The feeling of liquid running over his teeth, around his tongue, and down his throat brought Les back to consciousness. His mouth grew warm and began to tingle, touched by a certain sweetness, something like honey, but deeper, richer. The way whipped cream is deeper and richer than air, he thought, still very groggy. A feeling of warmth trailed in the liquid’s wake, moving down his throat and into his stomach. Once there, the tingling fire began spreading through his body. His heart responded with a quickening, strengthening beat.
There had been pain in his head, though he had only been dimly aware of it till just then. Now it was lifting, dissolved by some effortless power. Relief flooded through him, sweeping away all the pain and discomfort like so much floating debris. The effect was so powerful that he thought he was going to melt, and slide off the table into a grateful puddle on the floor.
When the surge finally receded, it left him empty and cavernous and hollow inside. The sensation was brief, reminding him of that hanging moment he always felt just before an elevator would stop. It was supplanted by a growing sense of renewed energy and strength. Expanding rapidly, his entire body was soon alive with fresh vitality and a raw, wild sensation of power. He reacted by jumping up from the table on which he lay, even before he opened his eyes. Only a hand restrained him. A very large hand.
“Do not try to stand quite yet,” a reassuring voice said. “Allow the initial effects to run their course. It won’t be long.”
Les blinked, trying to focus. The giant was standing beside him. His name was Polydeuces, Les remembered with a clarity that surprised him. Pol, he had said. Something was different, though. His overwhelming fear of the man was missing. “Where am I?”
“The Portalhouse, young master.” Pol replied, smiling down at him.
Les blinked and stretched his eyes until the room around him came into dazzling focus. It was large and open, and lined with a dozen long, gleaming silver tables, arranged like a dining hall with a wide aisle down the center. The walls were made of seamless panels, silvery-steel, laden with beautifully inscribed patterns. A large landscape picture hung on the opposite side, the green of its meadows, and the blue of its sky ridiculously bright against the metal wall. To his right, a high counter ran the breadth of the room. Behind the counter, extending all the way to the softly glowing ceiling, were shelves crowded with bottles, jars, and bowls of various sizes and shapes. At the opposite end of the room stood a pair of very solid-looking metal doors.
“Young master,” Pol said, “I would like to introduce you to ’Dora. It is she who prepared the elixir which restored you to health.” Les looked around in confusion. He didn’t see anyone else in the room.