Non-Fiction Samples

Trauma can be physical, mental, or spiritual. Any kind of these can affect all aspects of health and wellbeing. Some serious conditions that lead to trauma are war and its aftermath, childhood sexual abuse, and natural calamities.

It can be a singular event or, as with Mary, recurrent. Sometimes, as in cases of domestic violence, trauma is chronically present.

People respond differently to trauma. The psychologists say the commoner responses are feeling inadequate and incompetent, or on the opposite spectrum, powerful, intense emotions. They are mostly negative. One may fail to stop themselves from tearful episodes; others get numbed and are unable to express any feelings, grief, or pain.

Once they imbibe the impact of what transpired, they may feel guilty and ashamed. A survivor from an accident feels guilty about surviving when the accident has killed their kins. Some may feel guilty about not showing remorse, and the feeling can stay.

People can react in unexpected manners, both adults and children. Some indulge in risk-taking behaviors as if nothing matters now.

Long after the incidents, people continue to have flashbacks and nurse difficulty in forging meaningful relationships. They torture themselves for the pain they bear.

Mental anguish can have physical components like headaches, stomachaches, and chest pain. They encounter strong negative emotions in the wrong places and circumstances, often reliving their past.

One may develop trouble connecting, insomnia, and hypersensitivity to things happening around. There can be changes in appetite and inability to enjoy things or hobbies they did in the past.

Intense trauma can lead to post-traumatic stress episodes that are cruelly oppressive conditions difficult to get rid of.

Trauma does not need such powerful aftermaths when we open ourselves up and allow grief to settle in. When we allow others to soothe us, encourage us, and assure us. We can also learn the gift of resilience from trauma (Pagán, 2018).

Love is beautiful. In a world that can often be so dark and full of malice, it is the only saving grace, again and again and again. It is often easy for us to confuse love with something that takes too much time, that cultivates jealousy and anger and hatred. But, if you think about it, love is the emotion, the sentiment, and the commitment that saves us from all of the things that negate it. It is what allows us to go beyond jealousy, to learn forgiveness and redemption, and to overcome frustration or spells of rage that can be so intense they make us feel as if we are consumed with hate of those we feel too deeply for. And, the most important thing about love, which we also often forget, is that we choose it.

My dear reader, it is chosen by us, it is something we proclaim, it is engendered by our souls. We wake up choosing to be in love every day, not just with someone else, but with our own souls, with little precious things like sunlight and small plants, a hot meal and a good movie. One of the most beautiful things about love is that it is unlimited and unconditional. We do not need to bind it to time or to a specific being. It flows free and abundant, as is ours to vest upon who we choose- be it a free-spirited dog, a well-built home, a lazy afternoon stroll, or a whole other being.

With this spirit, we will go into guns blazing into a reading of different affirmations that surround love. Before getting to these, however, humor me and read the next few segments with me, as a prayer, and something to carry forward with you, always.

Dear black man,

You are so deeply loved. The world is vain to wage war and anger against you. It does not realize the humility and grace with which you have been born unto this earth. Sometimes, against its own better interest, it cultivates pithy self-hate within you, and forces you to transform into someone you are not- a being devoid of love. Love is all around you, and most of all, it is within you. Over so many years, hate and prejudice have tried to destroy you time and again. But here you are. Rising and thriving.

Dear black man, you are so loved. By your sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, cousins, by your maker himself. You are loved beyond all measure, and each infinite love is testimony to your divinity. Forgive, forgive the errors of time and the prejudices of men, and rise beyond what brings you down. Forgive the little ways in which others have failed to show you how much they love you, and instead look within you, for that divine spark of infinite being that you are. You are dearly adored. And the love you may give can bring down barriers. There are many ways that you may use the love you have within you to make the world a better place. Give love whenever you get the opportunity. Love as a role model. Your love has the power to extinguish an enormous amount of animosity.

The value of who you are is much more than you can possibly imagine. In this day and age, your race should never be a point of contention. Do not let strangers at your periphery hamper your sense of respect and self. The world does not have the right to impose its standards of value and dignity on you. Do not doubt that you have any intrinsic worth since you were created for God’s glory by the maker of this universe. You are rare and raw, indomitable and exceptional. Hold your color up, not down. Wear it like an armor, a shield, an identity that is magnificent. Just like you are.

