dedicated to Edmund. My dear, darling, pain in the butt.
"Well!" said Pug. "Now whoever heard of a gentleman in my way of business who treated his stock better than what I do? Well? Why, I treat 'em like my own children."
"That's likely enough to be true," said the other grimly.
The dreadful moment had now come. Caspian was untied and his new master said, "This way, lad," and Lucy burst into tears and Edmund looked very blank. But Caspian looked over his shoulder and said, "Cheer up. I'm sure it will come all right in the end. So long."
"Now, missie," said Pug. "Don't you start taking on and spoiling your looks for the market tomorrow. You be a good girl and then you won't have anything to cry about, see?"
Then they were rowed out to the slave-ship and taken below into a long, rather dark place, none too clean, where they found many other unfortunate prisoners; for Pug was of course a pirate and had just returned from cruising among the islands and capturing what he could. The children didn't meet anyone they knew; the prisoners were mostly Galmians and Terebinthians. And there they sat in the straw and wondered what was happening to Caspian and tried to stop Eustace talking as if everyone except himself was to blame.
- Voyage to the Dawn Treader
Pug took up the rope that bound Lucy, Eustace, and me together again, giving it a little jerk to get the three of us moving. My cousin stumbled, bringing me to my knees for the briefest of moments. I struggled up again, shoving him a little harder than necessary into a walk. I had no desire to give these despicable creatures who called themselves men, these kidnappers, any reason to "make us cry."
We clamored into the little boat, and I could tell we were in for a rough time from the very beginning. The boat was barely big enough to hold any of us. As it was we probably would have been better off making two trips just to get us over safely, let alone our captors. The boat was so old I was surprised it was still floating, and it nearly capsized twice just getting us to their slave ship. Even though it made us worse off, I breathed a sigh of relief when we reached our prison. If we had actually capsized during the short journey hear there was no way my sister, my cousin, or I would have survived, bound as we were.
Eustace's face could not have been more sulky as they took us onto their wooden ship. I recognized it as a type of galley called a xebec, its lines running narrow and deep, with red- and white- triangular sails. Eustace stumbled as we boarded and I almost felt pity for him. He was not having a good experience here in Narnia and there was so much more to it then what he was seeing. But the pity welling up was erased when he opened his mouth once again.
"Excuse me, but I'm not sure you know who I am. My parents are important people in many organizations! This kind of intolerance will not be stood for. . ."
I stamped on his foot as soon as I had the proper angle for it. My cousin was not helping our situation, and he would only continue to aggravate all around him to the point where they would throw him over board. Considering I was tied to him, this did not seem agreeable to me at the present time.
I was sharply reminded of myself more than two years ago by England's time. I felt the reawakened stab of revulsion. My poor sisters had dealt with me when I was far worse than Eustace. Peter had dealt with me when I was at least three times as bad as our cousin. I pushed down the unwelcome feelings. That was long in the past now and dwelling on what had already been resolved and forgiven would give me nothing of benefit.
Eustace glowered at me, annoyed that his tirade had been cut short. I rolled my eyes. Dealing with my extremely difficult cousin was low on my priority list right now.
"Move along now! Down in the hold you go," one of the slavers called, pushing us towards what looked like nothing more than a jagged hole in the ship's floorboards. Lucy led the way down, her sure-footed steps echoing back. I was glad that we had not fallen down the stairs. Lucy hesitated for the briefest of moments at the bottom of the steps as a grief-filled moan filtered through the air. I sighed as I descended into the hold behind her, my heart going out to those wretched humans, all crammed into the small hull of the ship. I scanned the room, hoping there was an area not packed full of bodies.
My eyes found one area that had minimal room. It was farthest from the small dirty windows that streams of sunlight filtered through, a minuscule corner where we could lean against the ship's hull. We would have to hurry to keep the other people packed into this dark cramped place from taking the space. As awful as I felt thinking that way, at the moment Lucy, Eustace, Reepicheep, and I were what I was worried about. I turned to the slaver with an imperious air.
"Cut us loose. We have no where to go for the night and I refuse to allow my sister to be treated in such a fashion any longer."
The slaver sneered. "And what makes you think I care, little boy? You do not order me around."
