Chapter 21 – The War of the Dead

After a sleepless night thinking about what I was going to do next about the Witches of the Night’s attacks, I ended up deciding to try to warn the spirits of the dead in Gerês. In fact, I didn’t know where to find any more of their enemies.

I knew that the dead only went to their city after midnight, but I wanted to get there early. I didn’t want my warning to be late again. As such, although I had a lot of work, I took the afternoon off work without telling my wife, and I went to Gerês.

I left the car in a dirt space next to the road, above the same ruined village as in my previous visit. I went down to the village, and from there, I made my way to the only entrance to the city of the dead I knew. Despite the ghost leader’s threat after my last visit, it was still in the same place.

Before entering, however, I called my wife to tell her I was going to work late. I didn’t want to have another fight with her.

Finally, I went down the hole in the ground to the tunnel leading to the city proper. Midnight was still a while away, so, as I expected, there were no guards.

With the help of the small flashlight that I always carried with me, I navigated the passages until I reach the broad, deep pit where the city stood. There wasn’t yet any spirit, as I expected, but I confess that I was surprised when I realized that the ethereal buildings I had seen on my last visit also weren’t there.

I sat against the wall, on a rock, and waited.

My watch was clearly early, for three minutes before midnight the buildings began to appear in the ledges along the pit’s wall. From circular Iron Age houses to apartment buildings with several floors, there were houses of all types and ages.

I got up. I took the appearance of the buildings as a sign that the spirits of the dead were leaving their tombs and forming the processions that every night lead to their city.

The first ghosts showed up ten minutes later. Like the last time, my presence didn’t go unnoticed. Every one of them that went by stared at me. However, none spoke to me, only kept going forward, floating toward their ethereal dwellings.

Then one appeared that I had met, the one called The President. When he saw me, he came over and said:

– Didn’t I tell you not to come back here?

I then explained why I was there and told him about the previous attacks of the Witches of the Night. He didn’t seem very surprised.

– Their attack is already here – he answered. – Some of us saw their army coming towards here. We just came to get our weapons.

I looked again at the pit and saw that several ghosts were returning wielding ethereal hand to hand weapons. As the buildings, they came from all of mankind’s historical eras. I saw swords, war hammers, and maces; wooden clubs and axes with a stone head; knives and even brass knuckles.

The President left me and went to get his weapons. I followed the column of armed ghosts back outside. I had some trouble climbing the entrance, but I ended up getting to the valley above.

While it was already night-time, the sky was clear, and the moon and the stars radiated enough light for me to see what surrounded me. The phantoms were lining not far from the entrance, forming blocks similar to those used by the armies of Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

At first, I didn’t see their opponents, but a dark line quickly appeared about the horizon. Gradually, it approached, until I could see some dark spots flying over it, probably the Witches of the Night.

It took about half an hour until I could clearly see the soldiers that formed it. To my surprise, they were all of the same race of creatures, one that I had never seen before. They walked on four legs, but there was intelligence in their eyes. Hair covered their bodies, and a long, slender tail moved behind and above them. But their nose was the feature that stood out the most. Long and tapered, it resembled those of anteaters, but it was longer and ended in a much wider mouth.

The army kept advancing, but the Witches of the Night stayed behind. I wondered how those creatures could hurt the intangible ghosts at my side, especially without the help of their master’s spells.

Eventually, the two armies met face to face. The spirits lined up in well-formed blocks. Their enemies, in turn, resembled less an army and more a pack ready to descend on their prey as soon as their master gave the order.

– Get out of here – The President told me, approaching. – Take shelter.

– I want to help – I protested.

– Look around. You think that one man will make a difference? Hide yourself. If we are defeated, at least someone will know what happened.

I didn’t argue with him. He was right. Among those hundreds of ghosts, my help would hardly be felt. If I stayed away and survived, at least I could continue the fight against the Witches of the Night (although at the time I had no idea how I would do it).

I got a few hundred yards away from the two armies and hid behind one of the many boulders in the area.

Just an instant later, without warning, the creatures charged against the ghosts. The latter, not knowing exactly what their enemies were capable, decided to wait. Only a few volunteer scouts advanced against the creatures.

Within seconds, the two forces met. It was then that the Witches of the Night’s soldiers revealed their terrible ability. About three feet before they got within the ghosts’ weapons reach, they opened their mouths. Immediately, with an irresistible force, the spirits were sucked into their stomachs.

It was thus explained the disappearances the dead had told me about on my first visit.

The army of the dead immediately reacted to the gruesome sight. Ghosts, beings who thought they wouldn’t have to fear anything ever again, panicked. Some tried to escape, while others lowered their arms and simply waited. Even The President seemed not to know what to do.

After mere seconds, the army of the dead’s organized blocks were gone. When the creatures of the Witches of the Night reached the main concentration of ghosts, they no longer seemed to be fighting a battle, but hunting powerless prey.

I saw spirits being sucked by the dozen. The stomachs of their captors were apparently impossible to fill.

The dead desperately tried to flee, some back to their graves, others to the underground city, but none reached their destination. The Witches of Night’s creatures were too fast.

Gradually the ghosts disappeared from the battlefield. The few who remained tried in desperation to face the enemy, but were sucked well before they could use their weapons.

Finally, the Witches of the Night approached, flying over their victorious army. There was no longer any trace of the dead. It was as if they had never been there.

I remained in my hiding place. I didn’t know what the Night Witches would do to me if they found me. Fortunately, they didn’t remain on the battlefield long. Surprisingly quickly, they reorganized their army and disappeared in the same direction from which they had come.

