Apparently Arva realized she had gone too far. I don't know what it was that snapped her out of her bellicose reverie - exhaustion, the sight of my pale visage, a momentary flash of common sense - but suddenly she slid out of her war-mongering mode and assumed a semblance of what she proclaimed to be - a princess. The invasion of Germany could wait.
"Okay, American crusader, I got a little out of hand," she admitted, "but understand that I've been out of it for while."
"If that isn't the understatement of the year," I mumbled.
"Hey, you'd be a little out of whack too if you'd been asleep for 570 years and suddenly awoke."
No argument from me there.
"Then again, you're out of whack as it is," she said.
"Wacky every day, in fact."
"Whooaa, wait a second, princess!"
"Wacky every waking hour - W-A-C-K-Yâ€¦"
My body slumped over the steering wheel. Some sabbatical this was turning out to be. Instead of hobnobbing with Sudovian farmers, I was being mocked by the undead.
"Okay, okay," she said. "I'll stop. It's just that I've never met an American before. I'm probing you for weaknesses." Without looking I could tell she was grinning. "It would appear I've already identified about forty-six."
"Tell you what," she continued, "to pass the time, why don't you bring me up to date on history. Only keep it brief, tenured professor. I tend to fall asleep during lectures. I've had to sit through a fair share of Dominican sermons back in my day."
Now there's a conundrum - summing up six centuries of world history in one breath. History had never been my cup of bourbon, but I figured I could easily leave out Asia and Africa and stick to the parameters likely to interest Arva most. So, gripping the wheel, I inhaled deeply and let it fly.
"Okay, not too long after you faded off - in the 15th century - an Italian shanghaied a bunch of ruffians on board three ships, got lost at sea, and discovered a new world. The place was loaded with gold and silver, and they took it back to the kings and queens of the old world, on the Iberian peninsula in particular. To keep the goodies coming, the kings and queens sent back more and more ships and had no qualms enslaving and killing the native people of the new world in the process.
"In the meantime, a fat German monk had decided he was fed up with papal corruption, and nailed a letter of protest to a church door. This seemingly harmless gesture started to split the continent in half, even more so after this monk-priest decided to get married a few years later. Anyway, soon everyone argued about Christ-this and God-that for, oh, about 100 years, after which they decided to get serious and start shooting each other like proper enemies. This they did for thirty years, after which they signed an agreement drawing borders and inventing this odd thing called the nation-state.
"Now to pay for all this, as well as to keep their bellies full and their halls bursting with riches, the old world royalty built more ships and sent them all over the world - which is round, you might like to know - and generally took whatever they wanted. The bellies got bigger, and the halls larger. Finally, near the end of the 18th century, a French-speaking German king and a German-speaking Russian queen divided up Poland and the Baltics, only to have their empires overrun by a little runt of a French general who wanted to get rid of all these kings and queens in a bad way.
"Then everyone chilled out. They went about licking their wounds and rebuilding their nation-states. A few skirmishes ensued, but generally it was a peaceful century, the 19th. But any fool could tell it was the lull before the storm. The shit hit the fan in 1914, and honestly, Arva, I don't think you want to know the rest."
I looked at my audience. Princess Arva had sat transfixed, her face pinched in concentration and eyes focused on the road. There was a pensive, philosophical cast to her cheeks and brow as she digested my oh-so-concise version of post-medieval history. She said, "Judging from what I just heard, mankind has heedlessly continued its rapacious, flagitious bacchanalia of violence - one that will lead to its imminent self-destruction, and conversely, the betterment of the planet."
I gasped. "Jeez, I'm sorry I mentioned it."
"No, it makes me feel better," she said.
She nodded once. "For a moment there, I was afraid I had awakened in a time of peace. And I am a woman of war."
"Oh, Perkunai," I said.