I stood up straighter, and there must have been something in my eyes as I stood there glaring at him. I had learned from the best; Aslan bless Xati and Oreius. He went pale, and took a step back from me before cutting the ropes that bound us together hurriedly. I held out my wrists, and he sliced those ropes as quickly as he could before moving on to Lucy and Eustace. With a threatening look he dropped Reepicheep at Lucy's feet and retreated towards the stairs.
"Don't try anything!" he growled. I held his gaze for a moment longer before sighing and turning away. Obviously I would not be able to pull that trick again.
"Come on," I muttered, grabbing Lucy's hand and dragging her towards the back corner. I knew Eustace would follow, and Aslan help him if he did not. I could not babysit him tonight. He was on his own. But I hoped he followed for his safety, and my temper.
Reepicheep glared up the stairs, his gaze fixed where the slaver had disappeared. I could see the cogs of his mind working and I knew he would want to avenge his wounded pride. Mice and their overblown sense of pride. I knew it would get us in trouble one of these days.
"Reep!" I called, beckoning him forward. For a moment he looked as though he might refuse my summons. I held back a groan. No one had the time to deal with his pride today. He seemed to understand that there were more pressing matters to be dealt with. He threw one last suffering glance at the stairs, and followed my lead to the back corner.
I pushed myself into the corner, splinters and rusty nails digging into my back. I pulled Lucy down, allowing her the little space left. My cousin pushed one of the Terebinthian slaves to the side to make room for himself. I shot him a glare, and watched Reep climb one of the beams to settle himself in. I hoped that this might be the most I had to deal with for the night. Then of course, Eustace opened his mouth.
"I knew we should never have come off that wretched boat. But of course, I was bullied into coming and look where that has led us."
I rolled my eyes, and held up my hand to silence Reepicheep.
"Good my cousin I ask that you keep your completely ludicrous comments to yourself and save us the trouble of listening to you blame everyone other than yourself. It is no one person's or peoples' fault, it is simply something that happened. I beg of you, control your ego and your mouth. "
As I spoke I fell back into the courtly speech that displayed emotion so well. If I lived a thousand years I would never lose the mannerisms that so many years in Narnia had pounded into me. The way I spoke was part of me, just as surely as my sense of justice was, Lucy's faith was part of her, Susan's gentle heart was of her, and Peter's willingness to sacrifice himself for any cause, great or small was part of him. Narnia was not something any of us could or would ever dream of changing.
In any other situation, the face my cousin made would have been highly entertaining. While I was lost in my own thoughts, his face had begun to change an odd purplish color that reminded me of my Aunt Alberta's awful aubergine sandwiches. She used her own recipe, which was probably why the sandwiches were so dreadful.
"Who do you think you are, talking to me as if you were a king, Edmund? You can close your eyes to the facts but don't blame me for your mistakes. . ."
I cut him off, feeling a dire need to correct him. He was the second to make that error, the first had been a year ago, or perhaps three years ago, when I had delivered the token of combat for Peter. Miraz had made the same miscalculation, and I corrected my cousin in a fashion of the same way I had corrected the usurper then.
"Not were, Eustace. I am a king. King Edmund actually. Why else would Lucy and I be addressed as 'Your Majesty'?"
I turned away from Eustace, leaving him spluttering as the fact that his cousins were more important than he had ever realized sunk in. My gaze fell on Lucy. She looked close to crying again. My heart convulsed. Seeing Lucy cry would pluck at anyone's heart strings.
"Lu, don't cry. We'll be out of here soon; I'm sure of it. Trust in Aslan that we will be all right. I do."
Lucy gave me a weak smile. "Oh, I know that Ed. It's just. . . what do you suppose is happening to Caspian right now? Do you think his master is treating him well?"
I paused to consider her question. Chances were we would find out what happened to Caspian much later. I trusted Aslan to see us through this peril. But as to when that saving grace would be, I was not sure. I didn't want to say that to my sister, however. It was my job to relieve her of her fears, not add to them.
"Trust Aslan, Lu. That's the best we can do."
My sister smiled, trying to put on a brave face. She could see right through my words. I hadn't answered her question, and we both knew it was because I did not have the answers to give. No words that were not lies could be said to sooth my sister's worry for our friend, or I would have said them. But as it was, the best I could give had already been given. I had no higher words of wisdom at the moment than to trust in Aslan, and Lucy was the last person I had to remind. She trusted in Aslan with constant faith. I saw the tears that she had tried to hold back so valiantly before pool in her eyes once more.