You are needed and you are heard. You have been born with a divine purpose, to show others the path unto light. People around you thrive because you are standing tall, setting an example for them. Pain and suffering are commonplace in our society. You’ve lived through a lot of heartache and hardship. And yet, you still have that feeling of pure bliss! Your delight must be understood in all its strength and dignity. The grandeur of the divine race from which you come is reflected in a deep-seated delight. A delight that is unrestrained, unfettered, and expressive in every way possible. Joy that is compassionate, sensitive, and raises the spirits of all who meet it.

Show the world how brave and loved you are by returning it tenfold.

Most of us already understand the “skeletal” frame of a budget. We know what it is and what it is supposed to do. The problem is that our understanding is mainly negative. We would avoid the entire concept if we could and run away or turn our nose up at just the very mention of it. Many of my friends used to feel the same way when I tried to make them feel accountable for spending on things they could not afford. A common theme was for them to come to me when something happened, and they always would ask what they could do.

I would then help them look at a budget differently. They could still spend on the same things after a few months of planning. It wasn’t that they couldn’t buy the expensive outfit they had their eyes on or enjoy that $300 pair of sunglasses. But, they had to save up for maybe another week and make a category for “extra” expenditures. Then, they could use the money under this category to do whatever they wanted without falling short on cash for rent or gas!

Wouldn’t you say this feels much better than sitting down with a cup of coffee late at night, worrying about how much we have spent throughout the month? I remember the horror on my friend’s face when I calculated their expenditures and told them they had spent $2000 in 30 days on just food. This included wasting $600 on just pure junk! I’m not saying everyone has it this bad— there are always people who want to go the cautionary route and limit mindless spending— but I’d say that in this age, all of us need to know this, even if it feels difficult to stomach at times.

Our ideas on budgeting may come straight from the heart, as opposed to the mind. When this happens, the first thing we feel when monthly accounting is around the corner is frustration. The irritation quickly expands to anger and then a feeling of “to hell with it!” Why would you say this happens? From what I’ve seen, budgeting is as simple as it gets; we’re the ones who add complications to it. I know this sounds unreal right now, so let’s break down what a budget really is and, more importantly, why you don’t need to treat it like a red room of torture to run away from!

At the very onset, I’d say that it’s pretty different to “have” a budget and to have a working one. It takes time and work to have a “usable” budget. Just turning to your bills because you’re out of options and need to know where all your money went isn’t a great way to budget or to function. Many of us have dreams. We want to get married, have kids, send them to good schools, enjoy a proper lifestyle, go on the occasional expensive vacation, and buy the latest gadgets. In keeping up with all these demands, we tend to forget, as my father would say, money doesn’t grow on trees unless you win the lottery or some other such pursuit. But even then, you’ll be surprised at how quickly the money vanishes if you don’t account for it. In other words, money is not an unlimited resource; whether you have a million dollars or $3000, you have to work with what you’ve got.

You could go ahead and be spontaneous and spend your next paycheck on a fancy vacation, but what good will that do if you don’t have enough money to pay your bills when you get back? So, being mature with money means finding a balance between what you need and want and your short-term and long-term goals. Your budget is the friend who will help you make sense of this mess. YES, that’s right, your BUDGET is your FRIEND!

Now, studies and polls show that Americans aren’t the best at planning or budgeting their money. In 2013, only 32% of people polled by Gallup said they used a budget to keep track of their income and expenses. Even fewer people took the time to make long-term plans for their money, including good investments and savings. In 2016, the US Bank also found that only 41% of all respondents were making a budget.

On top of that, Americans are known for having a hard time in saving money. The problem with this is that if you don’t have money to help you out during the stormy season (when things get hard, as they usually do at some point), you’re more likely to make bad decisions and get into debt you don’t need to. Let’s say you have a medical emergency, or your car breaks down without warning and all of a sudden you need $1000 that you don’t have. This means you spent more than what you need to cover essential emergencies! To make up for this, you either need to take a loan or, worse, borrow from your friends and family.

Trust me; a time comes when people in your life lose faith in you because they think you’re too immature to take care of your expenses. You give the appearance of constantly being in debt and spending your money on things you don’t need– even if you try to explain why you made those expenditures!  DEBT is NOT your friend!

The budget comes into play now. Just like businesses need budgets to make sure they are spending money wisely (and not more than they can afford), people need budgets to keep track of their money and make sure they are living responsible, independent lives that don’t depend on the kindness of others for small amounts of money.

