The Pledging – Chapter 1: The Way You Wear Your Hat

The Pledging–====

Author’s Note: Welcome to the weddings of Eric Northman and Sookie Stackhouse. When I thought about these two and how this would happen, I was seriously tempted to just skip it. After all, how could this happen in a way that would mean something to them? And then I got a wild hair and decided, ‘Why not? These folks have connections and friends. Wouldn’t they pressure for their own idea of what the wedding should be? And what if our couple just couldn’t say no?

I wish to acknowledge my beta readers, Breathesgirl and Ms Buffy. They have both agreed to take this ride with me, and I couldn’t be happier or more grateful. I appreciate their help more than they know. If you notice the chapter titles, that is a Ms Buffy idea – using songs. I have selected three specific songs that exemplify how I see the tempo of each wedding. For the Pledging – it’s Cole Porters, “No, No They Can’t Take That Away From Me.” In case you want to hum along, I youtubed Ella Fitzgerald and Louie Armstrong’s version. It’s classic!

I also wish to thank Sephrenia, who made the wonderful banner for the piece. You see their wedding clothes (a fairy dress for her, a robe for him) and the official wedding portrait in the background. I am grateful she has come on board to give the work it’s ‘eyes.’

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author.  The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise.  No copyright infringement is intended.

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“Nothing like a wedding to bring the family together,” Pam grinned. Maude was due to arrive tomorrow during the day and tomorrow night Sookie would start preparing for the pledging ceremony that would be held at the Amun Summit in Indianapolis in just two weeks.

Sookie glanced across the room toward the closed door. She and Pam were standing together in the larger meeting room on the first floor of the palace in New Orleans. There was a smaller room off to the side that was generally used for guests to repair makeup or for staging photographs. Tonight it held Karin the Slaughterer. Thomas was with her. The tall, dark-haired Sheriff had become Karin’s shadow, demonstrating his willingness to defend her during her recovery. Karin was severely injured while carrying out an assignment. Her broken bones and caved chest had healed, but her arm was still regenerating. Sookie had seen it, a slim appendage still lacking a hand that was almost half an arm now. Sookie knew that Pam was donating blood to her sister, the tie between them making Karin’s recovery easier and faster, but only Karin’s Maker’s blood, Eric’s blood, would really accelerate Karin’s healing.

And that was the problem. Eric Northman disowned Karin. In truth, Karin deserved it. She was entirely too protective of Eric, too possessive, and because of that had deliberately placed Sookie Stackhouse in harm’s way. Had Karin succeeded, Sookie would have been claimed by another vampire, and the fallout would have been catastrophic, not only for Eric and Sookie personally, but for the Amun Clan as a whole. Karin fled to Europe ahead of her disgrace, nesting with a vampire who was a known confederate of their enemy, Felipe de Castro, and taking work as an assassin for hire.

It didn’t take long for Karin to repent of her actions, but it was too late. Eric Northman declared her disloyal, a pronouncement that meant she no longer had status in their world. While it didn’t keep other vampires from hiring her, it did mean that she could not be officially invited to any court, Summit or vampire function. On her worst days, Karin blamed her loss of status on Horst’s eventual defection. On her best days, she acknowledged that Horst had never truly been hers.

Together Karin and Horst killed Sam Merlotte at the last Amun Summit. It was not a planned execution and subsequently leaving the country seemed like a good idea. Sam had been passing himself off as a mixed martial arts fighter and promoter, his transition aided by a new face, but that hadn’t stopped him from trying to trap and hurt Sookie. Karin knew it was her own guilt that fueled her decision to end Sam. For Horst, it was his desire to salvage his reputation with Felipe de Castro. Together, Karin and Horst headed for Europe, jumping from country to country, fucking and feeding with abandon. Karin told herself that the flame their mutual kill ignited was real, but now, in retrospect, she had to accept that she was a convenient choice and not someone Horst truly desired. In the end, the only one Horst ever truly desired was Horst.

