The afternoon sun's rays beat onto the back of Thyst's pale neck as she stood, panting, in the meadow. She'd piled her lilac hair on top of her head long ago.
"Again!" Thyst's mother, Apphi, shouted. The young nymph groaned and lifted her arms back up from her sides, thrusting her hands forward and chanting several words in the ancient tongue. A thin wisp of faded lavender slipped from her fingertips. It crawled through the air, making it halfway to the wooden target before dissipating before their eyes. Thyst let herself flop down onto her rear in the tall grass, resting her elbows on her knees and covering her face.
"Mother, it's no use!" she said through her fingers. "Nothing happens. I've practiced my movements. I've practiced the chants. It's been seven years! My marks are still dull."
It was common for young nymphs to form their marks soon after reaching puberty. Thin, glowing lines that trailed around their faces, shoulders, arms, stomachs, and thighs. After the initial "Appearance," as her people called it, a nymph's magic would begin to grow in strength and force. The more powerful a nymph's magic became, the brighter their marks would glow. Typically, by the time a young nymph reached the age of sixteen, she would be able to produce a decent amount of magic using the chants. However, despite the fact Thyst's marks had appeared early, her magic never seemed to develop.
Apphi stepped over and rested a hand on her daughter's shoulder.
"I know it seems hopeless, my love, but your magic will grow. I'm sure of it. You are my daughter, after all." She released Thyst and began crossing the meadow in the direction of their large cottage. "I am going to bake some bread for dinner. You should try to continue your training. Regardless of how your marks glow, there is no harm in practicing your movement and chant."
Once she'd disappeared in the doorway, Thyst ripped a blade of grass and rolled it between her thumb and index finger. Truthfully, she had no desire to see her magic become more powerful. If that happened, her mother and the others would expect her to start taking part in the annual rituals. Thyst wanted no part in those. The screams. The blood. The singing. It overwhelmed her. She only wanted her mother to stop forcing her to train so much. It seemed that Apphi thought she could work the magic into her core. From dawn to the afternoon, she would put Thyst through rigorous trials. Target practice, memorizing the chants, repetitively reenacting each of the sacred movements. The young nymph knew them all backwards, forwards, and with her eyes closed. She wished her mother would just come to terms with the fact that she would probably never bright marks.
As darkness fell over the meadow, Thyst trudged through the front door of her cottage. Apphi sat near the cook-fire, mending Thyst's torn, cerulean dress.
"You should wear this to view the annual ritual in the morning. The color suits your skin," she said, not looking up from the needle.
Thyst stopped in the doorway to her room.
"Won't it get dirty?"
Her mother looked up at her this time, holding the needle in her teeth as she cut the excess thread with a pair of small shears.
"Nonsense, my love. You'll wear an apron."
Thyst grimaced, sliding into her bedroom, and closing the door behind her. She quietly locked the latch into place. She took a moment to survey the room around her. Her eyes landed on her satchel, draped over the door of her wardrobe. It could hold enough food and water for a few days journey at least. She could forage for more food, find a stream, once she was in the forest. In Beyond. She took a few steps from the door and paced the floor at the foot of her bed. She would have to wait for her mother to fall asleep, and she would have to be silent. Once she reached the treeline of Beyond, she couldn't hesitate. Hesitation could slow her down enough that the others may realize she's gone. May catch up to her. No, she'd have to plunge herself right in. Apphi had always told her that Beyond was enchanted, and nymph magic doesn't work there. If she could just get within the borders, they wouldn't be able to track her. She could get away. She could get to the other side. She could see what else the realm had to offer her. Something other than annual rituals and magic training. Something more for a nymph who's marks were dull.