The valley was now completely empty. There were no bodies or blood. Even the grass seemed almost untouched. If that had been my first contact with that hidden world parallel to ours, I might have thought that everything had been a dream or a hallucination. However, I knew that it wasn’t the case. And the Witches of the Night had obtained another victory. I was no closer to discovering their goal than when I started investigating them, but judging by their methods, it could only be something nefarious.

Since there was no reason to remain there, I returned to my car and drove back home. I arrived at almost four in the morning. My wife and my daughter were obviously already asleep.

I went to bed but could not sleep. That victory had eliminated the last Witches of the Night’s enemies I knew, or at least that I knew where to find. What would I do now to stop them and make them accountable for the deaths they had already caused?

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Chapter 20 – The Battle of the Islets

After spending a sleepless night wondering who I should warn next about the Witches of the Night and their army’s attack, I decided to go and talk with the King of the Islets. In our last (and only) conversation, he had told me that his subjects were disappearing, which I now suspect was an attempt by the Witches of the Night to weaken them before the final attack. Besides, I could always tell my wife I was going to visit my grandparents in Viana do Castelo without further increasing her suspicions.

The day after my discovery of the macabre scene in the tunnels beneath Braga, I told my wife that I was going to dine at my grandparents’ home and, after work, I drove to Viana.

Actually, I didn’t lie because I did, in fact, visit my grandparents, and my grandmother forced me to stay for dinner. However, I soon I left their home and contacted an old friend, asking if he could lend me his boat once again.

We met at the river in the usual place, and after a short conversation about what was new in our lives (and me making up an answer to the question, “Why do you only need my boat at night?”), I boarded the boat and started paddling toward Camalhão, the largest of the Islets in the Lima river and the place where the throne of the King of Islets stood.

I was halfway there when, in the shadowy and uninhabited north river bank, I saw a huge figure. I stopped to look more closely and realized that it was a humanoid creature, probably one of the giants who served the Witches of the Night. Thanks to its prodigious size, it forded the river since the water barely reached its knee, and reached Camalhão in mere seconds.

I started rowing again. I had to try to warn the inhabitants of the islets. Then, I saw more figures in the margin, all of varying sizes. The largest went straight into the water, pulling ropes tied to what looked like rafts, which carried the smaller ones.

At the same time, I began to hear noises in Camalhão; the inhabitants were vigilant and had detected the enemy as soon as he appeared. The first giant seemed to be the target of veritable items in a rain of tiny projectiles, while the reeds around his feet moved, possibly agitated by small creatures attacking at close quarters. However, the attacker didn’t fall, and his companions readily reached Camalhão.

The battle had begun. There was no one to warn. I thought about joining the inhabitants of the islets and fight, but what could I do? I had no weapons and even if I had, I couldn’t fight those kinds of enemies. Instead, I ended up simply dropping anchor and watch the events unfold.

Although I couldn’t see the tiny creatures of the islets, only their projectiles, the reeds’ movements, and their enemies’ reactions. They seemed to be fighting well. I saw several of the smaller monsters at the service of the Witches of the Night fall. Then, the first giant to reach Camalhão brought to his knees, although he kept fighting.

Despite all of their efforts, however, the attackers kept coming. I couldn’t see how many casualties the Witches of the Night’s army had caused, but I had to assume the number was significant.

Although slow, their victory seemed certain until the reeds around them started moving. Within seconds, they grew and weaved together, forming ropes and nets that held the invaders.

Soon after, a shape about thirteen feet tall appeared on Camalhão, probably from one of the many gullies that crossed that islet. Armed with a huge club, he attacked the kneeling giant, crushing his head. It could only be the King of the Islets.

With the enemy paralyzed and their monarch at their side, the inhabitants of the Islets redoubled their efforts, and many of the invaders fell. More continued to arrive from the shore, but as soon as they put their feet on Camalhão, they were immediately trapped by the reeds. The victory of the islets’ inhabitants now seemed not only a possibility but a near certainty.

Then, something flew over my head. I looked up and saw five cloaked figures heading toward Camalhão; the winds carried their voices to me, singing the words that casted their spells. The first made the reeds in the combat area and around it rot and fall, freeing the soldiers of the Witches of the Night, while the following ones threw a veritable torrent of flaming spheres onto the King of the Islets.

The King used his own spells to defend himself, raising invisible barriers to block the enemy’s attacks. However, because he was attacked from several directions, he didn’t resist for long. After a few minutes, I saw him fall. After that, the attacking creatures quickly spread across Camalhão.

Small boats, carrying groups of tiny creatures began to leave the islet, trying to escape to one of the other several islets. However, they weren’t many, and they could hardly build up any resistance if the Witches of the Night chose to conquer the rest of their kingdom. For all intents and purposes, the battle was over.

I rowed back to shore. In a few places, including the bridge that crossed the river and passed over Camalhão, I saw people trying to figure out what was happening on the Islet. I doubt they understood what they were seeing, and even if they did, it wasn’t enough to reveal that world hidden from ours. Still, I’m sure Almeida and the rest of the Organization weren’t going to be very happy.

On the trip back home, I couldn’t help but think that the Night Witches had obtained another victory. Whatever their goal was, they were closer to achieving it.

And once again, I had arrived late too warn their victims.

Chapter 19 – The First Attack

As you can imagine, after I found the Witches of the Night in the gardens of Tibães Monastery and saw the army that they were assembling, I was eager to discuss it with someone. Since I didn’t want to expose my family and friends to the existence of that world parallel to ours along with the dangers that could arise from that knowledge, the first person who came to mind was Alice. After all, her race seemed to be one of the targets of the Witches of the Night.

