Thurlford III, King of Pexate, became king after his nephew Thurlford II died young. As regent for the boy, he was well-positioned to take the throne, but Thurlford was also the last male-line descendant of Axtyn II. A tough, practical statesman and general, Thurlford was a capable ruler but his reign wound up becoming consumed by the question of succession.

Thurlford’s first wife, Mirh of Layyia, was the daughter of King Fraen IV and many hoped that their union would hep bring-about the long hoped-for union between the “warring brothers” of Pexate and Layyia. Mirh’s early death in childbirth dashed those hopes, and her child was sickly as well. He would have been Thurlford IV, had he lived, but the child suffered from hydrocephalus and died at the age of eight, though his surviving letters show that he was an intelligent lad and full of promise.

Lady Lyx was married to Thurlford when he became king, and was therefore Queen of Layyia. They had met on the occasion of one of Thurlford’s campaigns against the orcs in the deserts of Naix, and she was a member of the disinherited by still powerful House Diuaj. However, their union was a childless one, and rumors soon began to spread that her mother had actually been an elf, leaving Queen Lyx herself as a mule and infertile. Scholars remain divided about this, but there is no denying that she failed to produce an heir or even to become pregnant.

Thurlford appealed to the Sepulcher, asking that the marriage be dissolved, but the canon law of the time required both parties to agree to a divorce, and Lady Lyx refused to grant one. Thurlford resolved to sire an heir regardless, and began courting a variety of ladies both in Pexate’s capital of Simnel and in the baronies as well–it is said that the Annex at Castle Aiov was built to be his love-nest with the baron’s daughter.

However, the barons’ power had been growing, and they saw the opportunity to flex their muscles. The House of Owls resoundingly rejected King Thurlford’s petition to have an heir of illegitimate birth succeed him, and the House of Sparrows agreed. The sudden death of Queen Lyx broke the logjam, though the barons’ whispers that she had been poisoned by her husband gained wide currency.

Seeking to shore up his support, Thurlford’s third wife was Lady Zann of Brae. She was not a well-known beauty like Lyx, nor was she an adroit politician like Mirh, but she was the sister of Baron Uxbridge VII of Brae, a cousin of the king and one of the most powerful members of the House of Owls. Uxbridge had long been Thurlford’s “fixer,” dealing with problems arising around Pexate with his brand of personal diplomacy–he was renowned for his warm, friendly manner, personal honor, and fine speaking voice. Queen Zann therefore came with a powerful ally attached.

It seemed that Thurlford finally had what he wanted; Zann was pregnant within a year and the king’s first legitimate offspring, Prince Eyon, was born soon after. But within a year, both Zann and Thurlford would be dead, and Pexate would be spiraling into chaos.

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