When Karin was hired by Lydia to kill the vampire who assassinated Robert of California, she knew she would find Horst at the end of the road. It wasn’t the first time Karin had ended someone with whom she had been intimate, but it was the hardest kill she ever made. Horst knew and he used the affection she harbored for him to distract her. He begged her forgiveness and promised his love. He claimed it was his own confusion over how strong his feelings were for her that drove him away. She felt a wavering and, in that moment, he struck with the axe he held hidden. Karin moved in time to save herself from the blow that would have cleaved her head in half, but the axe struck her anyway, shattering her shoulder and slicing her arm from her body. She fell to the ground and he stood over her, a smile on his face as he stomped the injured side of her chest, driving ribs into her dead organs, but that had been his mistake.

Horst wished to savor the moment. He wanted to see her realization of how little he cared for her. He held her eyes, so he didn’t see the silver knife she used to first to hamstring him and then to cut through his throat. He dropped the axe and Karin picked it up. She still didn’t remember much about it, except that when she returned to herself she had chipped the blade beyond usefulness, slamming it through the sludge that was all that was left of Horst. She dropped the handle from her one useful hand and made her way to a dark place. She lingered there for some time before she could bring herself to retrieve Horst’s wallet and start the process that would bring her back to Connecticut where she would report to Lydia and collect her fee.

It was still a wonder to Karin that she continued to exist at all, a pathetic, draining kind of wonder. When Sookie came to Sanctum it was almost as if Karin could hear the voice of fate that said, ‘All is as it should be.’ Karin handed Sookie the money Horst had left her and wondered if she had the strength to finally end herself. Finding the envelope waiting for her, that neat list of assets so meticulously totted up and signed over, had been a knife twisting some part of her. ‘I am truly nothing, now,’ she had thought to herself, ‘A vessel whose time is done.’

Then Thomas arrived. He refused to allow her to hide in the darkness. He wrestled her clothes from her and threw her in the shower. He man-handled her, re-breaking bones and putting things straight. He scolded her and jeered at her own lack of care for herself. When she struck out at him, he struck back. Then he did the one thing that broke through all Karin’s walls of self-pity and self-loathing. He had held her down and forced his blood into her. When he was sure she could feel him, he ignored her taunts and her insults. He absorbed her blows and he made love to her with everything he was. He forced her to feel his affection and his desire. He kissed her disfigured body and refused to allow her to feel bad about any of it. As he entered her, his eyes holding hers, murmuring to her that she was his life, all her defenses broke and she wept in his arms, leaving red streaks that colored their bodies and the bed linens.

As dawn approached, he told her she was coming back with him to Arkansas. He was taking her to the northern part of the state to the place that was his holding as Pam’s Sheriff. They would stay there until they decided where to head next. He had already talked with Isaiah and they would have a place in Tennessee if they wished. Thomas’ former position was already filled, but a quieter life might suit them both better. Thomas lifted her, placing her in her coffin, and wrapped himself carefully around her.

“Where’s yours?” she asked him.

“I’m there,” he laughed and they had jostled each other, shifting in the too small space until they found a way they could get the cover safely latched.

The house in Fayetteville, Arkansas was not what Karin expected. Wood and mostly one level, it was set on a large, park-like lot surrounded by trees. The rooms were a series of angles reaching to cathedral ceilings, and light-tight glass leading out to high decks. “There is a lot of wildlife here,” Thomas said dryly that first night, his arms wrapped around her as they looked out into the night, “Not like we’ll see it.” Animals instinctively knew that vampires were apex predators and they avoided them when possible. The first time Thomas had been here he had seen deer and even a bear. Now that he and Karin were taking up residence, they were unlikely to see anything at all, aside from the birds in the trees. Their nights were quiet. There were fires and books. Thomas ran into town and came back with a gaming system and a few disks. They had no cable and the internet service was spotty. They would need a day person to arrange permanent hook-up of services, and Thomas would not hire one until they decided where they would call home.

Pam came the third night. They didn’t talk about the future. Instead they joked about things they had seen and pranks they had played. Pam insisted on giving Karin her own blood and refused to take no for an answer. Thomas almost offered Pam the comfort of their bed, but sensed that Karin was embarrassed by her current state. He held back and Karin thanked him later, confirming she would not have been comfortable sharing him with her more complete sister.