Although it was a time of much work, the next day, I left my office as soon as my working hours ended and went to the Faerie Bar. What I had discovered seemed to me too important to wait.

To my surprise, when I reached the pastry shop that served as a link between the surface world and the underground bar, I found it closed. I peeked inside and saw no signs that it had even been opened that day and the mail was piled up behind the door. Still I tried knocking on the door, but no one answered.

The main entrance to the world that existed beneath Braga was closed. After what I had seen the night before, I started to get worried. I tried to calm down by telling myself that the pastry shop could be closed for several more mundane reasons.

Fortunately, I knew of another entrance, so I didn’t have to torture myself by just imagining what could have happened.

I went to my car, parked near my office, and headed for the Bom Jesus hill. As I got closer to my destination, I began to feel some trepidation. The other entrance was near Vila Marta, the home of the Cerqueira family. I didn’t know to what extent Henrique Cerqueira knew of my involvement in the escape of the trolls that were used as slaves in the family vineyard, but I didn’t want to be seen all the same.

Fortunately, I came to the thicket that hid the second entry without encountering anyone.

After penetrating the vegetation, I found the narrow cave which would lead me into the hidden world beneath Braga. A few yards ahead, where the passage began to widen, I expected to find a guard just as I did on my last visit; however, there was no one there.

I confess that I found it strange, even alarming, but I kept going, albeit more carefully. Had the Witches of the Night already been there?

I headed to the nearest station of the “subway” that connected the different parts of the underground city. When I got there, once again, I saw no one. I waited.

For more than half an hour, I stayed on the platform but saw no sign of other passengers or of the creature tasked with the transportation. I considered walking to the Faerie Bar, but because I didn’t knew the way through the pedestrian tunnels, I kept waiting.

After twenty minutes, I still hadn’t seen any movement, so I decided to risk it and took the only way that I knew: the tunnel of the living train.

With the help of the small flashlight that I always carried with me, given that the huge passage had no light sources, I made my way northwest. As I progressed, I kept alert to any noise, just in case the “train” was about to pass by and run me over.

For over an hour, I passed through several other stations but didn’t see or hear anything of note. My fear that the Witches of the Night and their army had gotten there increased, but there was no sign of them. It seemed that the creatures that inhabited those tunnels had simply vanished.

Finally, the lantern lit something that blocked the tunnel. I approached it carefully. Shortly after, I saw that it was reddish brown in color and realized that it wasn’t a rock slide. However, it was only when I reached it that I found out what it was: the creature that served as the “train” dead. Its hundreds of thin legs were folded along its body, and its huge, human-like face was frozen in an expression of terror and pain. Around him lay pieces of broken wood and glass, debris of the cabins that it once carried on its back as carriages.

I was now sure that something had happened, certainly an attack by the Witches of the Night. I had arrived too late to warn the inhabitants of those tunnels, but maybe I could might still provide some help. Regardless, I didn’t want to go back.

The creature occupied the entire width of the tunnel and more than half its height, so I had to climb over it to get to the other side.

As soon as my feet touched the ground again, I lit the new section of the tunnel. The scene was now completely different. Bodies of creatures of various sizes and shapes littered the floor, many of which belonging to races I had previously seen in the Faerie Bar. Some had burn marks, showing that they had been killed by flames or spells, but most appeared to have been felled by blunt weapons.

After seeing that, I considered leaving the tunnels, but changed my mind because I still thought that I could help someone and decided to keep going.

That scene repeated itself along the tunnel until I reached the next station. Then, the first bodies of ogres, goblins, ogrons, and other creatures that I knew were in the service of the Witches of the Night appeared, though in much smaller numbers than the locals. It seemed that the latter had become trapped in the tunnel due to the “train’s” body and been massacred.

That was the station I knew was nearest to the Faerie Bar, so I left the ditch where the “train” used to move and climbed up to the platform and into the pedestrian tunnels.

In the passages, there weren’t many bodies, but all the houses, rooms, and dead-end tunnels were full of dead locals.

Finally, I arrived at the Faerie Bar. The door was on the floor, so what I found inside came as no surprise. There were bodies everywhere mixed with broken tables, chairs, and cups. The counter had been destroyed, and with it, the conduct that channelled the water customers used to drink. Consequently, the liquid dripped from the ceiling directly to the floor, soaking it. The bar only wasn’t only flooded because the water flowed through a hole in the base of one of the walls.

Admirably, the door which led to the pastry shop upstairs and through it, to the surface world was closed. Despite being trapped and facing certain death, the bar customers didn’t reveal their existence to the outside world.

I searched among the bodies for anyone I knew. Two of the people who had helped me release the trolls from the Cerqueira’s farm were among the victims, but Alice, my main contact and the person of that world I knew best, was not. I hoped that she had escaped, though it was more likely that she was dead in some other place.

I thought about exploring more to look for survivors or even the Witches of the Night and their soldiers, but I quickly gave that idea up since nothing I saw indicated that there were any survivors in those tunnels, and if there were, they would have been hidden so that a simple visitor like me could never find them. On the other hand, those deaths appeared to have taken place some time before and I hadn’t seen or heard any sign that the killers were still there.

I made my way back to the outside and to the car. I just hoped that there were survivors to bury the dead.

When I got home, I had a huge argument with my wife. I had forgotten to tell her that I was going to be late for dinner and since I had no mobile service in the tunnels, she couldn’t contact me. I had to make up an excuse as I didn’t want to expose her to the strange world I was exploring. She was not entirely convinced, but at least she calmed down.

