Volusa had woken her mistress almost as soon as she had been woken by the shaking. She had got her out of her room,along with the rest of Claudia's slaves but they had got separated once they got to the more occupied parts of the palace - everyone was heading to the garden and Volusa could not see her mistress any more, or Cynane or anyone else from Claudia's personal staff.
And she could not make headway back in against the tide of people seeking safety in the garden.
Volusa shook her head. "You all went out for a ride, and came back hours later, with the mistress wearing a different dress - one that I've never seen before! - and she's been very quiet ever since, as if something awful happened. And it's not like I can ask her why, is it?"
She hadn't seemed hurt, but if anyone had tried to hurt her, Volusa would hunt them down and gut them with a sharp knife. No. A blunt one, it would hurt more.
"And you were with her, so you muse know - and you haven't exactly been yourself, either." She indicated her own neck. "I've never known you to be jumpy like that. So something happened, and I want to know so I can help."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to," Volusa said, her heartbeat slowing to normal now that she was not going to be strangled or disembowelled or anything. She fussed with the bundle for another moment, and frowned up at the taller woman. "You don't sound fine," she said eventually. "And I've never known you to be so... jumpy. Especially towards people coming out of the mistress' rooms."
She caught her lower lip between her teeth for a moment, debating whether to say the next thing or not. She was not generally one to gossip, especially about her mistress, but Cynane had been with her that day, and Claudia obviously trusted her. Anyway, the Briton was remarkably close-lipped and Volusa was relatively sure that anything she said would not go further.
"Are you sure there's nothing to talk about? Because the mistress has been... on edge, a bit, since that day, and now this..." She shrugged. "You know I don't gossip. I wouldn't be the mistress' body slave if I did. You don't have to tell me, but if you wanted to... I won't tell. And - we're friends, and you need a friend, I think."
If she was wrong about that, well, she was wrong. Offering wouldn't hurt anyone, anyway, and it might do the other woman some good to talk.
"I'm fine," Volusa said, regaining her breath and trying to calm her racing heart. "You startled me..." She bent to gather the dirty laundry that she had dropped. Once she had bundled it together and straightened, she looked at Cynane, puzzled and a little wary.
"Are you alright, though? You've never... before..."
Cynane had been watchful, before, but had never been so on edge that someone coming out of Claudia's rooms would spark that sort of reaction, not as far as Volusa was aware.
"Do you want to talk about it?" she offered, calmer, balancing the bundle on her hip and looking for somewhere a little more private where they could have a conversation while Cynane could still keep an eye on the princess' door.
There was something indefinably... different... about her mistress after her return home the previous week. Claudia had not been wearing the same dress that she had set out in and had been somewhat quieter and more subdued, though Volusa had not really been able to get much out of her at all without crossing boundaries she could not cross, as a slave. She was leaving her mistress' rooms, minding her own business, having completely forgotten that Cynane would be standing outside, and gave a small scream as the older woman whipped around, a fierce look on her face and practically pinned her against the wall.
"I... I..." she swallowed against the arm across her throat, that was pressing lightly but threateningly.
"I don't really like the games. Murmillos, I suppose - anything except retiarii, anyway. Giving someone a net is not a fair fight, especially if it's a fight to the death."
Do you prefer the city or the country?
Volusa was still getting used to telling others to fetch whatever it was the mistress wanted - yes, there were times she went herself, but not when it came to bathing and having something to eat!
She returned the mistress' other palla to its home and fetched a gown for when she had finished bathing - something light and comfortable that she could relax in - and busied herself carefully removing all the jewellery that Claudia was wearing, returning it to its box.
It had been a long day, but a far more interesting one than when Claudia remained in the palace all day, though it wasn't over yet for Volusa, not by a long way. She took the tray of food that was brought in, setting it within reach and pouring a goblet of wine for her, stepping back silently when done, unsure whether she was dismissed or not.
"They would like that, I think," Volusa replied, just as quietly, very aware that her opinion had not been asked for, and yet her mistress might want a response to her musings.
"What sort of peaceful and quiet are you thinking of, Domina?" she asked, suddenly aware that she hadn't asked permission to ask the question, beguiled by her mistress' smile.