“How can you doubt your beauty?” he asked her.

“You have terrible taste,” Karin huffed in return. “You don’t know. In terms of sisters, you got stuck with the short end of the stick.”

No sooner had the words left her mouth than Thomas launched himself at her, “I am not wrong!” he growled. “You insult me, and you insult all I hold dear. I have waited for you to come to your senses, to get this wild adventuring out of your system, but I can see I have left you to your own devices too long. You have started to believe your own foolishness. So, no more! I will not leave you nor will I allow you to continue to throw yourself away.”
“You are not my keeper!” Karin growled back, baring her fangs.

“No, I am not,” Thomas growled back, “I am the one who loves you, Karin the Slaughterer. Deal with it!”

Karin was angry and then she was not. He was totally sincere and somehow she hadn’t really seen it coming. She looked at him, the tart words forming on her lips, and in a moment, everything changed. It was as if she suddenly saw him for the first time. One minute he was her friend and playmate and in the next, he transformed into her lover. “How?” she asked.

“I have been here all along,” he answered. Thomas opened his arms, and Karin stepped within them, home at last.

In the end, Pam insisted they stay in Arkansas. “If I had my way, I would ask you to be my Second,” she told Thomas. “Max and I have plans to expand Fangtasia into catering and event planning. Of course, I’ll continue to support Eric, but energy production? How do you plan a wardrobe around that?” Pam waved her perfectly manicured fingers, demonstrating her best model catwalk. “Not to say I disapprove of sweaty men in tool belts, but it loses its appeal rather quickly.”

“Eric would never accept Thomas as your Second, not as long as he’s with me,” Karin turned her newly-opened eyes toward her mate, but before she could say anything further, Thomas spoke up.

“It sounds as though King Northman does not object to our being here. If I were to set up adequate communications, we could provide plenty of support to the kingdom remotely. Jane is in the southern part of the state and she is savvy. I have no problem supporting her.”

Pam shrugged, “Jane won’t be there much longer. She has asked for her freedom. She intends to attach herself to Dr. Ludwig building a research facility in this part of the country. She developed a proposal and once the wind farms are up and operating, Eric has given his full support to the new venture. So,” and Pam looked at both of them with a wry smile, “I find myself in need of help… again.”

The next two nights they talked further. Registry donors, mostly pulled from the local university, presented themselves. Pam ran into town and purchased a card game some humans had mentioned. “Cards Against Humanity is a promising title,” Thomas laughed. In the end they abandoned it. Some of the statements were funny, but most referred to persons or things they needed to Google to understand, and that made it too much of a teaching game to be fun anymore. There was an awkward moment, and then Thomas stood and walked to the piano, “Forfeits it is,” he exclaimed. Pam laughed and clapped her hands. This was a game she and her human family had played when she was a little girl. Karin smiled indulgently and Thomas started.

He played a song, then he stood, and Pam took his place. She had to play a variation that was acceptable to the other two. She did it passably well and it was Karin’s turn. Karin stared at the keys, and then Pam moved over. The vampire sisters sat side by side, each playing with one hand to make a whole. Sometimes the play was classical in its execution. Thomas performed a variation in ragtime. Karin’s turn came again and she laid down a strong blues line that Pam augmented. Pam then took over by herself and played something almost child-like. It was Thomas that was finally stumped and the two women laughed as they devised his forfeit. He rather good naturedly took off for town without funds, charged with bringing back a bouquet of flowers for them. It was a silly forfeit and they cautioned him about cheating. As he was leaving he gathered Karin into his arms and kissed her in a way that left no doubt that his intentions were not playful. Although Pam was standing within hearing he stroked Karin’s cheek, “I love you, Scary Creature,” he told her, and then he turned and ran so quickly he looked like a blur.

When Karin turned, it was to see Pam’s arched eyebrow, “So, that’s all settled, then?” she asked.