After eating my already cold dinner and helping my daughter with her homework, I went to bed. I got little sleep that night as I couldn’t help thinking what other places the Witches of the Night would attack and what I could do about it without raising my wife’s suspicions.

Chapter 18 – The Goat of Tibães

Some say that we only find things when we are not looking for them. Although I have never believed this, it doesn’t mean that it sometimes can’t true.

It all started when, on a winter afternoon, I read in a local paper that a goat was terrorising the inhabitants of Mire de Tibães. The case was remarkably similar to stories told about the goat of Cabanelas in the 1930s, which is often referred to in books on Northern Portuguese legends.

The news said that a black goat appeared at dusk on the Mire de Tibães’ graveyard. Meowing like a cat, it made flybys over the visitors until they left.

Curious about the reappearance of this old legend, I decided to take another break from my quest for the Witches of the Night and, one day after work, I went to that cemetery.

Although the days were already getting bigger, dusk still came early. So, when I got there, the sun was about to disappear behind the horizon.

As soon as I entered the graveyard, I realized that I wasn’t the only one there hoping to see the goat. Except for two people who were quickly putting new flowers on a grave, no one paid any attention to the dead. Indeed, almost all eyes were on the sky, as well as mobile phones and cameras. I leaned against one wall and waited.

Gradually, it grew dark. The two people taking care of the grave left almost running. Only I and about twenty other spectators stayed behind.

The minutes passed. It kept getting darker. Suddenly, we heard a strange mewing from above. Atop the wall opposite the one I was leaning against, there was a goat. To my surprise, it had a quite usual look. It had brown and black fur of varying shades, two small horns on the top of its head, and a goatee on its chin.

Then, it meowed again, and with a jump, left the wall. However, instead of landing on the ground, it began running mid-air.

Camera flashes fired everywhere as the other watchers tried to document the strange phenomenon. It was then that the goat made its first flyby. Men and women threw themselves to the ground, trying to avoid the creature that flew just above the crosses and tombstones at an incredible speed.

At first, everyone kept watching the goat as it did flyby after flyby until everyone started to crawl toward the exit. Meanwhile, I hid under a stone bench embedded in the wall of the mortuary chapel and waited.

A few minutes later, I was the only one still in the cemetery, since the others had entered their cars and fled away. Then, the goat withdrew, disappearing behind the north wall. In that moment, I left my hiding place and followed it.

Overcoming the wall wasn’t easy, but climbing on a nearby tombstone (at the time I thought nothing of it given how intent I was in following the flying goat, but I confess that now it seems disrespectful), I managed to cross to the other side.

The Tibães’ cemetery was built adjacent to the medieval monastery of Tibães, one of the best-known monuments in the municipality of Braga, and I found myself in its extensive gardens.

I spotted the goat flying just over the crops, so as soon I touched the ground, I immediately started to follow it. The journey wasn’t easy, since the roads were all made out of dirt. Besides, the night had finally arrived fully and I didn’t dare turn on the flashlight I always had with me, fearing that it would reveal my presence.

Shortly after, the goat took me to the forest that edged the monastery grounds to the south. Thanks to one of my previous visits, I knew exactly where it was going – to the artificial lake that had been created in a nearby clearing.

Although I knew the narrow trail that would take me there, something told me not to use it, so I decided to approach under the cover of vegetation. As soon as I saw the lake, my caution proved justified.

To my surprise, by the decorated wall from which emerged the water that filled the lake, burned a huge bonfire that was probably taller than me. Around it were five cloaked figures, all of them exactly like the creature I had encountered in that abandoned house. I had finally found the Witches of the Night! And while investigating something apparently unrelated to them.

It was obvious that the goat was their creation, probably to keep people from the area, but I couldn’t understand why.

I took several deep breathes. Once again, I was about to confront a group of witches. However, these weren’t common witches or mere suspects of being the Witches of the Night. These were them and they had killed people before, albeit indirectly. On the other hand, the idea that they had let me go unharmed after our last meeting brought me some comfort.

I was going to leave my hiding place and go down to the lake when I heard a noise behind me. I immediately took refuge in a small thicket that hid me from every direction. Seconds later, a huge creature, more than three meters high, passed by me. Overall, it looked human, though I couldn’t see its face in the dark. Its legs looked like tree trunks and its body was extremely broad, but it walked with a bent back.

After seeing it, I began to hear noises all around me. Figures of all shapes and sizes started appearing among the vegetation, some even bigger than the initial ogre. Where they had come from, I had no idea, but they were all bound for the artificial lake.

When the first creatures reached the margin, the witches started chanting rhythmically and moving their arms above their heads.

For about a minute, nothing happened. Then, the lake’s water began to stir. Shortly after, it rose above the bank, but didn’t overflow. It was as if it was being contained by an invisible barrier.

Every moment that went by, the water rose higher and higher until, to my astonishment, it formed a huge bubble about ten meters above the lake which was now empty and its bed exposed. The creatures then began to descend the muddy surface, disappearing under the brim.

During the next half hour, more creatures emerged from the trees and into the now empty lake. However, the Witches of the Night continued their song, probably to keep the water hovering mid-air.

Finally, when the last of the creatures disappeared, the witches stopped. With a crash, the water fell, once again filling the artificial lake. At this time, the fire near the Witches of the Night went out and, once my eyes got accustomed to the darkness, they were gone.