"Oh, Lu," I murmured, watching as the first tear fell. Peter was much better at the offering of comfort in moments such as this. He was the one we all turned to when something had gone wrong and we needed reassurance. I was the one he turned to, but that was only fair seeing as I was either the source of his worry, and we had grown closer with all we had been through together. I understood him like no one else. But Peter wasn't here, I was.
I wrapped my arms around Lucy's thin frame, feeling awkward and unsure of how to proceed. My sister fell into my arms practically however, burying her face in my shoulder. My tunic, one of Caspian's I had borrowed, was quickly becoming drenched in salty tears. No sob echoed around the dark prison this time, but the pitying looks I saw cast by some of the other humans awaiting slavery told me that my little sister was not by a long shot the first to shed a tear on this voyage. I hugged her closer to me, pulling her almost completely into my lap. She let me, her arms going around my neck.
I let my instincts take over. I had seen Peter do this more than a thousand times over the past years. I pressed my lips to her forehead in a kiss, hoping to reassure her. I know I spoke to her, something about it being all right, but other than that I could tell you nothing of the time that passed other than my holding Lucy long after her tears had stopped, the two of us taking what comfort siblings can give to one another. When I looked up, I could see that the small amount of light that had been filtering into this dark hole all day was disappearing slowly. The oranges, yellows, and reds were dim, and soon the stars would rise to join in the dance they had been taking part in since the dawn of Narnia.
I blinked, shifting Lucy in my arms so that I was the one who leaned against the wood of the ship and she could rest her head on my shoulder. She was more than halfway asleep already as I brushed a strand of hair out of her face. I looked up to see Reepicheep in the fading light, obviously caught between a yearning for sleep and his desire to guard my sister and me during the night. I felt a rush of affection for the mouse.
"Reep?" I called softly, afraid I might awaken Lucy if she was already asleep. The Knight of Narnia glanced away from the fading light, turning towards me.
"I will take first watch tonight, get some rest. We'll need you awake for the adventures Aslan will bring us tomorrow."
Reepicheep hesitated, and I hurried to add,
"I promise to wake you for the second watch, my friend. I will need my sleep too."
I gave him a tired approximation of what I hoped was a grin. He nodded, and settled himself more comfortably between two cross beams. All I had to do was call his name, and the ever vigilant mouse would be at my service. It was a comforting thought.
"Shouldn't Lucy take a watch tonight? It's demeaning to leave her out of it just because she's a girl."
I leveled one of my best glares at Eustace. My cousin had a lot to learn about courtesy, and just as important, chivalry. Reepicheep answered before I could, and I was unsure if it was indignation, or honest curiosity I heard in his voice. Perhaps a bit of both.
"Why should her Majesty be forced to stand watch tonight? She is tired, and I would not put a lady through any more stress no matter how weary I might find myself to be. King Edmund agrees with me, I am sure."
Eustace did not bother asking me how I felt. It was obvious from the look on my face that I was almost daring him to ask.
"I thank you for your concern, good my cousin. Even if it was misplaced in asking if the Queen would stand watch, it shows that you are truly worried for the good knight and my, well-being. If you insist, neither I nor Master Reepicheep shall begrudge you a watch for yourself. It would make things so much easier for both of us."
Eustace flushed a bright red, and he looked extremely sour. He muttered something to the effect of that not being what he meant at all, and he had just been looking out for what was best for Lucy. I was also rather sure I heard something about his being kidnaped for this voyage, making it obvious that he did not want any part in our work. I did my best to keep my temper at the bit about Lucy, but it did shut him up. He fell asleep, complaining about the lack of proper respect I gave him.
Lucy stirred as I shifted slightly, trying to make myself a bit more comfortable in the straw. I winced and rubbed her back soothingly.
"It's all right, Lu, go on back to sleep."
She shook her head. "Will you sing Ed? Please? Will you for me?"
I resisted the urge to groan. All of my siblings, and come to think of it, most of our subjects when we had ruled during Narnia's Golden Age, knew that I could sing. Peter loved to remind me that I had the best ear for music among the four of us, even more than Lucy who was so in love with music. I could remember every song we had ever been taught, and every note would be hit perfectly. No matter how much I tried to make it otherwise, I just could not help remembering the notes. I hated it whenever they mentioned the talent, but I couldn't deny my sister a song.
