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.

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