Orlando Furioso, Canto XIX
Another week. Another canto. This one brings back some of that weirdness. Also… it has Sword Lesbians!
We start with Medoro and Cloriando in running in the woods. Cloriando is far ahead, while Medoro is struggling to catch-up because he’s carrying Darindello’s body. Close behind are Zerbino and his rowdy Scotsmen. They corner Medoro in a clearing, where he drops the body and prepares to defend it with his life. Hearing the tumult behind himself, Cloriando returns stealthily. He sees Medoro’s about to get killed so he starts shooting arrows into the Scots. Zerbino then goes to kill Medoro, but can’t because the boy is just too beautiful. Medoro begs that he may at least bury his king before he dies. Zerbino’s moved by the boy’s loyalty and ready to allow the boy his wish. But an uncouth Scotsmen steps up and stabs Medoro. Cloriando sees this, leaps out of hiding and starts doing the stabby. Unfortunately, he’s outnumbered and the stabby gets done to him and he dies beside his friends. The Scots ride away, leaving Medoro to bleed out.
But he doesn’t bleed out, because a shepherdess comes traipsing through the woods. Only it’s not a shepherdess. It’s Angelica in disguise!
She comes upon the scene and is moved by the sight of the dying boy. In fact, that wee bastard Cupid’s shown up here because he thinks it’s time Angelica quits being such a virgin tease. PEW goes Cupid’s arrow straight to Angelica’s heart. She’s like I need to save this boy-guy. (I think they’re both like 16 and it might be like only the second age appropriate relationship in this meshugganah book so far.) Healed a bit, he does his duty by his friends and buries them. Then he and Angelica ride off.
Angelica’s been hiding in the woods with an old shepherd and his family. She takes Medoro back to the hut, and before long they’re doing the sexy.
She lets Medoro pluck the morning rose
Which no despoiling hand had ever touched;
No one so fortunate that garden knows,
No one its virgin flowerbeds has smutched.
The two are inseparable after that (for now? Angelica is described as the “tragic” heroine of the story… so good luck Medoro! Smutch that flowerbed which you can!) One fun thing they like to do is wander around the woods carving their names surrounded by hearts in trees. After much smutching, Angelica says she wants to go back home to India. Yeah, Angelica is Asian and Medoro is African but you’d never guess that from any of the artworks inspired by these two.* They set out for Spain where they will take ship for the east, but as they near the port they come upon a mad man who leaps towards them ready to attack.
But enough about those two.
Let’s see how Asolfo, Marfisa, and friends are doing.
Last we left them, they were on board a ship making their way for Europe. But lo, a storm struck them and for a good bit I was ready for them to have some kind of underwater adventure. After three days the storm lets up and after some competent sailing, the ship hobbles towards a port. Except the captain recognizes the place and wants nothing to do with it. Why? The knights ask. Because Lesbians the Captain says. Although I think Ariosto calls them Amazons even though they are in Syria. They hate men and either kill or enslave them, unless they can survive the challenge. It’s some real death by bumwah shit!
All prisoners were killed, or must remain
As slaves; and freedom only he could boast
Who of the captive males could vanquish ten;
And further labor too was his that night:
Ten women he must serve for their delight.
The penalty for failure in either test is death!
Well, the knights hear this. Kill ten guys. Smutch ten ladies. They think it sounds great and command the captain put into port. The ship lands. Astolfo doesn’t play around and gives a loud toot with his horn. The Lesbians approach. Their leader, an old crone, walks up and makes the usual challenge. Outdo ten men. Satisfy ten women. Which of you knights is man enough to accept.
Marfisa and the boys gather round and decide to draw lots for who will be the one to accept the challenge, and the boys are like but how are you going to satisfy any women Marfisa, and she’s like let me worry about that. So they draw lots and of course Marfisa wins.
Needless to say my prurient interests have started paying close attention. Is a maci sex-toy going to show up? I don’t think one will, but if there ever was a 15th century story that had a magical sex-toy this would be it!
All go to the arena where the Lesbians pack in eager to watch the killing. Marfisa rides in and no one knows she’s a woman, because her armor was forged in Hell and tempered by Avernus and has a helm like this.
The first nine men Marfisa defeats easily enough, but the last, a knight all in black, has hung back believing it not chivalric to fight in anything less than single combat.
Now alone together, the two start to size each other up. Marfisa’s tired and the black knights suggests they halt until the next day. Marfisa says no, and the two engage. Crash. Bam. Lances the size of pine trees gets shattered. But neither has been outdone. They switch to swords. Slash. Clang. Still neither yields. At last the sun goes down and it’s too dark to keep fighting. Marfisa and the Black Knight end their fight for the night. The Black Knight invites everyone back to his place, because he’s come to respect Marfisa that much. All the knights agree and away they go.
Once settled in, Marfisa takes off her helmet and the Black Knight’s like “You’re a lady!” Then he takes off his helmet, and Marfisa’s like “You’re just an 18-year old boy!”
Marfisa asks for his name and story, and he says…
… a name Ariosto will tell us in the next canto.
* Ariosto does talk about how white and blond these two are, so it’s an eye-roll from the source.
CANTO SCORE CARD
Knights: Medoro and Cloriando, Zerbino, Astolfo, Aquilante, Grifone, Sansonetto, Marfisa the Lady Knight, an as yet unnamed Black Knight
Horses: None named
Swords: None named
Monsters: Man-Hating Lesbians
Magic Items: Marfisa’s Hell forged magic armor