Arno clicked on their headlamp as they crouched through the uncovered doorway, glancing up into the yawning expanse they’d uncovered at their latest dig site. The Professor was going to be blown away by this – they’d probably get an award!
It was a vast, football field sized room; lined with Roman mosaic tiles, columns long-broken cluttering the edges. How and when this palace had been buried was a mystery to everyone involved, but the interior seemed to have held up… incredibly well. Strikingly well! It wasn’t even musty, merely… dusty. Old.
Arno clicked on their video recorder, starting to go over the architecture and construction of the palace. Easily first century construction, with scattered painted pottery and the occasional piece of jewelry drawing the dog’s eye. Could those sell?
The curious thought of how they would look in one of the necklaces struck them, though, as they finally reached the far side of the room. A large, dusty throne commanded the space, what once must’ve been fine linens and a cushion occupying the seat. Something upon it glinted in the light of the lamp, though.
Curious, Arno plucked the necklace from its resting place, turning it over in their palm. Solid gold, as far as they could tell, with a green gem pressed into the pendant. Tourmaline?
Glancing around to make sure none of the other members of the dig had wandered in, Arno grinned. Might as well take a souvenir, right? Who’d miss it?
They slipped the necklace over their head, letting it rest against the fabric of their shirt…
…and froze, solid. A shock went from the tip of their tail to the top of their head, standing the poodle ramrod-straight, and, as if from thin air, a figure resolved from the dust on the throne.
Electric blue eyes stared into Arno’s golden gaze, the golden laurel the figure wore commanding a surprising amount of obedience from the frozen dog. A… rabbit?
“Well, now.” The figure spoke, resting their chin on a palm, bracing themself on the arm of the throne. “Two millennia and this is the best that wanders in?”
“Huh?” Arno managed, feeling the necklace grow heavier – tugging their gaze downwards, towards golden braces on the floor. They sparkled in the lamplight, and seemingly on autopilot they, too, were put on.
The second they were clipped on, the poodle’s mind went foggy; face drooping slightly as the intelligent focus behind it waned. They needed more jewelry. It didn’t feel complete, a compulsion striking the poodle to wear as much as possible, to show off, to serve.
“My, how obedient!” The figure on the throne chuckled, snapping their fingers together. Arno snapped to attention, intently focused on the rabbit’s paw – and, with a gesture, retrieved a small, wooden chest from beside the throne.
Arno tried to put the box back down, recognizing this wasn’t exactly the best situation to be stuck in – but their paws wouldn’t obey, walking them back to the front of the throne and sitting the box down as the Emperor commanded it, sliding it open.
Inside, cupped in soft, ancient fabric, were a pair of golden piercings, glimmering softly in the light.
The poodle fought as their paws gently plucked the piercings from their resting places, sliding their coat and shirt off as the necklace began to shift and change, whatever magic it exerted over the dog now reshaping it into a collar of sorts! The piercings soon adorned the dazed dog’s chest, chained to the collar with elaborate, fine gold links.
Their mind swam, awash with the suggestive thoughts the jewelry layered over their usual thoughts, banishing the thought of leaving at all from their mind. After all, didn’t servants serve? Who better to serve than the Emperor themself?
“It has been a long time,” The rabbit intoned, shifting into a more comfortable pose. “Fetch me my wine, would you?”
Arno didn’t even respond, merely shuffling across the ruined throne room and somehow, despite never having seen this room before, knowing exactly where it was, fetching the bottle and a cup. Wine was poured, and the poodle stood there slack, like a marionette waiting for someone to tug their strings.
There was a quiet rumble of falling rocks outside of the throne room, along with distant footsteps.
“Arno?” Someone called, a flashlight being shone into the room as someone evidently came looking for them.
The voice seemed distantly familiar, but the dog didn’t care.
“More guests? Oh, wonderful,” The rabbit grinned, a cold, calculating grin. “Show them in, would you? A court of one is no court at all.”
Arno turned, heading for the entrance – but, before they passed the first column paused.
Reaching down into a discarded box, they tugged free a few more of the odd tourmaline necklaces; evidently, once the insignia of the imperial servants themselves.
The rest of the dig site crew would look nice in them, wouldn’t they?