A personal or family budget keeps track of how much money comes into the home as well as how much money goes out. It can help a person or a family spend less and save more, but at its core, it is just a tool for planning or keeping track of spending. The goal of budgeting is to avoid unpleasant or even disastrous financial surprises by being careful about how you spend your money. Planning ahead lets you save money for future goals (and dreams!) and figure out how long it will take to get you there. Plus, any excess money you save goes into those luxuries you want but feel guilty about investing in!

Unless you have a magical source of money that never runs out, you will always only have a certain amount of cash each month, and this is what you earn. Also, there are some bills that must be paid every month, so a portion of your income will go toward those. The budget will help make sure that both sides of this equation balance out. This means that even if you only plan for short-term things, you won’t accidentally spend too much on groceries and then get a rent bill you can’t pay. Also, if you have long-term goals or big dreams (which you should), you will need to plan how you will pay for them and save for the future. This makes a budget even more critical because it will help you figure out how you will reach your goals with the money you have.

I’ll explain with an example. Let’s say you earn $3000 every month. At the beginning of the month, when the paycheck comes in, you sit down and make a list of the basics you should be spending on. You also note how much you expect to spend on them. So, imagine you plan on spending $500 on groceries in the month. You note the money going into your food bills every day. At the end of the month, however, you find you have spent $700 instead. Because of your homework, you automatically get to find out where the extra $200 went! Now, imagine you want to buy a nice phone that costs about $600. Next month, you are more careful and save the $200 you accidentally spent last month. This means you only need $400 more to get that thing you dreamed of!


First off, generative design relies on  AI technology is essential for the current context of existence. It allows human qualities like reasoning, communication, planning, and perception to be employed by software tools at reduced costs and increased efficiency. Just imagine how important it has become in the context of a world facing the aftermath of the pandemic. COVID-19 has forced many of us into the confines of our homes. It has been instrumental in early detection and diagnosis. As a matter of fact, it has even served as a way to screen, track and predict existing and future COVID cases.

Let’s take a minute to talk about the fantastic work done by a start-up that is using generative design. French firm Soliquid provides improvised 3D printing and material-saving 3D printing solutions. The company’s design and construction processes are simulated, refined, and standardized using parameterized and generative design tools.

Soliquid’s concrete 3D printing allows freeform printing without the need for support and saves material. Its seamless integration of the design-to-production process is made possible by a proprietary large-scale additive manufacturing technique and a generative design approach. As a result, construction firms can better come up with and execute innovative projects because of the lower risk of failure.

From streamlining to beautifying, generative design has simplified many of the time-consuming tasks that cause inefficiencies. In the past, product designers and engineers have used computers and contemporary CAD software to create new items, components, or bigger structures. However, generative design transforms the computer into the leading creative genius. For instance, it can help you make lightweight products that are far more durable than the conventionally designed stuff. This is another considerable advantage of generative design.

A mechanical engineer would specify the maximum size and weight of a component as well, as its load capacity and manufacturing process expenses. This basic function is all they need to do. AI-driven generative design will yield hundreds of design prototypes- each one meeting the stated criteria. Thus, generative design incorporates dynamic simulations into the development process. This kind of simulation during the process of designing parts helps in weight optimization while keeping key specifications intact.

Generative design comes with innumerable design choices. Since it is backed into the storage capacity of the cloud, it can produce multiple design iterations, even with specified limitations. A human cannot possibly think up as many variations, and because of these, it is easier to filter and choose options within the domain of generative design.

Who among us doesn’t appreciate creativity? Generally, creativity is something that happens to us. It is the result of a stroke of luck or some kind of divine inspiration. With generative design, it is calculated. Since design options created by generative design are far ahead of what the human mind can conceptualize, it can do away with all creative impediments.

Design choices generated using this technique closely conform to limitations, in contrast to manual methods that sometimes have compliance concerns.  Even in the presence of constraints that usually negate creativity, generative design overcomes all such blocks to give us multiple options to choose from.

Talking of creativity, generative design has been used extensively in vehicle component manufacture in recent years. The Volkswagen Innovation and Engineering Center in Cali, for example, wanted to do something to commemorate twenty years of its existence. Their desire was for something that would embody their core DNA while also demonstrating the latest automotive technology modeled on generative design.

As a result, the team took a vintage 1962 VW Bus and modified it with cutting-edge technology, including generative design to reimagine the wheels, wing-mirror arms, and many other components. It’s just a marvel to read about this. 

Overwhelming strain is put on engineers when last-minute modifications are made. Despite this, they must be inventive. Generative design has the benefit of being able to generate several innovative choices in a short amount of time. The methods are safe and ready to be implemented since the simulation is included as a feature in the design. Since it also needs fewer raw materials and less energy, it is far more sustainable.

