Some Inspiration Behind ‘Hidden’

It was a few years ago. I was hanging out with friends asking them for what they thought would be a good story idea when one member of the group suggested, ‘why don’t you write a story about a dragon and a drum?’ We’d just finished watching a local performance of traditional Japanese drumming, so perhaps it influenced his thinking. However, the idea stayed with me.

When I started brainstorming for Tully’s story, I saw a young woman who was perhaps around twenty. She lived on one side of a barrier and had a dragon on the other side. She’d hear his heart beat (drum-like) and it’d call to her. The dragon’s drum-like heart beat never made it into the book but there is a touch of it in the original first scene (which is now chapter 4). The first draft of Hidden was written in a flurry over the Labor Day weekend that same year for the 3 Day Novel Writing Contest. I fell in love with Tully and her journey, so I contacted my editor to help me explore the story more.

Please enjoy the excerpt below and let me know what you think.


Excerpt: Hidden Chapter 4

The thunder of celebration drums swelled, mirroring the rhythmic pounding of Tully’s own heart. The beat was strong and comforting, a familiar sound that bounced off the brick, stone, and mortar of the town’s buildings. In the moment, Tully felt connected with something, perhaps even someone, bigger than herself. The steady rumbles carried far into the forests, perhaps even as far as the meadow Tully frequented. Would Bain hear them? She closed her eyes and imagined the friendly hermit who lived near the rushing river in the Midlands.

Tully shifted her weight on the cold slab of stone sticking out from her bedroom window and shivered. It wasn’t cool out, but her body heat always disappeared with the sun when it went over the horizon. The perch obscured her from passersby below, so she could sit here without any coverings. Contentment poured through her like the tumble of spring rain. The darkness of night concealed her alabaster skin; normally it gave off a slight glow, a reflection of moonlight that people might take note of.

Besides, there was no one around this evening. The whole Kellan population was crammed into the town square. Except Bain, who like Tully enjoyed solitude and avoided crowds.

She ran her hand over her arm and a strip of dead skin came off in her hand.

“Tully?” a voice whispered up at her.

“Hi Haley,” Tully called down, unconcerned. No one would care to look for her here except her young friend. Haley was about sixeen years younger than Tully, but for reasons beyond her comprehension the young girl considered Tully her best friend. Maybe because they were close in height. Or perhaps it was because Tully didn’t mind the young girl’s inquisitive nature, like the other Kellans did.

She enjoyed the child’s companionship, although she often felt her young charge might be better suited to people closer in age.

“Why don’t you join in the storytime?” Haley asked. “It’s always the best part of the festival.”

“Is Declan the tale-bearer?”


Tully smiled. The baker’s heart was as big as his girth, and his warmth reminded her of a freshly baked loaf of bread. He was also the best storyteller. His deep, resonant voice and expressive face gave life to the tales he wove.

As the drumming dimmed in the distance, Tully could sense the beginning of his story. His voice didn’t carry this far, but she knew the tale by heart.

“On a night very similar to this one”—the story always began that way, no matter the weather—”the moon shone bright in the sky and lit the narrow passage by which the Kellans had escaped.”

Of course, Declan would add more embellishment. He’d make the journey sound harrowing.

“They raced down the passage with an enemy on their tails. They’d barely squeeze their women and babes through before the men turned to valiantly defend them against their oppressors.”

“Are you coming down?” Haley asked after a few moments.


Tully could hear the young girl sigh.

“Can I come up?”

Tully considered this for a moment. She’d have to put her cloak back on, but Haley was pleasant company.

“Okay,” Tully said as she twirled on the stone slab and grabbed her cloak. “Mistress Glenna left the front door open.”

As she waited for Haley to come up to the second floor, she looked up at the heavens, a mixture of grey smeared with black. Stars spread across the expanse, sparkling against the canopy like a lady’s fancy dress embroidered with jewels.

A movement in the sky caught her attention. She blinked and shook her head as dark wings stretched against the backdrop of night. The wingspan was wider than anything she’d ever seen. She narrowed her eyes, catching the details of the animal’s movement and shape, but it was hard to know for certain where the creature stopped and the sky began. She looked away, shaking out her cloak to drape over her shoulders, then looked back, but the creature was gone.

Troubled, Tully stuffed her arms through the sleeves of her garment and buttoned the front. She lifted the hood over her face and let it fall to her shoulders.

“Tully!” Haley entered the room and bolted to embrace her friend.

Tully hugged the girl and quickly pulled away. Her disease wasn’t contagious, but Mistress Glenna always warned against prolonged physical contact.

“Come and join me on the ledge,” Tully said.

Haley climbed out and Tully held her hand to help her maintain balance.