“It is,” Karin answered. She could still hear the note of wonder in her voice. “It really is,” she said again in a more definite tone.

“You know Eric. He denies his Princess nothing,” Pam said out loud. “I understand Sookie wants you reconciled before the pledging.”

Karin shook her head, “What I did was unforgivable, Pam. Most Makers would have killed their offspring for the shit I pulled. He won’t forgive me, and he shouldn’t.”

“So you won’t even try?” Pam asked. Then she walked closer to Karin, so close she was almost nose to nose, “Not even for your Scary Creature?”

Karin’s eyes rolled, “I don’t know why he calls me that.”

“It’s adorable,” Pam snarked.

“It’s gag-worthy,” Karin retorted.

“So, tell him to shut the fuck up,” Pam pursed her lips, “Tell him he’s being stupid and you are no animal. Declare yourself!”

Karin looked at her for one long minute, “All right, you have me. I won’t chance hurting his feelings. He could call me pond scum and I’d sit back and smile like a drooling idiot. I am just that done!”

Pam’s look became serious, “Then you owe him this. He has the makings of a great Second, maybe even a King someday. Do what you need to do to let him have that chance. Crawl on your belly. Beg, but get yourself reinstated with Daddy.”

When Karin nodded, Pam called Sookie. There was something that still rankled about being beholden to the telepath for anything associated with Eric, but then Karin thought of Thomas. She thought of his long-fingered, clever hands. She thought of his sardonic smile and his slightly superior way of speaking. She thought of the way he pushed her in bed, their play just this side of rough, and the way he could still surprise her into begging when the time was right. It surprised her, and bothered her just a little that while she valued control in her public life, she appreciated having that same control taken from her when it came to sex. Karin agreed to everything suggested. When Thomas returned, she told him she would be accompanying Pam back to New Orleans in two days’ time. She begged him to stay in Lafayetteville, but Thomas just grinned.

Now, here they were. Thomas was almost embarrassing in the care he took with her. He made certain that her appearance was unremarkable, draping her in cloaks and coats so her lack was not apparent. He physically placed himself between her and any other vampire, including Thalia. It was Sookie who intervened, escorting them to the room where they now awaited the King.

“You can put those fangs right up!” Sookie told Thalia. Had it been different circumstances, Karin would have laughed. There was the telepath, her hair swept up in some kind of messy bun on her head, her hands on her hips and her lip jutted out. Thalia’s eyes narrowed and she was hissing in full display. The two of them stood in the hallway in a classic stand-off, but it was Sookie who won. “Eric knows she’s coming, and she’s here at my invitation. I don’t expect you to be happy about it, but there it is!”

Thalia’s eyes had narrowed further, “It,” and Thalia gestured toward Karin, “is not to go beyond the first floor, Mistress,” she warned.

“I understand,” Sookie said, “and I will follow the rules until Eric says otherwise.” Thalia retracted her fangs and posted extra guards at the door to the meeting room. Thomas nodded once to Sookie and then steered Karin into the room, as agreed.

It was another fifteen minutes before Eric Northman walked into the room. He took in the sight of both his Intended and Pam. His eyes swept to where he knew Karin waited. “It is so important to you?” he asked again. Retracting his statement wouldn’t make him look weak, but it was bad policy.

“She saved my life, Eric,” Sookie reminded him, “and she paid restitution for the offense.” Sookie phrased it exactly as she’d been coached by Mr. Cataliades. She sensed that this was something that was delicate and needed to be handled in a particular way. Out of the corner of her eye she could see one of the Weres nodding and she could hear general approval for her words from all of the guards.

“Thomas declared for her. He is loyal and has proven his worth. I need him for Arkansas. We need him for the good of the kingdom. Together they are assets to us,” Pam bowed. “I ask this of you as a boon.” By saying this, she was telling Eric, and everyone who listened, that she was offering a favor in return. She didn’t really have to say it, and it was of middling importance anyway. She was the Viking’s child and he could just order her to do anything he wished. By offering it as a boon, she was saying she would provide her full consent to a thing he asked of her, and that was a considerable concession.

