Once the door to the study had closed however, Tayna shone through her disguise and she changed automatically. She lost her straight, arrogant posture, and stumbled clumsily in her black heels, but managed to grab the back of the sofa before she fell over.
'Ugh,' she said, still in Marinia's voice, but with a Tayna-like gagging gesture, 'get her off!' She took hold of her wand and flicked it at herself. It sent a breath of air across her face, magickally shortening her hair and turning it blonde like ink spreading through water. Her eyes became honey brown once again, her nose becoming more button-like, her cheeks dotting with freckles. She took her wand again and drew it down herself, from the hollow of her throat, down her chest to her waist, transforming her clothes as she did so. The waistband of her skirt unravelled to its normal length, her stockings turned white into over-the-knee socks, her buttons did themselves up, and the heels melted away, turning her shoes into flats.
'You have no idea how horrible I felt doing that, Will,' she said once she had transformed back. Will felt himself suddenly ease, even though he'd known she wasn't really Marinia, just seeing her made his stomach knot angrily. 'This book had better be worth it.' She held up the silver key victoriously and headed towards the cabinet. She slid it into the lock and they both heard the click of the catch, then the glass doors slid themselves back to reveal the collection of books.
Tayna bent down, looking at them admirably. 'I can't imagine how long it must have taken Principal Paradam to collect these,' she said. 'He said all of these came from the royal collection that our parents took with them into exile.' Will stopped to imagine Paradam travelling all across Maegard, tracking down each of the families, finding a way to take them to the Sanctuary, Tayna had told him that by breaking the codes of the exile, he was now a wanted criminal by the Elemental Court. 'I wonder how he...' Tayna trailed off, her brow knitting together in thought, '...whether they would have let him...'
'What is it?' Will asked, sensing her puzzlement towards something.
She shook her head, 'it doesn't matter...here, this is what you want.' She ran her finger across the spines of the preserved books, reading as first and limited editions. She stopped at the bejewelled book and slowly withdrew it from the case, taking it carefully over to the nearest roll-top desk, sinking down in a red-leather swivel chair.
She set the book gently onto the table, between rolls of blank parchment, assortments of quills and ink pots. It was opulent, made from hard, dark purple leather, the cover bordered in patterned pearls and amethyst jewels, surrounding a flourishing, silver 'S'. On the spine it was written: ELEMENTUM SPIRITUS.
'It looks expensive,' Will murmured to himself.
Tayna heard and smiled, 'it is. It's the only one of its kind. The books are made from thousands of references to our elements over almost a hundred generations. It's truly incredible.' She turned it carefully onto its side and looked at the lock, a negative mould that the other piece was supposed to fit with. Tayna looked at it thoughtfully before her eyes lit up intelligently. She stood up and retrieved the silver key from the lock, and twirling it in her hands, pulled it. Will was surprised to see that the ornamental bow separated from the blade, and he watched as Tayna slotted the bow into the mould, completing it perfectly. Suddenly, the catch popped open.
She turned to Will and grinned triumphantly. 'What would you do without me?'
He just smiled back, looking over her shoulder as she opened the book.