After that, I still spent several minutes in my hiding place, stunned, trying to figure out what was happening. The Witches of the Night were gathering an army. If every night that the goat appeared had happened the same as that night, they could already have hundreds of soldiers. But what would be their purpose?

Had the attacks on fairy houses with fake auto accidents (the events that led me to investigate the Witches of the Night) just been attempts to weaken the enemy before the final onslaught? Could it be all connected with the mysterious disappearances of ghosts in the City of the Dead and among the King of the Islets’ subjects?

Finally, the cold made me leave my hiding place, and, crossing the graveyard wall again, I went back outside and into my car. No one else was around. The goat had fulfilled its purpose and scared everyone from the monastery and surrounding area.

After what I had just seen, I returned home worried – frightened, even. The Witches of the Night had an army. Although, until that moment, all the human deaths they had caused appeared to have been collateral damage. That could now change, and even if they didn’t attack humans, their main target would certainly be some of the creatures that lived in that world hidden from ours, and I had already walked among them and knew enough for that to affect me emotionally.

That night, I was unable to sleep, wondering what I was going to do about it all… if I could do anything.

Chapter 17 – Will-o-Wisps

Like the previous one, this investigation started with an online forum post that told of a sighting of strange lights, this time at the Citânia of Briteiros. However, it was also associated with witches and the diary I had found, as one of its entries gathered several second-hand stories that told of powerful witches living, hidden, among the ruins. My predecessor, shy as he was, never tried to confirm these stories, but their existence and that of the lights seemed a strange coincidence, and I decided to investigate.

One evening after work, I called my wife to tell her I was going to work late and then made my way to the ruins of citânia. It wasn’t far from my job, but part of the road was very narrow, with many poor visibility turns, and required careful driving. As such, it took me more than half an hour to get there.

I parked on a dirt space by the roadside in front of the entrance to the citânia’s ruins. Although it wasn’t yet night, the sky had begun to darken, and the place was closed. I decided to make use of the little light left in the day to look for another way in.

I walked almost the entire edge of the ruins facing the road. Finally, a hundred meters below where I’d left my car, I found a space between the fence and the ground large enough for me to pass. Dragging myself along the ground, I managed to get in.

I was now near the ruins of a public bath located in one of the lowest points of the citadel. Despite the growing darkness and my eagerness to find the lights’ origins, I couldn’t help but admire the so-called “Beautiful Stone” of the baths, engraved with Celtic motifs.

I started up an ancestral street, the same that the Iron Age inhabitants used in their day-to-day lives, flanked by a conduit that took water to the bath. The climb wasn’t easy as the pavement was uneven and quite steep but finally I reached the area where most of the ruins of houses were concentrated.

After resting a bit, I decided to continue to walk to the top of the Acropolis. Being the highest point in the hillfort, it was the ideal place to keep watch and spot the lights I was looking for.

I went up another of the original paths. It snaked through the ruins of the various family complexes in which circular houses were built around a central yard and surrounded by a wall taller than I.

I also passed by the innermost wall and its northern gate. Although in the dark, I couldn’t see them, I knew, thanks to my previous visit, that there were two other walls beyond it.

Finally, I reached the top of the Acropolis. In addition to two reconstructed houses, there were ruins of a huge round building with stone benches embedded in the wall. According to the reading I did before my previous visit to the citânia, archaeologists thought that that building was where the rulers or the elders gathered to discuss and solve the town’s problems.

From the top of the Acropolis, I could see the whole ruins, however, there was no sign of the lights the rumors spoke of. However, it was still early, so I leaned against one of the reconstructed houses and waited. I just wished that that wasn’t one of the few nights without occurrences that month.

The first sign that something was going to happen, however, wasn’t the appearance of lights, but of shapes that moved further down, in the dark. These came from a point almost opposite that from which I had entered, so I wondered how they had circumvented the fence.

Slowly they approached a small yard located amongst the family complexes below, and then, by the light of the moon and the stars, I realized that they were five women dressed in black. The idea that they could be the Witches of the Night crossed my mind, but I soon discarded it. These women didn’t have the covered faces or the size of the creatures I was looking for.

Then the lights that made me go there appeared. I saw them first as three small greenish flames in a small grove near the outer perimeter of the citânia. However, they quickly approached, their size and intensity increasing.

Seeing them, the five women immediately sought refuge among the ruins. They waited for the will-o-wisps to approach a bit more, and then began to recite a strange and elaborate chant. To my surprise, moments later, a torrent of hail fell upon the living flames, although the sky was clear. In mere seconds, they and the ground around them were covered by a mound of ice.

Up to that moment, I hadn’t seen such a demonstration of power by any witch, so, for a moment, I wondered if those five women really weren’t the Witches of the Night.

The attackers waited a few seconds to make sure that they had really neutralized their target. The mound of ice didn’t move, and they then left their hiding places.

“We did it” said one of them. “We’re now the most powerful witches in Northern Portugal.”

“It seems so” another agreed, with a smile.

“Are you sure?” asked a third, looking, suspicious and frightened, to the hail mound. They’ve survived worse.

“I’m sure” said the first. “We found their weakness.”

In that instant, the ice began to tremble. A second later, with an explosion, the will-o-wisps emerged from the hail.

The invaders rushed back to their shelters and started a new chant. This time, however, their opponents went into action.

With incredible speed, one crashed into one of the witches, projecting her several meters back. Another shot a strange greenish lightning that bypassed the cover and hit the attacker behind it. Then, the three got together and began to move quickly in a circle. A rain of small balls of green flames fell, then, on the three invaders still in combat. As they touched their clothes, they set them on fire. Strangely, though, when they missed and hit the ground, they went off instantly without even burning the vegetation.

