Orlando Furioso, Canto XLV
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