My Prima Donna Swamp Princess [ 5 ] : Alliance

  • 2005-09-21
You could tell just by looking in her fiery eyes that Princess Arva, regardless of the 600 years that had passed between her era and ours, was determined to renew her mission. She would eschew Christianity from the Baltics and reacquaint its inhabitants with their pre-crusader traditions. Amazing. She hadn't yet been "awake" for an hour, yet she was planning the greatest cultural revanche in modern history. To boot, she was under the impression that I, humble linguistic scholar, was going to help her.

My oh my, I thought as I lazily steered the Volkswagen, I had a clinical nutcase riding shotgun. Until I reached the nearest nuthouse, the least I could do was to show understanding. "So tell me, princess, are there any other missions of yours I might need to know about?"

Arva nodded. "Yes, after ridding the region of Christ and his followers, my legions and I will declare war on Germany."

I lost control of the wheel and nearly drove into an ash tree. I stopped the car to catch my breath. "Um…Arva, there's something you need to know. Some things have changed since you were last around."

She looked at me. Her eyes were electric, her light brown hair waxen. An hour ago she was sodden and emaciated; now her skin and gown radiated. She was transforming before my eyes. "Well, I guess they have after 570 years," she said matter-of-factly.

I didn't even know where to begin. Columbus? Martin Luther? Napoleon Bonaparte? Mick Jagger? "Yes, well, regarding Germany, the thing is… ugh… Germany is our ally now!" I said gleefully.

Arva spat. "Shut thy filthy hole, foul American crusader! Don't speak such heresies in the presence of royalty."

I slumped against the wheel. This was getting to be too much. I retrieved a pack of Camels and lit up. In one puff I smoked half the cig, my mind struggling for ways out of this jam. When I looked at her, she was staring back at me as if I were an extraterrestrial with a wedding-cake head.

Then it dawned on me. Holding out the Camel, I said, "Yeah, I imagine you didn't have these things back in the 15th century. Guy named Columbus brought it back from the New World. It's called tobacco. Wanna try?"

Arva scoffed. "Tobacco?!? Are you kidding? We Balts wouldn't fool around with such frivolous things. We always go straight for the hard stuff."

Now it was my turn to be intrigued. "Oh yeah?"

"Sure. For instance, we have our ritual boletus. Would you like to try some?"

Child of the Sixties, I was all too familiar with magical mushrooms, and, I have to admit, my body twitched with an adolescent inclination to chew a bit of the ole' funny fungus. But I shunned the urge - my situation was precarious enough without pulling a Timothy Leary in southern Lithuania.

"Speaking of boletus, did you know that the English word mushroom comes from Latin musario, which is related to the Lithuanian word for fly [muse], and as you know the fly agaric--"

"Oh, Perkunai!" Arva looked utterly exasperated. "Are all the people from the New World as strange as you?"

I couldn't help but smile. "No. Believe me, there're much worse." My mind instantly did a roll-call: Tiny Tim, Ted Nugent, Dennis Rodman, Michael Jackson, Hillary Clinton…. "I'm one of the normal ones."

I revved up the car and started off. When I reached cruising speed, I said, "Germany is an ally, Arva."

"If I weren't a woman of high esteem, I would slap you," she said.

"Germany is a member of NATO - a security alliance that includes America - and the Balts joined last year."

Princess Arva recoiled in horror. "NATO?!? What is this NATO? Oh, Perkunai! It sounds like a papal plot!"

I allowed myself a laugh. "No, no… It's not a papal plot, though the Italians are also members, if you want to know."

"Then it must be a plot!"

Then, to my own damage, I remembered one detail. It was all over the news this week. "I suppose it wouldn't do any good to tell you that the new pope is German… first one in almost 900 years."

"Oh, Perkunai! The popes let the Teutons invade us back then, and they're continuing their nefarious agenda six centuries later! We must stop them!"

Now the exasperation belonged to me. "Great! So maybe you can declare war on Italy as well as Germany!"

"Good idea, American crusader. You learn quick!"