The attackers rolled on the ground to extinguish the flames. When they got up, they decided that they had had enough and, after picking up their two unconscious (or maybe even dead) friends, they fled, disappearing into the darkness from which they had emerged.

The will-o-wisps remained motionless for a few more minutes. I stayed where I was, watching them, hoping that when they left, they would take me to something that would reveal their origin. After all, the women they had faced were clearly witches. Could they be somewhat related to the Witches of the Night?

The truth promptly revealed itself and it caught me completely by surprise.

The flames of the will-o-wisps started stirring and growing. Suddenly they disappeared completely, revealing three persons: two women and one man.

“I hope this is the last of these attacks” said the man. “Fighting these second-rate witches is becoming tiresome.”

“It’s the price of fame” said one of the women.

“But what do they think they can achieve?” asked the other woman. “Occupy our place? They think that by defeating us, they will get our powers?”

Clearly, those people were powerful witches. However, they didn’t have the size or the garments of the Witches of the Night, so I assumed they weren’t them. Moreover, the latter could hardly be called famous. But perhaps these three knew something that could help me.

I took a deep breath to gather some courage before, once again, addressing a group of witches.

I got up and called for them. Without a word, they again turned into will-o-wisps, flew up to the Acropolis and surrounded me. Then they returned to their human forms.

“Who are you?” asked the man. “Don’t tell me you’re another wizard who wants to face us.”

“No, no” I answered promptly.

I then told them about my search for the Witches of the Night and what had brought me there.

“You know, we’re also very interested in the Witches of the Night. No one knows who they are, what they want or where they came from. This makes them dangerous to us.”

“Do you know where I can find them?”

“Unfortunately, no” said the other woman. “If we knew, we would have already talked to them. We always try to convince all witches in the North to join our Great Covenant.”

“Come with us” said the first woman. “Let us show you what we have on the Witches of the Night. Perhaps if we combine our knowledge, we can figure something out.”

“Do you think we should show him our hiding place?” asked the man.

“He has dealt with witches before. He knows that if he says something to someone, we’ll put a curse on him and everyone he loves” said the first woman. “Besides, everyone knows that we are here in the citânia and that our hiding place isn’t very far.”

They took me, then, to one of the rebuilt citânia houses. The man took a key from his pocket, which he used to open the door, and we entered. Inside it was dark. The only light was the pale luminescence of the moon and the stars that came through the door, however, it was enough for me to realize that the place was empty.

As I wondered why they had brought me there, one of the women pulled away some of the straw that covered the floor and lifted a small stone slab. To my surprise, underneath it, there was a small backlit keypad. The witch introduced a numeric code, and the ground began to tremble.

“Step back a bit” the man said, pulling me gently by the shoulder.

A part of the floor lowered and slid aside, revealing metal stairs leading down vertically to a concrete tunnel. The woman who opened the trap door went down first, followed by the man. I was the third, while the last witch stayed back to close the trapdoor.

The tunnel was well lit and short, ending up less than two meters ahead in a room considerably more spacious than the rebuilt house above.

It was a strange place. Like the tunnel, it had concrete walls, giving it a bunker-like look. Desks with computers and tablet PCs mingled with counters filled with mortars, knives, scythes, bottles, and vials filled with multiple liquids of different colors. Bunches of different herbs hanged by strings from the ceiling, as well as chicken paws and net bags filled with bones. The walls were partially covered with newspaper clippings and pictures of people, some of whom I recognized as being involved in national and international politics.

Exactly what these witches did there, I don’t know, but it was obvious they were more powerful and influential than any other covenant I had met before.

One of the women turned on one of the computers and started showing me videos on which the Witches of the Night appeared. I confess I was surprised, scared even, with all the places where those witches had eyes. I saw images of the Witches of the Night in the Gerês Mountains, in the streets of Porto, flying over the river Lima, in the tunnels hidden under Braga. They even showed me a video of my encounter with one of the Witches of the Night, when I pursued one of the trolls under its command. These were images from outside the abandoned house where I found the creature, certainly taken by a drone. Unfortunately, the machine wasn’t fast enough to follow the cloaked witch to its hiding place.

Although the videos revealed several places where the Witches of the Night had been, even with the knowledge I had gained during my search, they didn’t help uncover the creatures’ motives or whereabouts. In fact, they only brought more questions.

With nothing more to do there, I said goodbye to the witches. After reiterating their threats of what would happen to me if I revealed their hiding place to anyone, they let me go.

On the drive back home, I couldn’t help thinking that I was increasingly confused. The more I learned about the Witches of the Night, the least I understood. Would I ever be able to find them and make them answer for the deaths they had caused?

Chapter 16 – Lights in the Sky

As part of my exploration of the world parallel to ours the diary I had found revealed, I usually followed national blogs and Internet forums about the paranormal and UFOs, in case something showed up that deserved my attention. It was one of these readings that led to this investigation.

In all ufology forums, there was great excitement about strange lights which were appearing above the hill called Monte do Pilar, on the outskirts of Póvoa de Lanhoso. Of course, that by itself wouldn’t be enough to arouse my curiosity, since reports of unidentified lights in the sky were a usual occurrence. What really made this case special were the rumors of men that blocked the road to the top of the hill during such occurrences. I immediately thought of the Organization, and if the Organization was present, something was really happening.

Forgetting my search for the Witches of the Night for a while, a Saturday night, when the sightings usually occurred, I went to Póvoa de Lanhoso. That night, my wife was at her mother’s house, who had fallen ill again, and my daughter had gone to spend the weekend with a friend, so I didn’t need to make up an excuse.

