A rabbit scrambled away to safety before it could get trampled. The rumble wasn't the sound of a stampede, but it was definitely much larger than a rabbit. A human rushed past, almost tripping over itself. So ungraceful. The rabbit looked behind the human and instantly decided to follow suit. Above the treeline were three flying monstrosities. They had no feathers or fur; scales covered them from head to tail. Instead of legs, the beasts possessed serpentine bodies. They directed each other via hand signals to try to flank the human. The two on the side broke off, and the middle one gave a bloodcurdling scream. The rabbit found a small hole to hide in as the three monsters flew over him.

The girl wasn't so lucky. Her heart pounded faster after hearing one of the gorgons scream. It chilled her to the bone. The legends of one look turning a person to stone were false, but who needed magic like that when you could produce a scream that could paralyze prey in fear? Tears were welling up. She didn't want to wipe them as it might blind her to more tree roots. She'd fallen once already and managed to escape by the skin of her teeth. She didn't feel lucky enough to tempt fate once more.

But fate was being kind this time around. The trees were getting thicker and the forest denser. It meant her speed was doomed to falter, but it also meant the gorgons had to land into the trees or in a clearing before th-

Wait. Only one of them screamed. What about the others?!

She slowed down and used a tree as support to keep herself from falling. Then, she turned perpendicular to her original trajectory and started running again. She quickly found herself face to face with one of the gorgons trying to flank her.

The gorgon screamed like her sister had.

At this close proximity, the effect of the scream kept the girl from moving . Her mind was blank, and she could only think about the ugly visage before her. The gorgon (this one was called "Ereina") had the classic snake-like hair. Not real snakes, but the individual strands were thick and seemed to be muscular tissue. They wiggled with a life of their own and contorted with Ereina's motions. Even though the scream had subsided, the girl was paralyzed by Ereina's gaze. The whites of her eyes were black, and the irises were blood red. Ereina's wings were closed, hidden behind her torso, and while she could effortlessly cross the rugged terrain, her slithering was by no means quick.

"Gotta move," she whispered to herself.

"You!" hissed Ereina, "will NOT...go anywherreee."

"MOVE!" she cried.

Ereina let out another scream, but the girl had managed to avert her gaze and cover her ears. She began to move and managed to avoid tripping over the rough landscape through sheer willpower.

"Bavra! She heads towards you!" Ereina screamed.

The girl looked to her left and saw Bavra crashing through the branches. The most reckless of the three had simply dived for the girl without accounting for the branches tangling in her wings. Her arm extended, reaching for the girl through the matted knot of branches, but she yelled in frustration as the girl slipped from her grasp.

"Keep moving. Just...I don't know if I can...keep this up. I've...got to."

Ereina would probably help Bavra get untangled. She was the most thoughtful of the three. That meant there was only Nymph to contend with. Perhaps Nymph would land just so she could berate her sisters for messing up so badly. She was the most heartless of the three, afterall. As if to confirm her suspicion, she heard the same bloodcurdling scream that Nymph had given, but this time it was much more faint. The girl slowed down and got her bearings. She couldn't keep this up much longer. She needed to lose them. Now.

The gorgons weren't tracking her scent like animals but by vision and sound. Now that she had slowed down, they would most likely be trying to take advantage of her flagging stamina. Once a person slowed down or even stopped, it was infinitely harder to get back and moving. What could she do? Magic. She grabbed her wand from her pocket. Despite tumbling around in the woods with several rocks dotting the sloped terrain, it had somehow remained intact. She didn't know any combat magic, no invisibility, no silencing spells...What about mirror images? Would that work? She had played with making mirror images at home, but did they make the same sound? Did they make any sound? They were just illusions. If they made no sound, she would have wasted her energy on nothing. A slightly closer scream gave her the ultimatum.

She held out her wand and mentally recited her self-devised mantra. Three mirror-images appeared out of thin air. They looked exactly like her: same blonde hair, same complexion marred by dirt and scrapes, same tunic also marred by dirt and scrapes, same worried expression. She asked one to snap its fingers, and it obliged. Sound formed. She thanked the heavens, and the three split up. Two illusions when to her left and one to her right. That was part one of her plan. In that small respite, she had managed to remember that there was a train refueling station about half a mile from the edge of the forest. Surely she was close to the edge? The trees were beginning to thin again. That boded well.

Several minutes passed by before one of the gorgon sisters screamed. It was well off in the distance. And then a second one, this one slightly closer. The girl could feel her illusions being forcibly destroyed. It pained her, like a bully smashing your toy. The train station was visible. She said a prayer to herself before the final push. The trees were now thin enough that she could see the sky clearly. That meant she needed to double time it; if she could see the sky, any gorgon flying as quick as an eagle could see her. She was only about two-hundred yards from the station when the third scream paralyzed her.

After a few seconds, she opened her eyes and realized that the scream had been further away from the previous two. Her plan had worked, but now she needed to make it to the train. She raced as fast as her legs could take her and then some.

The station was simple. It only existed as a refueling stop on the train's way from Selema, the largest trade city in the realm, to some place. Any place. She didn't care. It just needed to be away from here and leave before the gorgons followed her. They could fly fast but not as fast as a steam locomotive. She then heard a collection of three screams in the distance, altogether about as far as the last one. She...she had done it. They weren't going to be following her. They hadn't registered a fourth set of running and had gone after the three illusions by chance. Now they couldn't hear where she was. Did they know a train station was nearby? Probably not. They were recluses who had been hiding out in the rocky caves for decades.

She walked up to the train. There were a few postmen packing new mail in the bag on the side of the train, and some men carrying coal were shuffling towards the front of the engine.

"Woah, hold up, missy. Where do you think you're going."

She stopped and looked up at the conductor in a daze. He was blocking her path.

"Please, sir. I need a ride."

"We don't transport vagabonds, young lady. This is a respectable locomotive."

She pressed a gold coin into his hand and said with a glare, "I am not a vagabond. Now let me on that train." His eyes shifted a few times before he secreted the bribe. He motioned for some place near the back of the train where they were transporting cargo. He opened up the door and let her in. It was pitch dark, but she was safe. She felt around for what was in the car. Hay. Hay bales. It was scratchy and poked sensitive area that were still bleeding or just scabbing over, but she hardly cared. She flopped down onto the nearest bale of hay and instantly fell asleep.