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.