I left the car near the church built at the foot of Monte do Pilar hill, beside the road leading to the summit, to investigate the alleged roadblock. In fact, as soon as I turned the first corner, I saw two cars parked across the road blocking the way. Behind them, five men stood guard.

Contrary to what I had assumed, they didn’t seem to be from the Organization. They were armed with baseball bats, and instead of suits or military uniforms, they wore casual clothes.

I approached them to try to understand what was happening. I was still a couple of meters from the car when one of the men shouted, “You can’t pass!”

“Why?” I asked, taking two steps forward.

“None of your concern. Go back.”

“By what authority do you deny me passage through a public road?” I asked, trying to force them to reveal who they were.

“Are you going to give us trouble?” said another man, putting his baseball bat across his hand.

His companions raised their weapons.

“Go away before you hurt yourself.”

I did so, but I wouldn’t give up on that investigation so easily. I knew that hill, I had visited it several times, and knew there was an old medieval road that also climbed to the summit.

As soon as I disappeared from the men’s viewing angle, behind the corner, I climbed through the vegetation to the old road. As I had expected, it didn’t seem to be watched.

The way up wasn’t easy. The pavement stones, exposed to the elements and without maintenance for centuries, were irregular, and grass grew between them. At some points, the pavement disappeared completely. Nevertheless, the final stretch was even worse.

Monte do Pilar was crowned by a colossal rock, one of the largest in Europe, on which stood the castle of Lanhoso and a small shrine. The new road bypassed most of it and reached the top through the less steep West hillside. The old medieval road, however, led to the East entrance. I think that once a ladder connected it to the old road, however, now only a few holes dug into the bare rock helped on the way up.

Although urban exploration had given me some experience in climbing, it was with great difficulty that I reached the entrance. It gave access to a small terrace covered with trees and stone tables located a few meters below the main sanctuary area. Fortunately, no one was there, so I could take a break to recover some energy.

As soon as I felt able, I climbed, step by step, the stairs to the upper level and took a peek. On the rock, halfway between the small church and the castle, stood a group of about twenty people. They were gathered around what appeared to be a priest holding a large wooden cross with both hands. He recited, loudly, a song in Latin, drowning out all the other sounds of the night.

For twenty minutes I stood there, listening to him and watching the group, but nothing remarkable happened. I started thinking that it was only some random cult, with no relation to the lights in the sky. Only the roadblock and the link between it and the lights in the ufology forums kept me there.

Fifteen minutes later, I was glad I stayed. The group started to get excited and pointing at the sky. I followed their gaze and saw several points of light, high above the hill.

The priest started singing even louder, and the lights began to descend. Shortly after, they looked like small suns shining on the sanctuary. Their intensity was such that, at first, I could hardly look directly at them. However, they gradually faded, until at last, I was able to see what they were.

They were perhaps the most bizarre creatures I had ever seen. Some seemed to have human form but had six white wings similar to those of doves. They used the top ones to cover their faces, the lower ones to cover their feet and legs, and only the middle ones to fly. Others were vaguely humanoid, however, they had four heads, one of a man, one of an eagle, one of an ox and one of a lion, and four eye-covered wings. Nevertheless, and despite how strange these beings looked, the third type of creature was even stranger. They were formed by various concentric wheels with eye-covered hoops. How they flew, I can’t say.

As a teenager, I had a keen interest in mythology, and although Christian angelology was not one of my favorites, I recognized those beings as angels from the first sphere, the ones closer to God.

Slowly, the beings flew in circles over the assembled people, while they raised their hands skyward and screamed pleas.

After a few minutes, the angels began to fly away. Gradually, their light became weaker, until it disappeared.

With smiles on their lips, the priest and his following began to disperse and return to their cars. What was the result of that ritual, I can’t say, but at least I found out that it wasn’t just demons this kind of cults invoked.

I stayed where I was and waited for them to leave the sanctuary. Then I gave them more time to unblock the road and only then started down the hill, this time through the main route.

As always, several questions raced through my mind on the way back home. What was the purpose of that ritual? Why would angels of the highest orders come down to earth? If angels were real, did that mean God is also real?

Fortunately, my mind was still preoccupied with finding the Witches of the Night and find out their endgame, otherwise, if I had had time to think about the implications of that night, my world could have collapsed.

Chapter 15 – The Warlock

After several investigations without finding any clue as to the hiding place and intentions of the Witches of the Night, I decided to reread all entries about witches in the journal that introduced me to this world parallel to ours. I finally decided to investigate one that had me curious for a long while.

It spoke of a witch doctor and diviner that attended to his clients in an annex close to his home, in the village of Perre, in Viana do Castelo. It was a story that I knew since I was a child. In fact, for a few years, I passed by his “cabinet” every day on the way to school and saw the rows of cars parked next to it. At the time, neither my family nor I had a lot of faith in his abilities, but after all that I had recently seen and read, I thought I should reconsider.

One weekend, I told my wife I was going to Viana do Castelo to visit my grandparents. Actually, I did go by their house but didn’t stay long, and after, I headed to Perre.

When I reached the warlock’s house, I had a strong sense of déjà vu. The annex, across the road from his home, looked the same, as did the adjacent field. Even the rows of cars on both sides of the road were as I remembered.

I parked behind one of them and headed to the annex. There, people gathered in groups of families and friends, waiting for their turn. These seemed to have varied backgrounds since suits mingled with overalls and farming clothes. The warlock’s fame reached everybody.

