?” he risked looking up at the man’s face.
“Have you ever heard of the Divine Comedy?” the man raised his chin and grinned wryly.
Gnoccho looked puzzled, “Oh! I get it, you’re a comedian. What shows have you been in? Are we filming one right now?” he exclaimed, looking around, suddenly excited.
“What? No, you fool, I’m an artist, an exalted one, far above the painters and sculptors, mere brutes who toil with their hands. I give form to the formless, express the inexpressible with the magic of words, eternal and divine.” He smiled rapturously, hand on his breast “In short, I am a poet, you are in the presence of Dante Alighieri of Florence!” he performed a stagey bow from the waist.
“I’ve heard of you, but we don’t study you until Grade Twelve, I’m only in Grade Nine, but I’m pleased to meet you anyhow.” Gnoccho offered the man his hand and Dante shook it.
“Now, about my little problem.” Dante cleared his throat, “It seems that by some twist of divine fate, I have been consigned, postmortem, to my own Purgatorio! Hoisted unjustly on my own petard... deserving instead, to be in Paradiso, with my own perfect goddess, Beatrice. I need to get to Florence Marcello, be vindicated, then return with my beloved Beatrice” Dante said wringing his hands in despair.
“Wow, hoisted on your own petard, that’s rough. I’ll bet that really hurt.” Gnoccho commiserated, misunderstanding what a ‘petard’ is.
“Hurt! Why, it’s mortifying, if the dead can redundantly said to be ‘mortified’, but never mind that. What I need is for you to lead me to the Seeker, there is one in Florence who’s been sending-out powerful spells this last scrying moon, seeking the return of something precious to our beloved city, that precious thing, I know, must be me. At last the call has come to restore me to my beloved city! I can’t wait...and you Marcello will lead my triumphal return. Would you like that?” he smiled eagerly at his confederate.
“Um, sure, I guess so. That sounds ace, but how do I contact this ‘Seeker’? I can’t get a signal here at all.” Gnoccho said, trying in vain to get a connection on his cell phone.
“With this.” Dante reached to Gnoccho’s bag from which had tumbled the scrying crystal Feste gave him.
“Sure, I’ll try. I think it’s charged, but I’m not promising anything.”
Gnoccho warmed the crystal in his hands, closed his eyes, concentrated hard on opening his third eye, then prayed. “Spirit in the crystal, call forth the Seeker, the one who seeks a precious thing to be returned to Florence, Seeker appear and speak to us, appear Seeker and help us, we have what you seek, we want to help you Seeker. Appear!” he opened his eyes, the crystal cleared and he heard the faint voice of Feste, speaking to him as if from a tunnel, he could just barely see her face.
“Marcello, is that you? Are you okay? We heard about the train being delayed, but no one could reach you. Are you in Siena now?” Her face became clearer and closer.
“I’m near Poggibonsi, in a strange orchard, where the trees don’t let you pick their fruit. I’m here with Dante, you know, the famous poet?” Gnoccho said nonchalantly.
“Of course, I know who Dante is! Have you been hit on the head?” Feste was becoming irritated.
“See, I knew it!” hissed Dante over Gnoccho’s shoulder.
“What are you doing there? Are you okay? If you give me directions, I can fetch you.”
“Oh, I’m okay, but me and Dante have a little problem, he wants to come too. You see it seems...”
Impatient, Dante grabbed the crystal from Gnoccho and pressed his face into the glass.
“Ach! What is that?” cried Feste.
“Why Seeker, it is I, the precious thing whose return you called to Florence. I am at your command, but you need to get me out of this ridiculous situation first!” Dante blurted out frantically.
“So, you’re Dante, and you are where exactly? Why do you have my nephew and from what ridiculous situation must I rescue you?” cried Feste indignant.
“Why from Purgatorio, Seeker. I am here by some mistake, a clerical error in the Akashic records I’m sure, but it prevents me from returning to my rightful place. Please, Seeker you must help me.” Dante tried putting-on his pathetic pleading voice and expression, which only made him grotesque.
Feste paused to consider her response. “Alright, I’ll help you, but I need to consult a more powerful sorcerer to break the spell. In the meantime, why don’t you return Marcello to me?”
“Oh, I’m so sorry, but I can’t do that. I need the company while I wait, no one here will speak to me now, my only worthy companions are in Paradiso, but they won’t let me in! So, get us out of here. Now! Understand, Seeker?” Dante grew nasty, scowled, and tucked the crystal into his sleeve.
“I don’t think you should’ve talked to her like that Dante, you don’t know Feste, she doesn’t take orders from anybody.” Gnoccho shook his head.
“Nonsense... Look, we have to pass the time, so what do you have to amuse me with, eh boy?” he said haughtily.
Gnoccho had a sudden inspiration, “Well, I have a kind of magic window here, and we can watch a cool play through it, a play written by another poet, William Shakespeare. Ever heard of him Dante?”
“Hmm, don’t think so. Anyway, let’s see what he’s got. What’s this poem about?” Dante inquired, already bored, regarding his fingernails.
“It’s about love.” Gnoccho settled his back into the trunk of the tree, and opened the download of Zefferelli’s, Romeo and Juliet. Dante made himself comfortable beside him.
As the final credits rolled, Dante turned to Gnoccho, “Well, I like this magic window, most amusing, and the poet, Shakespeare, is it? I admire his metre, but I thought you said this was about love, Marcello.”
“It is about love Dante; two teenagers want to make-out, but their parents are feuding. Juliet’s think Romeo and his crew are gangsters, and that his family isn’t rich enough for them, but they hook-up anyway, then end-up dead because the stupid Friar mixed things-up, but they really loved each other to the end. Isn’t that right?” Gnoccho looked quizzically at Dante.
“That isn’t love, that is merely carnal desire, lowly lust. True love is chaste, like mine for my golden goddess, Beatrice. With great feeling, Dante recited from his poem about her death
“...light from her humility
pierced the skies with so much virtue,
that it made the Eternal Lord marvel,
so that a sweet desire
moved him to claim such greeting:
and called her from the heights to come to him,
since he saw our harmful life
was not worthy of such a gentle one.”
“I first saw Beatrice when she and I were but children, eight and nine. Then only twice thereafter as adults, I encountered her last, a heavenly vision, an angel walking amongst mortals along the Lugarno, then at only twenty and four, my beloved Beatrice died,” he sighed, and hung his head.
“I’m sorry, Dante,” said Gnoccho quietly. “So, you never married, eh?”
Dante looked-up. “What? Of course, I married. A man must marry boy, have his name perpetuated and his carnal needs met, for as St. Paul advises, “it is better to marry than to burn!”.
“Oh, so I guess your wife was no goddess then?”
Dante chuckled, “No, she was no goddess, but a loyal wife and a good mother. A woman who knew her place.”
He turned to walk away, then looking over his shoulder at his new friend, “I must go to tend some business in the Inferno. Don’t eat too much fruit while I’m gone Marcello, it’ll give you gas.” he said, vanishing into the mist.