The expression of perplexity on my face was apparent. "Why are you so surprised?" Arva asked, proffering another card to an unsuspecting tourist. Because of her dress, everyone was staring at her, but she disarmed them with a smile and a card.
"You're handing out business cards! You're supposed to be a princess, for crying out loud!"
"So what? What's wrong with that!"
"No it's not 's it's called marketing."
Swellâ€¦ I was about to be lectured by a medieval aristocratic on contemporary business techniques. Can things get any freakier?
"I can imagine the catchphrase on those business cards: Princess Arva 's Your Partner in War."
"Ha-ha, you're a regular comedian, American crusader."
"Or no, I bet it says: Arva's War Consultancy 's Over 600 Years in the Business."
"Or: Skalvian Skullduggery 's 101 Ways to Foment Palace Intrigue and Other Orgies of Violence."
"So funny that my spleen's about to rupture, professor."
"Ah-ha! I know what it says: Swamp Princess Assassination Services 's We Never Miss a Good Kill."
"Are you through yet?"
As difficult as it was, I forced myself to shut up for a second and think about what was going on. Truth was, I had no idea. By the way, what phone number was on the card?
"Usually business cards have phone numbers," I said. "What does yours have? Directions to the nearest holy oak tree?"
"You're cruisin' for a bruisin'," said the princess.
"I'm serious," I pleaded.
"So am I 's I'm having a Blackberry flown in from the states," she nearly spat. "DHL."
Unbelievable. "Hey, no reason to get all bent out of shape. In fact, I admire your aplomb. Must not be easy for such an intractable pagan."
Arva did say anything. Apparently I really had touched a sore spot. She was trying to adapt to modern methods, and I had poked fun. After a bout of deep depression brought on with the knowledge that most of the Baltic tribes had been wiped out, she had found some comfort in seeing a handful of Karaites, who were brought to Trakai 600 years ago when she was a kid. She had been in a good mood, and then I rained on her parade.
"Okay, Arva, I apologize. I was wrong. But try to look at it from my standpoint: It's not every day that I get to tour a medieval castle with someone born before the castle was erected."
The princess, who drifted along in full medieval garb, thought about this for a minute, and said, "And my position's any better? I wake up from a deep sleep, only to be taken up by a linguistics professor from a faraway land called America and who smoked too much weed in the '60s and reads abstruse books."
I could see her point. "Okay, but try to leave the grass out of it, alright?" I said.
Arva shrugged. "As I always said: to each his own."
"You still haven't answered my question: what's with the business cards?"
Reluctantly, she explained. "I've decided to adjust my tactics a bit. If I'm going to invade Poland anytime soon I need more effective recruitment methods."
"And I need a reliable revenue stream."
"Spoken like a true business grad," I said.
"So I bought some business cards, and now I'm going to organize a unique series of poetry readings in Sudovian, Curonian, Prussian and perhaps Selonian."
"What about Galindian?"
The princess' eyes widened. "Do you think there's a demand for it?"
I smiled. "I think someone has a screw loose."
"What's a screw?"
"But first thing's first," said the princess. "I want you to take me to this Romuva, and then to the Presidential Palace."
"You want to go Adamkus' office?"
"Yes, I just found out that he's an American like you. Imagine that 's someone from the same country as you running the great nation of Lietuva." The princess looked distressed. "As the bard said, something's rotten in Vilnius."
"No, it's Denmark," I corrected her.
"You see," she said, "no matter what I say you have to twist it into something to do with Vikings or Teutons. Just goes to show who's you're your own."