I joined them and waited. Gradually, the groups went in and left. Everybody, without exception, emerged from the annex much happier than they had entered.

Finally, it was my turn. On the outside, the building looked like a small shed for agricultural tools. Nevertheless, when I went in, I felt like I had traveled back in time to the study of some Renaissance mystic.

One wall was covered by a shelf full of books, all of them looking very old. On the opposite wall, shelves contained bottles of potions with a huge variety of colors. The others, meanwhile, were almost entirely covered by tapestries with strange and mystical representations of the human body. Esoteric carpets, a brass telescope, and a mechanical planetary completed the decor.

Behind a desk littered with books and strange instruments I didn’t recognize, sat the warlock. Going with the rest of the room, he was dressed in long robes and had a metal tiara.

“You may sit down,” he said.

I sat in a chair across from him.

“Tell me, then, what brings you here?”

I confess I had forgotten to create a story to test the warlock. Then I remembered that that could be the story.

“I came here to test your capabilities, for my paranormal blog.” It wasn’t really a lie.

“If you pay, like everyone else, test me as you will. Where do you want to begin?”

We started with the basics. Without delay, he told me my wife and daughter’s name and birthday. Then he made a short summary of my professional life. Finally, he predicted my daughter’s academic achievements, but I would only be able to confirm them years later.

“Now I’d like to see your healing skills.” With a small knife I had with me, I made a small cut on my arm.

“That scratch isn’t really a challenge,” he said, stepping out from behind his desk and approaching.

Asking for permission, he put a hand on my wound. Then he closed his eyes and remained silent for a few seconds. When he let go, the wound had disappeared without a trace.

It was obvious that the man was what he claimed to be: a wizard. Perhaps he knew something about the Witches of the Night or perhaps he might even be one of its members.

“I hope you write good things about me… on your blog.”

He stared at me with a frightened look for a moment. Then anger came over his face, and he shouted, “Get out of here! Now!”

His tone left no room for argument and so I left, wondering what had happened.
Had his powers allowed him to see the nature of the blog I wrote at the time? (The most curious can find it in terceirarealidade.wordpress.com (Portuguese only))

Of course, I left the annex but didn’t abandon the investigation. I was determined to find out if the warlock could give me some clue about the Witches of the Night.

I hid the car in a nearby dirt road and waited for nightfall. Then I hid in a shadow and waited for the warlock to leave his study and go back home. With the number of customers he had that day, this only occurred around eleven at night.

Once he closed the house gate behind him, I ran to the annex. Using some tools I had brought and a few things I learned from the Braga urban exploration group, I opened the lock. As soon as I entered, I shut the door behind me, turned on the lights and started looking for evidence of a relationship between this warlock and the Witches of the Night.

I looked in the shelves, the desk drawers and behind the tapestries. I even tried to find any secret compartment. However, I soon realized that there was nothing there. The books were just for show, completely unrelated to the warlock practices. And there was nothing hidden, either.

Determined to get to the bottom of all that, I went to the rear of the warlock’s house and, taking care that there was no one around, I jumped the wall into the yard.

At first glance, the only light came from a window on the top floor. I started circling the house looking for a way to see into the interior. However, while searching, I noticed a faint orange light shining behind one of the basement windows.

I approached carefully and peeked inside. I found an almost empty room, except for a circle full of mystical symbols similar to those found in occult books and a wooden tripod on which rested a distinctly old book. Behind it, the warlock, now wearing ordinary clothes instead of the garments he wore earlier, seemed to recite what he read, although from the outside I couldn’t hear him. The basement must have been soundproof.

For about fifteen minutes I stood there, watching the man flipping through and read the book.

Suddenly smoke appeared in the center of the circle drawn on the floor. Gradually it grew, taking shape and gaining consistency until a bizarre creature appeared before my eyes. It had a humanoid form, with long black hair, while a row of horns lined up in the middle of its head and long, pointed ears rose from its mane. It goes without saying that its skin was bright red. In one hand, it carried a crow, and it was mounted on a crocodile.

The demon and the warlock spoke for a few minutes, but once again, I couldn’t hear a thing. Eventually, the creature began to draw mystical symbols in the air, toward the man. When it finished, it redissolved into a cloud of black smoke, which disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared.

It should be the ritual that gave the warlock its powers, or at least part of them.

The man closed his book and prepared to leave the basement. But I wanted to talk to him, so I decided to draw his attention and show him I knew his secret by hitting the glass.

He looked at me with a mixture of surprise and terror, but his expression quickly changed to one of resignation when he realized that there was nothing he could do. Through gestures, I told him I wanted to speak with him, and he asked me to wait.

Less than five minutes later, the front door opened and the warlock came out.

“Okay, you know my secret,” he said. “What are you going to do about it?”

“You are one of the Witches of the Night? Or know anything about them?”

The man looked at me genuinely confused.

“Can’t you see I’m a man?” he protested at last.

So I decided to tell him everything I had discovered about the Witches of the Night.

“I don’t know anything about it. I just learned to summon certain demons and bind them to give the powers I need, nothing more. I don’t even harm anyone. I just help people. And I don’t know anything about those fairies and other strange creatures you spoke of.”

The fear in his eyes told me he was telling the truth. Moreover, despite its relationship with demons, he really seemed to be helping people, even if he was making money from it.

I told him I was going to leave him alone, but that I would keep an eye on him. He thanked me and let me out of the yard through the main gate.

Once again, I returned home without unveiling anything more about the Witches of the Night. My only consolation was that I had found out that the reputation of the warlock I heard about since I was a kid was justified.