Prologue:

Eleven-year-old Lord Leinad Lanoir, normally a heavy sleeper, was tossing and turning in his bed. Contrary to what he had earlier told his grandmother, Leinad was nervous about leaving for the mainland in the morning. He was supposed to begin his first year at The Zenedac Academy for the Sons of the Nobility, the school attended by his late father and grandfather.

It was a soft whimpering outside the bedroom door that finally woke Leinad from his restless sleep. He got up to investigate and found his little cousin Lunabel sitting by his bedroom door, with her face buried in her hands.

"Lulu?"

Lulu didn't look up.

"Lulu, what's wrong?"

"I can't sleep, Naddy. I read a story about cannbibbles in my new book, and then I had a nightmare that they came after me and tried to drink my blood."

Leinad sighed. It had been a mistake for Grandfather to give her that book; just because Lulu was bright for her age didn't mean she had all of the emotional maturity to handle the scarier stories.

"Come on, Lulu, you can stay with me for a bit. I'll read you a nicer story."

Taking Lulu by the hand, he lead her into his room and put her on the bed.

"Now, Lulu," said Leinad, "which story do you want me to read?"

"The birfstone one, Naddy. But go right to the part with the aquamamine."

So Leinad began to read Lulu's favourite story, skipping the part where the multiple birthstones were described and going straight to the part that explained the alleged protective properties of aquamarine.

When the story was over, Leinad closed the book and saw that Lulu was crying again.

"What now, Lu? It had a happy ending."

"The story's not making me sad," Lulu snuffled, wiping her tears on the sleeve of her nightgown. "I'm sad because everyone leaves me. First Mama, then Papa, then Grandpapa, then Nanny, and now you too."

Leinad put his arm around Lulu's shoulder. "Your mama didn't want to leave you, Lulu, and neither did Grandfather. Grandfather just became sick, and so did your mama."

"But you're not sick, Naddy. Daddy wasn't sick, and Nanny wasn't sick. Nanny was just having a baby."

"That's right, and Nanny will be back when the baby is a year old. I'll be back too, in time to spend our birthdays together."

Lulu lifted her tear-stained face. "You won't forget?"

"Of course not. We have the same birthday."

"Oh, right."

Leinad kissed Lulu's forehead. "I'll always come back, Lulu. I promise."