Despite the attempts of the Witches of the Night to scare us off, the Organization and I kept exploring the portals in the abandoned camp in Gerês.
After a few more fruitless expeditions, we found another place of interest.
As soon as we crossed the portal, we found ourselves on a paved road. I realized immediately where we were: the lookout atop Mount of Madalena, with its unmistakable view over the Lima River and the town of Ponte de Lima. As a child, I had been there many times with my parents to dine at the restaurant built there.
This restaurant, to my chagrin, was abandoned and had been vandalized. Its windows were all broken, and the doors burst open. Plastic chairs and tables piled up under the archway on its north side and graffiti covered most of its walls, both interior and exterior.
We decided to start exploring the restaurant because it seemed the most likely place for one of the Witches of the Night to hide.
We entered the ground floor through one of the huge broken windows that formed one of the walls of the restaurant’s bar. The mirrors behind the counter were broken, and bottles lay everywhere, along with destroyed wicker chairs and tables.
There was nothing there of interest to us, so we went through the door behind the counter, which we promptly found led to what seemed to be the kitchen. We entered just in time to see a little shadow disappear into the food elevator shaft. What it was exactly, we couldn’t see, and when Almeida’s soldiers peered into the elevator shaft, they didn’t find anything. But one thing was clear: it was one of the Witches of the Night’s creatures.
There were dishes, pots, and pans strewn across the floor. After a quick search to see if we could find something of interest to us, we climbed the service stairs. Upstairs, we found a small room, even smaller than the kitchen, where the waiters probably readied the dishes before taking them to the dining room.
When we got there, we still saw the door closing, so we crossed it immediately in pursuit. But as soon we left the room, we froze. In front of us, scattered around the dining room between broken tables and chairs, there were more than a hundred creatures, each eating raw meat from animals native to those mountains, like hares, squirrels, birds, foxes, and even bats.
Among those beings, there were trolls and goblins, as well as two members of the same race of the creature that attacked us in the Convent of Santa Clara. However, the majority consisted of small humanoid creatures, less than one meter tall, with the body covered by black hair. They had a muzzle that mixed traits from that of a dog with that a cat, which led the Organization to name them (without much imagination, we must admit) dats.
Once the creatures became aware of our presence, they left their grotesque meals and turned towards us. Almeida pulled me back, and his men, not taking any chances, opened fire immediately.
The soldiers’ automatic weapons fell several of the beings, but they charged us and were too many for the bullets to stop them all.
We retreated to the service room, hoping that the door would create a bottleneck that would allow the soldiers to deal with fewer creatures at a time. At first, the plan worked, with goblins, trolls, and dats being slaughtered as soon as they entered the room. However, when one of the largest creatures arrived (I named them ogrons in honor of the monsters from the Doctor Who TV show), the situation changed. Despite the torrent of bullets that hit it, the creature kept advancing towards us, barely slowing. It only fell less than three feet from us, when one of Almeida’s soldiers fired a burst right into its eyes, reaching its brain and killing it.
Although the ogron was dead, the time it took to kill it was enough for many other creatures to enter the room. These were too many, and they were too close for the soldiers to kill them all before they overwhelmed us. As such, Almeida ordered us to fall back towards the other door, and with his soldiers constantly firing to, at least, gain us some time, we did so.
We were only a few steps from it when the second door opened, giving way to more creatures, headed by another ogron.
With the most obvious escape route closed, Almeida ordered his men to form a semicircle around the nearest window. One of them used his gun butt to break what remained of its glass and frame. Then, he asked a comrade to hold one end of his assault rifle and used it to climb down to a height from which it was safe to jump to the ground.
While some of the soldiers kept shooting to slow the creatures approach, two others managed to escape through the window. But it was obvious that we couldn’t all get out that way before the minions of the Witches of the Night reached us.
“Get out of here!” Almeida said to me. “Quickly!”
Without hesitation, I went out the window, and, clinging to the railing to lower myself as much as possible, I let go. The soldiers who escaped before caught me. Then, they ran to the other side of the building to attack the creatures that threatened their companions from the rear.
I was unarmed, so I ran to the front of the restaurant, from which I would have a direct route of escape to the portal, and waited.
For several minutes, I heard shots, shouts, and screams coming from inside. Then silence returned. The fight was over. And I could only wait to see who had won.
After a while, I saw something move in the shadows beyond the kitchen door. When a figure emerged, I sighed with relief. It was one of the Organization’s soldiers. Several of his comrades came close behind, along with Almeida.
“We cleared the inside,” he said as he approached. “It seems that there is no Witch of the Night here.”
“We still haven’t searched everywhere,” I replied.
I took Almeida and his men toward the small chapel built just below the restaurant. It wasn’t very visible from the lookout because trees covered its rear side. I only knew of its existence because I had been present in two marriages celebrated in it when the restaurant was at its peak.
The most direct route, which involved going down some stairs and through a wild path was impassable due to the growth of vegetation, so we had to use the main access. We returned almost to the place where the portal was and then entered the paved road that passed directly below the lookout and went straight to the small chapel.
Unlike the restaurant, it wasn’t vandalized. In fact, a coat of paint would make it as good as new.
We climbed the steps up to its small forecourt and tried to peer inside through the two narrow front windows but saw only darkness. Something on the other side blocked the view.
“Break down the door” ordered Almeida.
With several kicks, Almeida’s men quickly threw the door open. Like the exterior, the interior looked intact. Wooden benches still lined both sides of a narrow corridor that led to the altar. Behind the altar, a cross with an image of Jesus Christ hung on the wall. The only foreign element was a wooden table positioned to the right of the altar, at which the hooded figure of a Witch of the Night sat.
“I see you still haven’t learned to listen to us,” said the creature in a deep and dry voice. “Maybe I can teach you.”
Almeida tried to answer, but the Witch of the Night started casting a spell and ignored him.
“Get back! Get out of here!” shouted Almeida.
We all ran to the door, but none of us managed to escape. The spell of the Witch of the Night took substantially less time to cast than that of her comrade we had found in the tunnels under Valença.
A gust of wind blew from the altar and closed the door. The first of the Organization soldiers to reach it tried to open it but couldn’t. They were going to start trying to destroy it with their guns, when a second gust, this one much more powerful than the first, hit us and threw us against the wall. Then, benches and some of the decorations hit us and pilled on top of us. Were it not for our protective gear, we would have died or at least been seriously injured.
The wind kept blowing and crushing us against the wall. It was so strong that it kept us pined a few feet above the ground. I had increasingly more difficulty breathing. Finally, when I was about to lose consciousness, the wind died down, and we fell to the ground among all the pieces of furniture that had been thrown at us.
As it was to be expected, the Witch of the Night had disappeared. Almeida called reinforcements and searched every inch of the chapel, restaurant, and surrounding woods. Again, all signs that the Witch of the Night and its creatures had ever been there were gone. And we still had no clue as to what their objectives were.