"What one do you desire, Lu?"
"Oh! The one you sang when Sirin and Alkonost were with us. The first day of Greenroof with the Thrush and her sisters? That one is so pretty."
I grinned at the memory she roused. Sirin and Alkonost had brought many prophesies during their visit, and although many of those had been. . . rather dark, the memories were fond ones.
"Shining light, berry bright,
sing glory, glory!
Golden trees, silver seas,
sing summer's story!
Feather flown, hatchlings grown,
sing glory, glory!
Morning flight, starry night,
sing nature's story!
Over Sea and next to me,
sing glory, glory!
Father, Son, Timeless Ones,
sing heaven's story!
Lion's Mane, sun and rain,
sing glory, glory!
Weep no more, Thrones of Four,
sing Aslan's glory! "
The last note died slowly, resonating around the cabin. The hope and light that had been threaded through the song lingered for a moment longer than the song itself, bringing back the memory of an early summer day from long ago in the fourth year of our reign. It contrasted sharply against the dark and dismal slave ship of which my companions and I now occupied.
Lucy shifted, and I was pleased to see she was completely asleep now. I hoped her dreams were far more pleasant than our current situation had turned out to be. It seemed I was the only one now awake out of our party. I was more than happy to take first watch, knowing despite what I had told Reepicheep, that I would have a very hard time finding sleep this night.
It was a new experience for me, being the oldest monarch of old on our adventure this time. It made me acutely aware of just how much pressure Peter must have been feeling when we returned to Narnia a year ago. As the High King, everyone had expected my brother to have some foolproof plan that would save Narnia with little bloodshed or loss of life. Peter and I had found over the years that no such plan would ever exist, even as we strived towards that impossible goal. By the time the token combat with Miraz had come to pass, I believed my older brother needed someone at his back whom he could trust without fail. Caspian had been a bit more unsure. . .
I watched Peter leave to ready himself for combat and to speak with our sisters one last time before they went in pursuit of Aslan. I leaned against one of the pillars that surrounded the Stone Table, lost in thought about the upcoming match and the battle that was sure to follow.
"King Edmund will make sure the queens get away unnoticed, while I act as second for the High King," I vaguely heard Caspian explain to his tutor. I bristled at the very idea. As much as I loved my sisters, I trusted in Susan's prowess with a bow, and both girls had proved capable of protecting themselves in the past. If Caspian thought that I would be missing from my brother's side when he went out to face this murderer then he was sadly mistaken.
"I will not."
Caspian and the Doctor turned towards me, both surprised at my outburst.
"Your Majesty?" Doctor Cornelius questioned me, hesitant for my answer. I'm sure my face looked absolutely murderous.
"I will be by my brother's side, as I always have been. There is no one more capable for the position as his second than I, who have stood there for so long."
Caspian shook his head in disagreement, and I wondered if he really thought he could win such an argument as this one.
"If the High King is fighting on my behalf, then I believe I should be the one beside him during the match."
"Caspian this is not up for discussion. The facts are before you. If you are so worried about the girls' safety then I suggest that you be put in charge of their escape. I am going to be beside Peter."
"This was my idea!"
"Yes, and it was a good one. No one has disputed that, but it does not make you an automatic candidate for the position that was never offered up."
"He is fighting my uncle for my throne. I should be there beside him. He is my friend, and my king."
Did he think that gave him any claim? He was sadly mistaken. Peter had been my king and best friend for far longer than Caspian had been alive. My glare was dark and my words were final as I spoke.
"He is my brother."
I heard the slap of wet rope slither to the deck somewhere above my head, and knew by the sounds of grunts and curses that the crew was weighing anchor. My brother and I had been taught the workings of a ship well enough for me to recognize the sound. With a snap of fabric, the triangular sails caught the wind, and I felt the ship move out of the inlet, preparing to circle around the islands for tomorrow's slave market. It was than the stench of the ship attacked my senses.
The smell of unwashed bodies that been shoved together, the filth, blood, and rotting straw converged upon me, and I felt as though I was going to suffocate at any moment. The rusty nails continued to dig into my back, and every time I tired to shift positions, splinters from the rotten, dank wood broke off and stuck in my back like quills. How I longed for a bed at the moment, whether it be the hammock on the Dawn Treader, my bed back in the Cair, or even the lumpy, poorly dressed mattress that I called my own while staying in Cambridge.
