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My Prima Donna Swamp Princess [ 19 ] : Reunited

Feb 01, 2006

May arrived before I knew it, and the sun shined and the days stretched out and the mud thickened beneath my feet. The poplars and lindens glimmered with sprouting buds, and every tenth electricity pole in the countryside was properly occupied by a busy white stork. My linguistic endeavors proceeded nicely now that I was free from the trouble of escorting a long-dead princess, and I could reflect on the wonders of the iterative infix and Lithuania's four forms of locative and the dative plural as an irrefutable argument for a pan-proto-Baltic-Germanic-Slavic tongue.

I was oblivious to the world. I was all research, pure and uninterrupted, and I was loving life. This was the trip I had been waiting for, the one that, in my mind at least, I had built up as the finest hour in my academic career. With it I would finally have the ammunition to silence my critics. So I worked, talking with Baltic peasants and transcribing their arcane speech patterns on my notebook computer, while around me the world spun on its predictable axis. Condy Rice supposedly arrived in Vilnius to spread her jingoistic ideology; her boss, the empty-headed Texan, was supposedly in Riga doing God knows what; and Estonia supposedly signed a border treaty with Russia. But I couldn't be sure, since I forced myself not to turn on the radio and cast my gaze away from the morning headlines.

So you can imagine my horror when one fine morning I finally did glance at a daily and discovered that the town of Klaipeda was going bonkers over the presence of a young women speaking a bizarre language and claiming to be medieval Baltic royalty.

The article went on to state that police had taken "the eccentric woman" in for questioning.

Oh no.

I was not far from Taurage at the time, and I immediately hopped in the Golf and sped toward Klaipeda. I knew I should have never left Arva on her own, yet I was equally sure that if I had stayed with her we would have been at each other's throats. (True love, in other words; the old-fashioned way of romance.)

I arrived in the port city an hour-and-a-half later, utterly clueless where to turn. I hadn't seen Arva for about a month 's the last time being at the statue of Herkus Monte 's and even though I had helped her with living arrangements I had a suspicion she would have moved on. Still, I had to start somewhere, so I went to the house not for from the bus station where the princess had rented a room, and inquired about the "eccentric guest."

"We kicked her out," a gruff Russian speaking man said, "on the second day."

Oh no. I could almost envision the scene. Defiant Arva, pointing her royal finger at a poor Russian port worker, accusing him of invading Baltic territory. I wondered if vodka had been involved.

"Do you know where I could find her?"

"Try Memelis," he barked.

Memelis. Great, I thought. Disco Arva 's just what the Baltic world needs. But it was only mid-day, and the club wouldn't be opening up for hours. I didn't have a lot of time, and something told me that Arva didn't either. Still, further inquiries around town led me nowhere, and I had to wait until late at night before I finally found the princess.

When I did, my eyes nearly jumped out of their sockets.

She sat at a long table, surrounded by a group of students in tight jeans and loose halters who looked at her lovingly. Some things never change. I wanted to laugh. On closer examination, however, I realized that there seemed to be little communication among them, which I took to be the truest reflection of the aristocratic nature of the entire picture: too much superficiality and little meaning. Still, you've got to hand it to Arva: 600 years on, and she could still enchant the best of 'em.

Then she saw me.

"Professor!" she cried.

I gasped. Arva was dressed in jeans, a turquoise blouse and lustrous high heels. When we departed a month ago she still had been wearing her ancient linen gown (and getting stares from just about every human being), an outfit that, while ridiculous, was appropriate given the bizarre Baltic pidgin she spoke. (Only I, a professional linguist, could appreciate that though.)

But here she was, in full rock-n-roll glory, a medieval Baltic diplomat who once conspired to assassinate Grand Duke Jogaila.

"It's so nice to see you, professor," she said, smiling wondrously. "I've missed you so much. You know, I've come to realize over the past month that you're the only person who understands me." She looked up at me with her lustrous eyes. "Will you dance with me?"

And thus the professor and the princess were reunited.
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