Part One, by Mandy of In Mandyland
Two wine glasses.
The Dragon frowned and slowly sat up. He swung his legs off the side of the bed. His trousers were still on. His boots were set neatly next to the bed, the polish of their black surface dim. A glass of water and a small paper packet sat on the bedside table. Picking up the packet, he opened it and sniffed. He licked his finger and touched it to the white powder. Tasting it, he grimaced. Acetylsalicylic acid.
He stood, turning to study the two wine glasses. One lay on its side, a few blood-red drops dried in drips on the glass. A deep garnet filled the other. Walking closer, he reached down, plucking the glass from the rug. He studied it, holding it towards the light. Growling in frustration, he walked to the window, sweeping the drapes back in one motion.
The light blinded him, sending pain stabbing through his head. He covered his eyes with his free hand, wincing back into the comforting dimness of the shadows. He lowered his hand, slowly allowing his eyes to adjust to the light. He held the glass to his nose and sniffed.
The wine was rich and full-bodied. He didn’t smell anything out of the ordinary. He rubbed his aching head. Swiftly crossing the room to the side of his bed he poured the contents of the packet into the glass of water and drank. He walked to his chair and sat down, waiting for the powder to ease the pain in his head. He held up the glass still in his hand and struggled to recall the events of the previous night.
His mind stilled, his body chilled. Setting the glass on the table he rushed to the wardrobe. He pressed the eye of the dragon carved into the side. A small door swung open to reveal a bronze and leather chest. Clenching his jaw, he pulled it out, reaching for the gold key he wore around his neck.
He inserted the key into the lock and opened the chest.
Part Two, by Kelly of Writing with Chaos
A single white rose rested inside.
The Dragon muttered a string of curses – barely remembering to keep his voice low – and slammed the chest shut, catching his thumb in its grip. “Bloody hell!”
Someone pounded on the door, the beat matching the throb in his thumb and forehead. “Sir Drake, are you all right?” The voice drawled and it took him a moment to visualize its source.
Hair the color of trapped fire. Eyes reminiscent of a swollen sky. Frumpy clothing hiding her body.
Amanda. Her name was Amanda Barclay. The producer.
“I need coffee. And Ross. Get me Ross,” he said, growling the words as he hid the chest and returned the key to his neck.
“I would love to attend to you, but your door appears to be locked.” Ross’s obsequious response was immediate.
The Dragon vowed to get even, once freed from twenty-four hour surveillance, and stomped to the door, sliding back the thick metal bolt.
His friend fell into the opened space, catching himself just before hitting the floor. Dressed in the black valet uniform the studio insisted upon and ridiculous wire spectacles, The Dragon thought Ross looked like Clark Kent trapped in the 1700s.
The Dragon rubbed his pounding head and cast a pleading look at his supposed servant. “Coffee?”
“Still brewing over the coals, sir.” Ross gave him a small smile, and the Dragon knew Ross had either bribed a tech or snuck out to the nearest coffee shop for his morning fix. “We were unable to wake you.”
Heels clicked on the stone as the producer followed Ross into the room. Her eyes caught on The Dragon’s bared abdomen, slowly following the dragon tattoo up to his face. “We need to have a word.” Her eyes flashed like lightning.
The Dragon stifled a groan. “On or off the record?”
“Off.” She motioned “cut” to her lackey in the hallway and he scurried off. She returned her full glare to the Dragon. “Sir Drake, our agreement clearly states that in return for limiting recording in this room to audio only, you would not use it to hide. You were due to have breakfast with the bachelorettes thirty minutes ago. The kitchen staff has to redo the entire meal and-” she stopped, her eyes focused over his shoulder. “Did you have one of the girls in here last night?”
She clicked over to the rug and picked up the empty wine glass, whirling on him. “You agreed all interactions for Key to the Dragon’s Heart would take place where we’re videotaping. This is in direct violation of the contract!”
The Dragon stilled. Breach of contract meant the hefty sum the studio promised when he chose “The Key” would be forfeited. He’d be forced to sell. Four weeks of living without running water, electricity, and a decent cup of coffee would have been for nothing.
“Do you really think he would be so careless?” Ross asked, raising a brow. “I was the one with him last night.”
Part Three, by Yuliya of She Suggests
Amanda peered suspiciously at Ross.
Ross, practically buzzing from his unlawful java jolt, opened his mouth to elaborate but Drake put a finger to his lips to silence him.
“Well aren’t you man’s best friend,” she snorted as she took in the rest of the room. Nothing seemed out of order save the Dragon’s lack of clothing and rumpled hair do, or rather hair don’t.
“I don’t have time for this bullshit,” she announced, and turned to walk out of the room. “You have exactly five minutes before I burn your eggs and your sausage,” she volleyed at Drake and stomped down the corridor.
Approaching the dining room where the bachelorettes were gathered, Amanda slowed down and forced herself to take ten deep breaths. No one should suspect how rattled she was by the morning’s events. She adjusted her bun, attempted to smooth down the obvious wrinkles in her shirt and squished herself further into her sensible shoes.
Mustn’t appear to be the competition, she reminded herself.
Halfway into the second week and seven “ladies” remained, each one less tolerable than the last.
Amanda evaluated the bachelorettes silently and succinctly:
Cecile, minus her original nose, and Ashley, plus a cup size and a half, both seemed friendly and harmless. Monica, who insisted she be billed as an “apothecary,” was annoying but didn’t seem to have a hidden agenda. Brianna, a blond beauty with a faraway look in her eyes, was either a complete moron or pulling off a convincing impersonation of one. Virginia who referred to herself as “V” to invoke a sense of mystery was anything but mysterious, each of her emotions was apparent to everyone else just as soon as she felt them. She would make a terrible spy, Amanda concluded. Tina was a perfect physical specimen, so naturally Amanda assumed she was a Cylon. And finally there was Melissa, devoid of drama, slender yet strong, obviously intelligent but not obnoxious about it, she was definitely one to watch.