The thought of a bed brought to mind other things about home that I wished for more than almost anything at this moment. My older sister, for one. Susan, had always had this innate sense of calm that I had found, time and time again to be refreshing and steady. I wondered if Susan, always so fair and gentle of soul, would still wish to be here in Narnia instead of America if she knew what predicament Lucy and I had gone and landed ourselves in.
There was no doubt in my mind that Peter, true Nancy and High King that he was, would rather be in Narnia than anywhere else. The fact that Lucy and I were on a slave ship, about to be sold to Calormen lords by the end of tomorrow, would have only heightened his sense of being an older brother and High King.
If I was being completely truthful, there was no one and nothing I missed more than my brother at this moment, and indeed throughout this voyage thus far. He was my best friend, my king, and most importantly my brother. Being in Narnia without him felt almost wrong in some ways. There were things only someone you had fought side-to-side and back-to-back with could understand and appreciate, and if there was anyone who understood it would be Peter. My nightmares or my insecurities, no matter what it was, Peter could handle it. I could never count the number of times Peter had ended up crying on my shoulder, when the weight of his world became too much to handle, or his fears threatened to crush him. But in the same right, I could never count how many times I had crawled into his bed, a mind numbing, bone chilling cold penetrating my very being. My brother meant the world to me, and I was unsure how my being here in Narnia while he was stuck back in England truly made me feel. Missing half of my soul might be the most appropriate way to put it. It was a feeling I utterly detested, and it made the idea of him attending university so much more horrendous and dreadful.
I tried to refocus my thoughts on our currant situation. If I thought about Peter going to university for too long my breathing came shorter and I started to panic. I didn't like the thought of any of my siblings going to far from me, especially my brother. Oxford, his intended university, was more than an hour away from London, and even farther from Finchley. Whenever my brother was out of my sight for too long he tended to get himself into some kind of trouble, which usually involved being kidnaped, getting injured, or almost drowning. And he thought there was no reason for me to panic? Peter didn't have to deal with himself.
Something I found over the years was that time passes. Even when it seems impossible. It passes unevenly, in strange lurches and dragging lulls, but it does pass. This was not the most torturous of times I had sat through, each minute feeling like an age, but it was long enough to drive a less patient person insane with worry. I worried about Caspian, and for all our friends that did not know what trouble their monarchs had fallen into. Mostly though, my thoughts turned increasingly towards keeping Reepicheep, my cousin, and most importantly, my sister safe. I had seen the despicable practice of buying and selling human beings as though they were commodities several times throughout our reign in Narnia, and although Peter had outlawed such practices, it appeared such evils flourished easily.
The sliver of moonlight I could see told me that the first watch was drawing to a close and I held back a groan. I had given Reepicheep my word that I would wake him for the second watch of the night, but that meant I would have to sleep, and I knew I couldn't. I rarely slept when I was anxious or worried -in this case both- unless I was completely exhausted and drained. I had been sleeping very well on the Dawn Treader since our arrival. Surely one night of sleeplessness would do me no harm when I had gone many nights without it before? I let out a sigh. While I could argue logically about staying up, that still left Reepicheep. The mouse was not going to be happy with me if he awoke to sunshine instead of a starry sky. To force myself into sleep seemed a bad idea, but I had no longing to have Reepicheep angry at me in the morning. I need him on my side tomorrow, not annoyed at me.
I wondered what Peter would have done if he were in my place. While I could delude myself into thinking he would do the smart thing and sleep, I knew him far too well. My brother would stay awake during the night, allowing his subjects to rest. He had done it before. This conclusion did not help my dilemma, seeing as he was not here, and I was.
With a barely-contained growl I called for the mouse. "Reepicheep? Wake up."
The knight snapped awake, his paw going to his sword handle instantly. In spite of my bad mood I grinned. Peter and I still reached for our swords in England when we were woken up too quickly or someone surprised us from behind. Peter still held the record, much to his chagrin. From what he told me his dorm mates now dread waking him up in the morning. Funny, my mates say the same thing about me.
"First watch is up," I mumbled sullenly. The prospect of sleeping did not interest me in the least. Reepicheep nodded, leaving me to wallow in my bad mood. Smart mouse.
