Canto XII here.
Previously: Canto XII, part I. Soon as we hove into sight, he loses it (staying in control is not a family trait) and gnaws on his own arm like a corncob in bootless rage.
They were all busy shooting each other with arrows, the horses.
Well, centaurs. Horses shooting arrows would have made a funny sight.
And they cried, SPEAK OR WE SHOOT. WHY COME HERE.
To which my guide shook his head: NOT YOUR PAY GRADE, NESSUS,
YOU GOTTA MIND LIKE A FEVER: IT WORKS TOO FAST, AND BREAKS DOWN. Then in a whisper to me: THATS NESSUS.
–The one who killed Hercules' wife?
THE VERY SAME.
–But he loved that wife!
I KNOW!! WE WONT TALK TO HIM. WELL TALK TO THE NICE ONE,
CHIRON, WHO READS BOOKS AND USES A FORK WHEN HE EATS.
THE REST ARE NO BETTER THAN REVERSE LIFEGUARDS
ANYONE WHO TRIES TO HAUL OUT OF THE BLOOD-RIVER TO CATCH A BREATH
OR TOUCHES THE POOL-LADDER GETS SHOT UNTIL THEY DROP BACK IN.
We made for him, and he was so shocked at our approach he took an arrow
to move aside his beard, to gape the better. "Is this for real? Is this for serious?
Are you aware this fellow's feet are moving rocks? Is everybody seeing this?"
Virgil stopped by Chiron's side (his head just reached the spot where horse ends and man begins, chest-high) and said:
YES, IM SORRY TO ADMIT IT, HES ALIVE
BUT ITS NOT FOR FUN WE VISIT. ITS FOR WORK.
AND FOR WORK REASONS WE NEED TO RIDE ON SOMEONES BACK.
IM SORRY. ITS FOR WORK. ITS NOT FOR FUN.
WE HAVE TO RIDE YOU LIKE A PONY INTO HELL.
Chiron agreed, and gave us Nessus. I kept my cool and climbed aboard.
As we got closer to the river I perceived
that all the spirits dipped in blood seemed sad indeed.
All kinds of guys were there: Alexander, Azzolino, some Sicilians,
purple stuff – Eventually the level of the blood descended low enough
that we could cross. Attila the Hun was there. Pyrrhus. I can't think
of anybody else. Then Nessus left us; it was back to both my own feet after that.