1. End of The Innocence

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Of more significance, at least to Venus, the boots represented change. She could hardly wait. Venus was sick of looking like every other kelarian under the age of sixteen. White hair, silver eyes and metallic white skin. When she completed her metamorphosis into a kelvieri, her physical features would transform as well. No more same, same, same.

"Hey doof! You weren't supposed to leave. What will the guests think of their perfect princess? So un-queenly of you." Amberlee had entered Venus's bedroom without permission. The brat!

"Yeah, well I'm not the queen yet. What do you want?" Venus studied her little sister, annoyed at how much they looked alike.

Today, Amberlee had spiked her short hair. Around her white lashes, she wore thick, black eyeliner, which made her skin pasty. On her right cheek a star had been drawn and she'd chosen a short, black coverlette. She reminded Venus of a beautiful but bad-mannered banshee.

"I brought you a present."

"You did?" Venus worked hard to hide the surprise from showing on her face. Normally, the only things Bratterlee gave her were bruises and scratches.

Amberlee reached into her pocket and held up a necklace. Silver in color, its chain hung fine and thin. From the center dangled a gleaming black irrihunter charm.

"It's beautiful." Venus bent forward to get a closer look. Worry twisted within her, like a tornado. What's wrong with it? Immediately after that thought, came another. She's trying to be nice. Still, Venus wasn't sure. With a careful hand, she touched it. The charm radiated warmth.

"It won't bite. Cret, sis! Don't be so dramatic. It's no secret you have a thing for the animals. You fly one every day. Besides, you only turn sixteen once. Here, take it."  Amberlee flung it into her outstretched hand. She'd sounded harsh, but a touch of rosy orange spread over her sister's cheeks.

Without thinking, Venus hugged her. "Thank you."

Amberlee pushed Venus away. "Back the helker up. Now's not the time to start getting mushy." 

She sat back, the words like a slap in the face.

It wasn't that Venus couldn't show emotion. She could, if she tried, but feelings weren't necessary. Encouraged? Sure. She found the whole concept to be a waste of time. As the one day queen, those around her had groomed her to be concerned for the majority. If she let sentiment rule, she wouldn't be able to make the big decisions for the good of the kingdom. She had to care for everyone, not anyone. Amberlee hadn't been taught to understand. She didn't need to.

 "Will you put it on?" Venus asked, holding the necklace out.

"Okaaaay." Amberlee took it from her hands.

Venus stood and turned, pulling her long hair out of the way. When Amberlee swung the chain around her neck her sleeve tugged up. About halfway up Amberlee's inner forearm was a black tattoo. The skin looked irritated, as though she'd recently had it done. 

Resisting the urge to comment, Venus studied it, the circular shapes, like a sun and a half-moon. Or an eye . . . the pupil contained a strange symbol. Venus knew some of the younger kels inked up their skin before becoming kelvieri, as a way of expressing themselves. After the change, the art would disappear anyway. But she hadn't expected to see one on her sister.

"What does your ink mean?" she finally asked when Amberlee stepped away.

A look of horror crossed her face. "Oh! None of your business. Some friends and I got it done together." She yanked her sleeve over the symbol and cleared her throat. With a trembling smile, she pleaded, "You won't tell Mom?"

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