I closed my eyes and evened my breathing, putting everything from my mind. It was a trick Cheroom had taught me long ago, when my thoughts and feelings overwhelmed me. It had worked well for me in the past, when I lay awake at night, thoughts about laws, court proceedings, diplomatic ties, Susan and Lucy's suitors, and certain overly protective big brothers, continued to whirl around my head. Even now I felt it working. The rocking of the ship as it crashed against the waves, and the groans and creaks, slowly lulled me to sleep.
I dreamed of England and of memories long past.
I was in the dream, living it, instead of watching as if I was reading a book or observing a play.
Peter and I sat on his bed, in our room at the Professor's. We had put the girls to bed soon after dark, and I knew they would sleep long and hard until the next morning. He seemed so tired, and for once he was not crying, but suppressing his emotions to protect our sisters and me from what we had left behind. He had completely closed off in reaction to what he had lost, what all of us had lost when we stumbled out of the Wardrobe and back into the Professor's spare room. I held him, letting him bury his pain without judgement or condemnation in my gaze, running my fingers through his hair. He struggled to hold back tears as we heard Mrs. Macready walk past the room. In Narnia it had been normal to see tears in Peter's eyes, and no one had thought any less of their High King. Here in England was another matter entirely, as we were no longer kings, but children. They thought Peter was too old to cry here. They could not have been more wrong
I felt a stab of pain in my heart as he looked up, knowing what was coming. His voice cracked as he spoke.
"Everything we knew and loved is gone, Edmund. Nothing can ever be the same again. This isn't home."
I shook my head. True, Narnia was gone, as were our friends, our subjects, and our entire lives. But some things still remained the same, and I clung to that with stubborn, fierce determination. It was the only way the ache for everything we had left behind didn't swallow me whole, as it was doing to Peter now.
"That's not true, Peter. You know it's not." I was almost pleading with him, hoping against hope he would believe me. My brother shook his head sorrowfully, and my gaze hardened. I was not going to lose him again. I lifted his chin until anguished blue eyes met mine. My heart gave a painful squeeze at the pain I felt mirrored in his eyes before I locked it away. I would deal with my emotions later. Peter was first.
"Peter Michael George Pevensie, High King over all other kings in Narnia. Some things do not change no matter where we are. And if you don't believe me I'll prove it to you." I took a deep breath, preparing myself for the pain I knew would slam into me as soon as I uttered the words. "If I could, then I would, I'll go wherever you will go. Way up high, or down low I'll go wherever you will go. And maybe I'll find out, a way to make it back someday... Towards you, to guide you, through the darkest of your days."
It wasn't the most poetic as fealty oaths went, and I had sworn many to my brother throughout our years together. But something similar had been uttered in the reverse situation many, many years ago when I had been trying to bottle everything up. Peter had not allowed me to keep anything from him then, and I would not tolerate him to now.
Tears finally spilled over, as I pulled him to my chest. "Oh, Peter."
Bright sunlight hit me, and I hissed savagely as soon as I was awake enough to realize I did not want to be awake. Lucy smiled her sweetest smile, trying to make me feel even the smallest bit better. I was not a morning person by any means, and our current problem had not helped my mood. Eustace opened his mouth, to complain about how badly he slept I was sure, and I turned on him, a glare followed by a snarl of anger. He turned white and did not attempt speech again.
"All right now! We're taking you to the market, and I suggest you don't try a thing. Got it?"
I swung around to see one of the slavers motion to our group. They must have felt we either were the most dangerous, or would fetch the best price. The latter did not appeal to me in the slightest bit. A blast of salty, warm air hit me as I stepped onto the deck, and I caught sight of the island's port where nothing but uncertainty awaited us. It was a beautiful day, the sun was already bright over head, the colors of the sky, and water a bright, dazzling blue. It seemed as though the beauty of the day was mocking us.
They tied us in a similar fashion to yesterday, the rough weight of the ropes a sudden and unwelcome presence. I looked up at the sky in contemplation, as they took us off the boat. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw an albatross, flying low overhead. I dismissed the idea almost instantly. Albatrosses did not come this close to inhabited land.
As they herded us towards the market I winged my first prayer of the day to Aslan.
Aslan, stand between us and evil. Keep Lucy safe and please bring me back to Peter, or he'll kill me.