Eric gave them both one long, last look and then stepped forward. He first kissed Pam’s forehead, “I’ll think of something particularly pleasant,” he smiled. Pam was sure that what he came up with would not be pleasant and would probably involve some form of public humiliation.. “And as for you,” and he wrapped his arms around Sookie, “I have some interesting ideas that we could explore together that might start to repay me for this moment of weakness.”

Sookie pulled his head down and kissed his cheek before whispering, “I am not hanging a swing in that room, perv!” Eric pulled back and tapped her lips with his finger and then he turned and walked to the room that held his disgraced child.

The first thing Eric saw was Thomas. The Sheriff stood directly in front of Karin, and although he bowed, his stance made clear that if Eric intended to harm his child he would need to kill Thomas first. “How’s your chess game?” Eric asked conversationally.

“Rusty,” his Sheriff replied.

“We should fix that while you’re here,” Eric said pleasantly. He looked over his Sheriff’s shoulder, “Karin, how are you faring?” Eric brought his eyes back to Thomas and the Sheriff took a slight step to the right. Eric noticed Thomas’ hands remained balled and his posture was tense.

“I’m improving,” Karin answered. Eric stayed where he was and make a conscious effort to remain loose. He couldn’t keep his eyes from flaring. She was pale. She made no effort to hide the mostly empty sleeve that dangled from her side. “Thank you for seeing me,” she continued.

Eric gestured with his hand, “Do you mind if I sit?” he asked. It was silly, really. The palace was his and he could sit anywhere he chose, but under the circumstances it seemed best to broadcast his intentions.

“Yes, thank you,” Karin consented. Once Eric was seated, Thomas shifted to stand on Karin’s damaged side. He was looking at her and Eric could feel the Sheriff’s concern through the tendril of bond he allowed between himself and Karin.

So, Pam is right,’ he thought, ‘This is more than an interest.’ In some ways that changed how Eric saw the situation. He knew Thomas to be honorable and nobody’s fool. If Thomas accepted her it said that there was something to her character that was redeemable. “You have asked me to reconsider your status,” Eric jumped to the heart of the matter. “Both Sookie and Pam speak for you. They feel that you have changed. Is that so, Karin?”

“I understand what I did was wrong,” Karin nodded, her eyes down. “I regret my actions.” She lifted her eyes to Eric. “I never wished to hurt you, my Maker. It was the last thing I wished to do. All I can say is I was trying to do the right thing, but I went about it all wrong.”

Eric nodded. He turned to Thomas, “Pam tells me she wishes you as her Second. She would move you to Little Rock. Is this something you are willing to do?”

Thomas nodded, “I consider it an honor to serve you and the Regent,” he said and then he bowed, but as he did, he moved his hand to sit on Karin’s shoulder. He straightened and said, “I would consider myself fortunate to be offered such a situation, but if I were not able to have Karin at my side, I would decline.”

Karin kept her eyes on Eric, but the Viking could see her lips tighten. “And what about you, Karin the Slaughterer?” Eric allowed a bit of a growl to crawl into his voice. “Would you likewise tie your fortune? Or would you rather have your freedom to roam, your status restored?”

Now it was Thomas’ turn to still, but Karin did not hesitate, “My place is beside him,” she said simply.

Eric stood. He nodded and then held Thomas’ eyes as he stepped forward. He held out his hand to Karin. He pulled her to her feet, opening his arms to her. When she stepped into his embrace, he told her. “You are restored, daughter,” and then he leaned down and kissed her forehead.

Eric turned, Karin within the circle of his arm, “Come, daughter. We will settle you upstairs and I will arrange to provide you blood. With any luck you will be restored within a few weeks. Does it pain you?” Eric knew that regrowing appendages was a painful business. He remembered the odd pins and needles feeling he had. The aches and pains never seemed to end.

“It is tolerable,” Karin whispered to him. As they walked through the door and toward Pam and Sookie, Eric re-opened the bond. Karin staggered for a minute, but the Viking had her. She turned her face toward him, her eyes rimmed with red.