Amanda began to rattle off the list of rules and protocols once again to the barely awake bachelorettes, keeping herself focused on the task at hand and extinguishing the words that bubbled up in her throat, you’re not the only ones hiding something…
Part Four, by John of The Adventures of Daddy Runs A Lot
“Maybe I can convince them all to hop in the bath with me at the same time,” Drake thought to himself, not for the first time. “If I can convince some of them that group baths are the method to which hot water is conserved in this world of ours, and that quick thrusting motions are well-known to keep water temperatures from dropping, well, surely gullibility is a bona-fide reason for dismissal – and I might as well have fun with it.”
He ticked off his mental list of the remaining bachelorettes, certain that at least Monica & V would join him. Heck, Monica & V would do whatever he asked of them, which is why he regretted signing up in the first place. Well, right now, he minded signing up in the first place – as soon as the view got a little bit better, it’s all back to hormones, and when that happens, it’s not so bad. But still, playing with dolls is the stuff for kids — a love of Candyland turns to a love of Chess for a reason. Some of these bimbos, well, they didn’t get it.
Bracing himself for the onslaught, he went through his routine: push ups to make his muscles just a tiny bit more camera-ready, fingers through his hair in an attempt to do something with the mess, a kilt around his waist. Looking directly at the boom mic overhead, he reached into his kilt “is it really a mystery as to what the dragon’s key is?” he asked aloud. Somewhere, someone laughed aloud.
“I guess someone’s getting fired,” Drake thought to himself.
Heaving a sigh and a “let’s do this,” and with Ross at his tail, the dragon opened the door and approached his maidens.
“Greetings, m’ladies” he said in his booming voice. “What a pleasure it is..”
And then it happened.
Out of nowhere, Brianna elbowed one of the girls — it happened so quickly that no one was sure which one it was at the time. Blond hair flew and then, suddenly, Ross was on the floor, a maniacal blond barking out orders in some Slavic language. “Polish?” the dragon thought as he reprimanded himself for wondering about a random slew of words rather than to the safety of his now unconscious friend. “Maybe Russian.”
It was Estonian. But Drake had no way of knowing that.
All Amanda could do was pray that the cameras were rolling as she wiggled her toes, wishing she hadn’t worn her pumps today.
The non-ninja girls gathered together in a corner, and it was Virginia that was the target of the flying elbow. A welt was starting to form under her left eye as she checked her nose. “Thank god, it’s not broken, it’s not broken” she sobbed.
Terrence, the overly friendly rat befriended by the V in the opening episode, hoped that the humans would leave so that he could get to the food on the table that was now, obviously, going to go untouched.
Sound engineers and grips started putting their equipment down, responding to the instructions from the Eastern European bombshell.
Amanda seethed. “This. Is. My. Fucking. Show.” she screamed in her head, breathing heavily, murder in her eyes.
“I thought you had crazy eyes before. I never knew you were actually crazy” Drake announced – more loudly than was necessary, not sure if the microphones would pick up everything said as they sat on the floor. “But why Ross?” he asked, crouching into a dragon pose, ready to strike.
“The sidekick is always the one you have to watch out for,” Brianna explained. Drake looked at her, quizzingly, thinking back through the movies he’s seen, blanking on any time that the sidekick was more dangerous. Maybe Lord of the Rings? Samwise might have been the better fighter than Frodo — but where else did that hold true? And is thinking about movie heroes really the appropriate response when someone has just knocked out your best friend?
“This. Is. My. Fucking. Show.” Amanda continued screaming in her head, and then, audibly, “Pick up your fucking equipment — goddammit, we are going to finish this fucking season.” And, then wondered if, just maybe “The Swearing Vixen” was a better superhero name than “Preying Mantis.”
“What exactly do you want?” Drake asked the crazy woman cowering over his best friend.
“An audience to witness my ascent to power, of course” Brianna explained, as if explaining why you needed to put peanut butter on both slices of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich to a five year old. “Henchmen, now!” she barked and the crew started to progress toward the group of models, each crew member pulling out a roll of duct tape.
“And now, my sweet dragon,” Brianna said, sweetly, “it’s time for you to die.” And with that, she pulled a dagger from her boot and threw it at the object of a million women’s lust.
Amanda, still seething, did not pause. Upon seeing the flash of metal, she sprang to action, jumping in the flight path of the spinning column of death. And with a swift motion of her hands, she caught & redirected the dagger back at it’s origin.
All who watched, including Trevor, gaped, open-mouthed.
The dagger clipped Brianna’s blouse and bra strap, quickly revealing her shoulder without actually cutting her. It was a one-in-a-million dagger toss, if you ignore the fact that it was caught & redirected in mid-air.
“Damn basic cable” Drake thought to himself at the lack of an exposed nipple.
The crew, flabbergasted at the turn of events, dropped their rolls of duct tape (which, to give them credit, they were wielding menacingly) and put their hands in the air. Brianna was not to be deterred and leapt toward this female femme-fatale. Amanda put her down by simply stepping aside and watching her foe crash face-forward into the wall, crumpling to the ground.
“Get back to work,” Amanda whispered to the crew, and they scattered, gathering their equipment, tripping over themselves.
“The preying mantis always gets to choose her mate,” she said, looking at the camera. Licking her lips and looking at Drake, she said “I think I might just have the right lock for that key of yours” before signaling that the cameras should cut away.