“Thanks,” Haley said once they were seated next to each other on the slab. The young girl dangled her feet over the edge and let them swing free.

“Are you enjoying the celebration?” Tully asked.

“It’s okay, but it’s the same every year.”


“It’s important, though, right? At least that’s what my parents say. They say it’s important to know our history and how we came to the Lowlands and how the barrier was raised.”

Tully listened to the prattle. She could still hear the gentle vibrations from drums as they accompanied Declan’s story.

“Do you think they’re true?”

Tully blinked. “I’m sorry? Is what true?”

“The stories. Every year we hear the same story, or almost the same story. We hear it at school, too. It changes sometimes.”

“Well, the storytellers at school may tell it differently than Declan. The teachers have to teach you history, but during the festival the story is told for entertainment. It’s only natural that it might change slightly.”

Tully considered her response and the way she felt about what Mistress Glenna had said to Mungo and Vivica about the Arelians. Slight changes were one thing, but she’d never heard someone support the Arelians in one telling and then claim they were bad in the next.

“I guess,” Haley said. “But I just wonder if it all really happened like that. We came through the mountain pass with the Arelians chasing us, wanting to enslave us.” Haley shuddered as she said the word Arelians. “Then they cursed us to remain in the Lowlands. It all seems kind of like a fairy tale.”

“I’ve wondered about it myself, but history is always told by the victors. Or in this case, the survivors. I’m sure the Arelians must have their own side.”

“But what they say about the Arelians has to be true at least.”

The pounding of the drums intensified.

Tully smiled at her friend and heard the click of the front door opening below. Mistress Glenna must be home already.

“The story is probably over by now,” Tully said. “Your parents will be looking for you soon.”

“Okay.” Haley hesitated. “Will I see you tomorrow?”

“Probably not. Mistress Glenna asked me to go to the Midlands.”

Haley shimmied backward and hopped off the window ledge back inside. “Bye.”


As the girl left, Tully heard a friendly exchange pass between Haley and Mistress Glenna. Tully quickly left her perch and arranged her cloak to ensure she was fully covered.


“Yes, Mistress Glenna, I’m in here.”

Tully took a few deep breaths to slow her breathing as she waited for Mistress. The older woman soon appeared in the doorway. Tully noticed the woman adorned in her good dress. A matching shawl draped around her back and over her forearms. Her hair was down, accenting her cheeks and eyes. It was far more flattering than the clip it was usually encased in.

“Did you remain here all evening?” Mistress Glenna asked.

“Yes. Haley came by and asked to join me. Did you have a good time?”

“Were you covered?” Mistress Glenna asked.

Tully felt pinched, as if reproached. “Yes, Mistress.”

Seemingly satisfied, her matron swivelled and disappeared down the corridor. Tully heard a soft shushing of the door that led to the older woman’s bedroom.

For the most part, Tully was used to her matron’s ways. The woman was good to her, so there was very little to complain about. She was fed, and her needs were met, but she longed for a deeper bond with Mistress Glenna. Yet the older woman always held back.

Tully couldn’t remember her parents—she’d been told they had died while fleeing the Arelians—so she didn’t know what it felt like to be loved in that way. She imagined that her parents had loved her, though, and this made up for the lack of love from Mistress Glenna.

Tully fastened the window and prepared to go to sleep. But before she closed the blinds, an arc of dark movement in the sky caught her eye. She pressed her nose against the window pane, a pair of ebony wings filling her vision. She leaned closer, but her breath fogged up the window. When she rubbed it with the corner of her cloak, a few pieces of dead skin adhered to the glass. She wiped the surface clean, but whatever she’d seen was gone.

It had probably just been a bird. But the size and shape cancelled that theory.

She shrugged and climbed into bed, closing her eyes. The gentle drumming remained. It seemed odd, since the festivities were finished for the evening and the residents of town would be home by now. Clean-up crews would tackle the town square tomorrow.

But Tully listened close. She wasn’t imagining it—there was a distinct drumming sound. Almost like a heartbeat. Her mind swirled with the tale she knew by heart. She imagined being chased down that narrow passage, a huge lizard-like beast soaring above with wings outstretched.

The drums blended with her own heart and she felt alive with desire to streak across the sky. A gentle tug pulled her mind, encouraging her forward and igniting her curiosity. Mistress Glenna always discouraged her questions, but what if there was more? What if there was life beyond the barrier? What if Arelians truly were good?

Tully clutched her chest, cupping the curved shape of her misshapen ribcage. Her heart lurched and fluttered. The bottle of her soul suddenly unstopped and a longing she remembered from her childhood leaked out, leaving an emptiness in its wake.

Yes, she felt certain there was life beyond the barrier. Her soul knew it even if her mind didn’t.

And she had to find it.

© K.M.Wray  All rights reserved.

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