The implications of this are so remarkable that generative design has impacted lifestyle and home goods as well! Phillipe Starck is a visionary regarding his contemporary ideas and design portfolio for household goods, furniture, and, you guessed it, space expeditions. He collaborated with contemporary furniture-makers Kartell and Autodesk research to build a chair that employed AI tools and advanced generative-design patterns. It’s the first chair to be created with AI.

Finally, generative design is a critical tool in   This deserves its section, so let’s take a little detour to what AM is, shall we?

Fiction Samples

Mr. Maurjes sunk back in the plush, soft leather draping the backseat of his Lexus LX. His family had always warned him against traveling with the windows down. A man of his stature came with a fair share of enemies, after all. A burst of low laughter rumbled in his belly, demanding release. He leaned his head back and laughed mirthlessly, letting the fumes of his Gurkha Black Dragon float into the seamless midnight blue of the night sky. His family could say what they wanted, but what had he left to lose, truly?

The road that had led him to his penthouse and his cars had been long and mostly dark, but now that he was here, everything felt… hollow. The phone in his jacket pocket rang incessantly. Damned journalists, he thought. It hadn’t even been twenty-four hours since the news had come out. Sunny Maurjes, beloved first son and inheritor of the stupendous wealth amassed by the Maurjes family, had been caught in a massive scandal. He wasn’t even surprised. What hurt was how badly Maria had taken it. She’d been inconsolable.

Two cars pulled up on both sides. Maurjes wasn’t thinking, and he shouldn’t have had to until he saw one of the men sitting at the backseat pull out a gun. Then, there was no time to think at all. At the back of his mind, he thought he’d heard the shots. Two sharp sounds, so loud and distinct, they almost sounded like distinct drumbeats. Then, the world went dark.

I kick the side of the garage.

“What did that poor wall ever do to you?” Nate asks as he comes around the corner.

“You scared the shit out of me,” I say, clutching my chest, only partly because he took me by surprise. He’s alone with me in the semi-darkness and my heart’s suddenly pounding against my chest.

“Sorry,” he says. “I told Hayley I’d check on you. You left in a big hurry.”

“Oh, yeah, my ex,” I say pointing to my phone. Can I be any more lame? “I didn’t want to have to talk to him in front of everyone.”

He nods. “So I was going to ask if you’d like to get together some time this week to talk about the bachelor-bachelorette party?”

My grin turns positively shit-eating. “Sounds good to me. I’ve got a lot going on at work but my evenings are generally free. I’ll give you my number so you can text me.”

His body leans towards mine and I can feel the heat emanating from him. I look up at him, he is quite a bit taller than me and I really like it.

“So, Megan, how are we going to arrange this?”

I’m staring right at his lips. I want to answer him with something snarky but the thought of his lips descending on mine has my heart jumping around like a bird.

“Arrange what?” That was the best I could come up with? Good job, Megan. God, he’s distracting.

“The bachelor/bachelorette party.”

The space between us shrinks as his mouth gets closer to mine. I’m sort of enthralled by the way he’s enticing me. I lick my lips. My mouth is suddenly very dry and it’s hard to think when he’s looking at me the way he is.

“I was thinking that maybe we could combine them.”


“No?” His abrupt disagreement brings me out the spell a little. I look back up into his eyes. “We’re supposed to be working together, remember?”

“We are,” he says, his hand coming up to my face and he runs his index finger down my cheek. Electric chills race down my neck. Now I know for a fact he’s moved in closer. His face is right in front of mine and now he’s looking at my mouth. I inhale a little. His hand hasn’t moved from my chin and he’s moving it back and forth slowly. “I was going to suggest a compromise.”

“What?” His mouth has moved in so that it’s almost touching mine and my breaths come in trembling puffs as I anticipate what’s coming next.

“I was thinking that we could start out separately. We do all the stuff one does at these kinds of parties but end up at Club Posh–together?”

I smile up at him. It’s perfect. 

“I was there when they met. I have never seen Haley so drunk in her life. But she spotted Aaron near the dancefloor, I guess, and she couldn’t keep her hands off of him.”

“Sounds like Aaron. He probably just stood there and stared at her until she came over.”

“I’m willing to bet Aaron didn’t notice her before she grabbed him. She can be pretty frisky when she’s drunk, but he seemed to be enjoying himself when I caught them in the hallway to the bathroom making out.”

