Chapter 24 – The First Witch

The very next day, Almeida came through on his promise to keep in touch. When I left work for my lunch break, he was, once again, waiting next to my car.

“We need you again,” he said as I approached.

He then led me to a car that was waiting for us. As soon as we entered, he started to explain what was going on. “We found more portals in the Witches of the Night’s camp. A lot more… and I want you to come with us to explore them.”

The drive took us to the outskirts of Braga, where a helicopter was waiting for us. It took us to the camp we had discovered the night before, situated between Gerês’ forests.

This was the first of many similar trips I made in the weeks that followed. Using its influence, the Organization got me temporary leave from work for me to explore the new portals with their agents.

Many of these portals led to inconsequential places where we found nothing useful about the Witches of the Night, so here I will describe only the most important expeditions.

The first of these took place five days after we discovered the camp. As we had done several times before, Almeida and I entered one of the portals, accompanied by a dozen men armed with automatic rifles. A fraction of a second later, we found ourselves in a corridor. Plaster fell from its ceiling and walls. Behind us, there was an old door that had been kicked in, and in front, there was a window protected on the outside by a metal grate. Several doors lined up on both sides, all in very poor condition.

The place seemed familiar to me, and I went up to the window to take a peek outside. I immediately confirmed my suspicion: we were in Vila do Conde. More exactly, we were in the abandoned and vandalized Convent of Santa Clara which I had visited with my urban exploration group years earlier.

While Almeida and I waited, the other men looked behind each of that corridor’s doors. They found nothing, so they expanded the search to the other ground floor corridors. The result was the same: no sign of the Witches of the Night or the creatures under their command.

That changed when we reached the second floor. When we came out of the staircase, we came across a group of five goblins a few yards ahead. Almeida’s men pointed their weapons at the creatures, but they fled, disappearing around the corner just behind them.

With the soldiers in front, we chased them, but once we turned the corner, we didn’t see them. Instead, we saw a humanoid creature more than two meters tall with white skin, covered only by a loin cloth, and completely bald. Unlike the goblins, it didn’t run away. In fact, it charged us.

Almeida’s men started firing, but the creature didn’t even slow down. At the last moment, me, Almeida, and some of the soldiers managed to escape by jumping to the section of corridor before the corner. Some of the others weren’t so lucky as the creature’s mass and momentum pushed them through a wall.

The being rose from the rubble quickly, as if nothing had happened and charged us. The Organization’s soldiers shot at it while they retreated with me and Almeida, but we were all well aware that we would never escape.

Miraculously (or at least that was how it looked like to me), the rotten wooden floor gave way under the creature’s weight, and it fell to the floor below. We ran to the hole to confirm that it was out of the fight, but it was no longer there. It was a hardy creature – it certainly had got up again. At least we would be free from it for a while.

We immediately ran to help the soldiers who had suffered the charge and found that two were dead, and the others had multiple fractures. Almeida called someone on the phone to come and get them but didn’t stop the expedition.

Again, the armed men searched all the rooms on that floor while I and Almeida waited. We heard some shots, but before we got to their origin, two soldiers appeared and told us that it had been just a few goblins. Besides them, we found no other creature on that floor.

Nevertheless, the soldiers found a small, partially hidden door behind a half-broken bookcase. Behind it was a narrow staircase that rose into darkness.

Almeida smiled. Then, ignoring the stairs leading to the next floor, he decided we should go up the hidden staircase. Again, the armed men went in front.

We climbed for several minutes. It quickly became obvious that those stairs skipped the top two floors of the convent and led directly into its attic.

Finally, we reached a narrow door. Light emerged from the gap between it and the floor, showing that someone or something was behind it.

Wasting no time, Almeida’s men broke in. We then entered the extensive attic, which had no rooms. Numerous boxes, chests, and antique furniture were scattered everywhere. Among them, we found only one creature. One of the cloaked figures sat behind a desk covered with books, ink bottles, paper, and pens.

The soldiers surrounded it, their weapons ready to shoot at the slightest move, but me and Almeida froze. This was our first encounter with one of the Witches of the Night. I had been looking for them for so long that I doubted my eyes.

“Come close,” said the creature calmly, with a deep, dry voice to Almeida, correctly identifying the leader of our group. “I need to talk to you.”

Tentatively, Almeida approached her, leaving the desk between them. I followed close behind.

“Why are you getting involved in our affairs?” asked the creature. “They have nothing to do with your race.”

“And the deaths in Braga because of the accidents caused by your trolls?!” I cried more than said.

“Collateral damage.”

I was going to answer, but Almeida raised his hand, stopping me.

“I’m part of an organization whose mission is to hide your world from ordinary humans” he explained to the Witch of the Night. “As you may have noticed, some of your actions are highly visible and have caused us some problems. Could you…”

“That doesn’t concern us. We’ll do what we need to do to achieve our goal.”

“And we, ours” answered Almeida.

There was a long, uncomfortable silence.

“Think about what I told you” said the Witch of the Night at last. “If you keep interfering in our affairs, there will be consequences.”

Before Almeida could respond, the Witch of the Night made a slight gesture with her hand, and in the next moment, we were back in the corridor where we had started that exploration.

Almeida immediately ordered his men to inspect the convent again, especially the attic, but the Witch of the Night was no longer there, nor were any of her creatures. The place was, once again, completely abandoned.

With nothing else to do there, we crossed the portal back to camp. From there, a helicopter took me back to Braga.

On the way home, my feelings were torn between satisfaction and fear. We had finally found one of the Witches of the Night! However, their motives and objectives were still a mystery. In fact, all the secrecy that the Witch of Night kept around the subject and their clear determination to achieve whatever it was they wanted scared me even more, despite her assurances that it had nothing to do with humans.

Nevertheless, it was an important achievement, and I was sure that the mystery around the Witches of Night would eventually be solved. After all, I doubted the Witch of the Night’s words would be enough to make Almeida and the Organization give up. Unfortunately, I was right.

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