This story has no connection to any of my others, but I thought I'd have a little fun at Thorin's expense with all these efforts I read of people trying to set him up. Of course, I wrote my own story about him falling in love, so I guess this is at my expense as well! This is a little short, but more will come if enough people are interested. I still have to finish two other stories that are out there!


Prologue

Thorin scanned the document and read and reread each paragraph with narrowed eyes, desperately searching for a loophole that would let him escape a fate he thought worse than torture and death. He had been searching for a way out late into the night or early into the morning, depending on one's point of view. Light from the fire illuminated his drawn and tired face while the flames reflected on the polished granite walls, making it seem like he was surrounded by an inescapable fire. Perhaps he was.

"There must be a way," he muttered while tracing his finger down the long scroll. Then he grabbed for another. His huge, mahogany desk was littered with them.

"It's no use, laddie," Balin said as he stood by the black, granite fireplace. The flames crackled happily, at odds with the gloomy mood of the room's occupants. "It's ironclad. You must wed while you're still able to, uh, beget an heir."

Thorin looked up and tossed his head.

"No one took issue with Fili and Kili being my heirs before we retook Erebor," he retorted angrily, flicking his fingers against the parchment, "and the council knew that my grandfather wasn't in his right mind when he wrote this. Look at his handwriting!"

Balin nodded but shrugged helplessly. "I know, but Thror was still king, and it is still the law. It's bad luck that they found the scroll in the archives, but now it stands that if you don't choose a bride before Durin's Day, the council will choose one for you." He gave Thorin a look.

"And you know who that will be."

Thorin's mouth pulled to one side in disgust. Onkra, daughter of Dain, Lord of the Iron Hills, was a ferociously ugly and ill-mannered dwarrowdam who had all the benefits of nobility and none of its graces. Thorin called her "the oinker" in private.

"But cheer up, laddie," Balin started, determined to look on the less dire side, "you might find someone to bump along with well enough or even find someone you can like. You never know."

Thorin thought rapidly through the candidates, most of whom he already knew—at least by reputation—and he scoffed while pinching the bridge of his nose.

"Let's see," he began sarcastically, "I can choose to bed one of several children, a number of fortune hunters, or a gaggle of brainless nitwits. Of all the roughly 20 who qualify, I don't know of any I can respect or even tolerate."

Balin sighed. The pickings were slim for dwarrowdams in any case and even scarcer for those of the nobility.

"So let me understand clearly," Thorin said finally. "All I have to do is bed my wife and provide an heir and then I never have to deal with her again?"

Balin nodded. "Aye, that about sums it up excepting for royal appearances, but you don't have to talk to her."

Thorin ran his hands through his graying hair.

"Very well then, Balin," he said, "send for all who qualify and prepare to play host for the next month."

Balin bowed and left to make preparations, and the king of Erebor sagged back in his chair.

"May Mahal have mercy on me."