Nate laughs and the sound bounces down my spine and straight to my core. God, his laugh is sexy. My heart races out of control, like he’s injecting fiery adrenaline into my veins even with the smallest brush. 

“And what were you doing before you caught them making out?” he asks with a twinkle in his eye. He’s so close that when he speaks his lips sometimes brush mine and his wine tinged breath tickles the skin of my face. 

“Getting mauled by some loser,” I say. “But unlike Hayley, I don’t need to be drunk to get frisky. I have to find someone to make it worth my time.”

“That might be fun to find out what it takes to be worth your time,” he says. He’s leaned in even closer and every single syllable he utters sends waves of heat up my neck and washes slowly back down my body. I’m enchanted by his flirtiness. It’s been a really long time since I’ve had so much fun flirting with a guy.

If only we weren’t at Hayley’s parents house.

I’m not in the mood for being teased anymore. I push my lips against his. He immediately dominates my mouth. His tongue is already sliding along my lips parting them with ease. I’m fisting his shirt so I can push up harder into his face. My head swirls with the taste of his mouth and his hands leave trails of electricity over my skin as they slide down the sides of my dress. I’m crushing myself against him. I want to know if I’m right, if he’s as lean and hard as I imagine he is. Oh, yes. Yes, he certainly is. 

The peaks of my breasts press pleasantly against the planes of his hardened chest, and my hips roll forward and against his hardened length. The fact that I can feel it through his leather pants leaves me breathless. His hand glides over my ass and I squeak when he suddenly grabs hold and pushes me against him harder. The feeling of being plastered up against him fans the heat into a raging inferno. I run my hands up into his hair. God, have I wanted to do that. I’m not disappointed. It’s silky but long enough to allow me to grasp it and hold him to me.

Sensation ripples through me as his hand smooths down the curve of my ass and slides against the skin of my thigh. Thank god I wore the mini-dress. The skin of his hands are just right–just rough enough to light sparks along the bottom of my thigh but not so rough to feel like sandpaper. He’s shoved me against the wall as I run my thigh up his hip. I haven’t felt this intense an arousal in a long time, and I feel giddy and daring.

With his tongue dancing with mine and his body dominating our space I can barely breathe, but I don’t want him to stop. I want more. All the sensible parts of myself that argue that it’s slutty to make out with a guy I’ve just met are barely a whisper in the back of my mind. He’s just too damn hot. And the fact that he’s Aaron’s best friend? Who gives a shit? I’m actually seriously pissed at Aaron for not even thinking of introducing me to Nathan before now.

Little whimpers escape every time Nathan adjusts his position and my brain is frantically trying to think of a way to get him to a bed. I want him. I haven’t wanted a guy this badly in an embarrassingly long time. Even with Brian, we were respectfully chaste for the appropriate amount of time when we were first dating, until I basically attacked him in his apartment. Not that he was complaining afterwards. With Nathan, I don’t care. Screw convention or appropriateness. I want him thrusting into me now and if he’s as big as I think he is, it’ll be the most divine experience.

I manage to extricate my mouth from his only to have him slide soft lips down to my neck, nipping gently along the way. God! I could orgasm right now!

“You guys back here still?” I hear Hayley’s voice say and just like that Nate’s leaning against the wall next to me and I’m left breathless and my chest heaving.

Ferelith felt the summer breeze on her face as she swung back and forth in the Queen’s Garden. She’d been up early and had already had her servants dress her and style her hair in a complex braid and flower updo. She knew she’d have awhile before she’d get to go anywhere since Cliana and Elisande would take forever changing their mind about which gown to wear, how their hair should be styled, which flower pouches to hide under their skirts and which fiannas were likely to show up and which they’d likely flirt with. Ferelith wasn’t concerned about any of that.

Ferelith thought about the plan she and Burke had concocted for the feast later. He was going to set her down at a table near the dance floor, so instead of sitting near her uncle, she’d be free to watch everything from a less conspicuous spot. There was a part of her that hoped that even if it was for a moment before they recognized her that a fianna would take a moment to approach her and try to flirt with her. Maybe even try to ask her to dance. The idea thrilled and scared her to death.

Breeth landed on her shoulder. Of the three of her crows, Breeth was the least likely to land. She preferred to soar in the skies and hunt for her own food. She squawked at Ferelith.

“Your sisters are being naughty, are they?” she said, rubbing the bird’s head. Breeth was also the tattletail of the group. “Stole one of your vermin? Naughty sisters. But I know what you mean. They may be my cousins, but they are my sisters. I love them and you love yours. I know you do, even when they make you mad.”