“Pam? Sookie?” Eric looked into Karin’s face and smiled, “You remember your sister, Karin?”

And the time of the exile was over.

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34 thoughts on “The Pledging – Chapter 1: The Way You Wear Your Hat

  1. Such a lovely reconciliation, not just restored to her family, but finally finding someone who loves her completely. I’m looking forward to the wedding(s)..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you! It seemed a good way to get things rolling – new starts, new beginnings… after all – ‘something new’ right? What can I say? Very excited about the piece. As always, wonderful to hear from you.

    Like

  3. Sniff, where are my damn tissues?
    That was beautiful. I’m so glad Eric didn’t remain stubborn to his original stance! I think Thomas and Karin will be a wonderful addition to his court.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m pleased for Karin, but more so for Eric. At least he hasn’t lost face in the eyes of his community and displays his fairness and loyalty.
    Love Sookie and Thalia’s relationship. Can’t imagine who else would engaged either of them in a battle of wills. At least they have each other to tell it how it is.
    Looking forward to the pledging.
    Blessings

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think I’ve said before that in many ways the character of Thalia is a surrogate mother to Eric- a mother who teaches lessons the hard way!! Not surprising that she and Sookie understand each other.

      Like

  5. Great beginning!! It’s good that Karin has realized what Thomas means to her and that she has his unconditional support. The reconciliation is also most welcome. The family is now complete, and I think that will be best for everyone. Though he might not admit it, I’m sure Eric missed his oldest daughter and is glad that she is back.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It is better having everyone back on the same page! Eric needs her, and in the days ahead they will be a part of his future success.
    But that is then. As for now, things move ahead to their logical conclusions, and it’s a little pool of happiness for our couple!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a great way to start what will be a time a happiness and celebration! Eric will have both of his children with him for the weddings (well, maybe not the Faery one), and family should be together then! Excellent beginning!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the irony, and wonder if Eric &/or Sookie sees it Most of the money from Horst most likely came from de Castro in the first place :D. So…a deposed ruler is STILL paying for the territory he lost and has absolutely no say in how that money will be used :D.
    I’m gearing up for a few weeks of harmony/shit’s gonna happy whether we want it to or not *sigh*.
    Great start, as always :D.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Yeah, he’s pretty much head over heels when it comes to her! As for Thalia – Sookie never had the sense to be afraid of much and that includes Thalia. Probably part of what the vampire likes about her!

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    1. It was a bit of a journey. Many readers felt that after what she did Eric and Sookie should never trust her again. Happy to see that most feel as you do, that she earned her second chance. Thanks for reading!

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    1. There will be 10 chapters for this section, and I’m planning 10 chapters for each of the next two sections that will make up the Wedding series.
      Hope folks aren’t too disappointed by the pledging… let’s face it… how sexy can robes, a knife and an ancient crone get? Oh, and signing a contract – can’t forget signing that contract!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m sniffling over here, too! So sweet, Karin’s reunion with Eric!

    I also love Sookie’s relationship with Thalia; it is a perfectly orchestrated dance between a mother and daughter in-law. You lovingly give us important disagreement, conflict resolution (which pleases me to see Sookie learning!), respect, and hold-no-prisoners sass (albeit, not one of us thought either wom). This is no Marie Barone vs Debra Barone. Those two were incredibly icky in my opinion: no respect for themselves, their families’ needs or wants, nor each other. Then again—Ray was no prize either, always pitting his mother against his wife and vice versa!

    It will be sad to see Thomas leave the NoLa Court, but he will make a great Second to Pam. I just hope Thierry is able to stay out of trouble without his friend around to keep him grounded.

    Overall, a great opening for this new phase. Loved it, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was no fan of I Love Raymond either. Of course I believe the point was that men marry their mothers. I suppose in that my Eric is no different. Whether his human mother or Thalia he seems to have a type. Good eye!
      As for Thomas, he seems like an organizer and multi-tasker. He has already told Sookie that he (and Thierry) need to be busy. I wouldn’t worry.

      Liked by 1 person

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