Breeth butted her head against Ferelith cheek and suddenly she was overwhelmed with a vision of soaring through the skies. The wetlands below sped underneath her at a heart stopping rate but she wasn’t afraid. She was exhilarated. She was free. Her sharp eyes detected a slight movement up ahead and saw one of her sisters pecking at a meal’s eyes. Breeth/Ferelith’s stomach rumbled in hunger and she dove down, only shifting her wings back at the last minute to make a dainty landing on the afternoon’s meal. Breeth and Meeth argued with each other for a minute about who would get the juiciest bits, but in the end they both ate their fill. It was then that Breeth decided she wanted to see Ferelith and get her head rubbed.

Ferelith came out of her vision smiling. “Thank you, love. That was the best thing I’ve seen all day. Though I’m sorry, but I think Meeth was awfully kind to share her meal with you.”

“Talking to your bird again?” Elisende asked, walking into the garden. “You know, one of these days people are going to think you’re crazy.”

“Do you think I’m crazy?” Ferelith said, rubbing Breeth’s head some more.

“No,” Elisende said. “I know your mother was a witch. It makes sense you might have inherited some of what they have.”

“Doesn’t do me much good to see into a crow’s head, does it?” Ferelith said with a sad smile.

“I suppose not,” her cousin said. “I wish I had some fantastical ability.”

“It’s not fantastical. I can understand what Breeth wants me to know and if she touches me, I can see what she sees sometimes. That’s hardly fantastical.”

“But it’s something.”

“Well, you can walk.”

A gasp came from Elisende. “Ferelith.”

Suddenly, the calm exterior she’d been trying so hard to maintain as the hour drew nearer to the start of the festival crumbled in front of her cousin. She wept in her hands. Elisende sat down next to her on the seat swing and put her arms around her.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. Your mother was so kind to me. I wanted to be so much like her and listen to everything she taught me. And she always taught me not to feel sorry for myself. To find the good in every situation, even if it’s not ideal. And look at me—weeping like a baby because of something I can’t do anything about.”

“Ferelith, just say it. Not being able to walk is terrible. It is. And I think everyone, no matter if they can walk or not, is allowed to feel sorry for themselves every once in a while.”

“That’s not very Aunt Lanis of you.”

“Well, I’m sure even mother had times when she felt overwhelmed or sad. But you are like her, Ferelith. No one ever says it, but I’m going to. You are wonderful. I know it’s selfish of me to say it, but I was so glad when you came to live with us. I had my best playmate with me all the time. And even if you couldn’t play with me like you used to, you still played with me. 

You never complain, or almost never. Just like mother. Even when she was sick. So, if you need to feel sorry for yourself, do it. Even if I’m here. I understand. And then you can go back to being you.”

“You make it sound so simple, El,” Ferelith said.

“It’s not hard, is it?”

Ferelith put her forehead to her cousin’s. A vision slammed into her.

Elisende lay on the ground, blood leaking from her mouth. Ferelith held her head in her lap. Sounds of a battle clanged around them.

“El, let me get you some help,” Ferelith almost screeched. “You’re going to be ok.”

“Fer, I love you. Go, now. Go with him. He’ll take you to safety. Find father and Cliana.”

A male voice from behind her grabbed her by the waist and pulled. “We’ve got to go.”

“No!” Ferelith screamed. “No. No. El!”

She found herself being thrown over a shoulder like a sack of vegetables and the only thing she could do was watch helplessly as the man ran in the opposite direction from where she left her beautiful cousin lying on the ground.

Ferelith jerked her head back and gasped.

“Are you ok?” Elisende asked, concern all over her face. “All the color is gone from your face. Do you want me to get you some wine? Are you going to pass out?”

For a moment, Ferelith couldn’t speak. What she had witnessed was so horrifying she couldn’t even begin to explain it.

“Get Lady Ferelith some wine, quickly!” Elisende yelled to an attendant. In minutes, Elisende shoved a goblet into Ferelith’s hands. Shakily, Ferelith drank down most of the liquid in one tip.

“Fer, are you ok? Talk to me!” Elisende shook her a little.

“I—can’t.” Her breaths were coming too quickly.

“Burke!” Elisende yelled. “Take Lady Ferelith to her room.”

Burke gathered up a shaking Ferelith and turned to rush her to her room. Too late, however, as her world went dark before they’d reached her door.