Chapter 27 – The Fourth Witch

After a few a other expeditions where we found little sign of the Witches of the Night. Finally, a portal took us to another of the creatures.

Unlike the previous ones, which left us somewhat far from the Witches of the Night and their henchmen, this one transported us directly to their camp. It was similar to the one where all the portals started, in Gerês, with several makeshift shelters built in a grove, but it looked substantially smaller. Furthermore, it wasn’t abandoned. There were goblins, trolls, ogrons, ogres, and even giants everywhere.

For a moment, I looked away from the camp, trying to figure out where we were. I quickly spotted two familiar structures through the trees: the Bridge and the Church of São Gonçalo. We were in Amarante, more precisely on the larger of the two islands in the middle of the Tâmega River.

As was to be expected, there were some people on the river bank and on the old São Gonçalo Bridge. A few cars passed through the new bridge, which crossed the river right over the island, but no one seemed to notice or care about the presence of the Witches of the Night’s creatures. Something was probably hiding the island’s occupants from the town’s inhabitants.

Unfortunately, nothing hid us from monsters. Before we could find cover, a goblin saw us and raised the alarm. All the creatures’ attention turned towards us, and some began to approach with their weapons raised.

Almeida’s soldiers readied their automatic rifles. Even though, after every encounter with the Witches of the Night, our contingent of soldiers had been increased, I still doubted there were enough of them to defeat the horde in front of us.

The creatures were beginning to pick up speed when a howl came from behind them and stopped them. The horde then split, making way towards a huge tent, the only shelter in the camp that hadn’t been improvised with local materials. In front of it, there was the hooded figure of a Witch of the Night.

In silence, dragging its long black robes along the ground, it approached, hovering. As soon as it overtook the creatures’ ranks, it stopped.

For an instant, it stood there, still and silent as a statue. We looked at it without knowing what to do. Almeida opened his mouth several times. Whether to give orders or speak to the Witch of the Night, I can’t say, but he ended up saying nothing.

Finally, the Witch of the Night gave a piercing screech, and the creatures behind her charged us. Almeida’s indecision disappeared immediately.

“Fall back!” he shouted.

We ran back to the portal, located just a couple of meters behind us. However, when we got there, we weren’t transported back to Gerês. Like its companion (or was it the same creature?) in Valença, the Witch of the Night had made the portal disappear.

At first, we were flabbergasted, unsure of what to do, but soon the soldiers started shooting at the attackers. As I had predicted, even with all the automatic rifles and Almeida’s pistol firing, the horde kept approaching, not least because it included several large monsters that could only be killed by a massive torrent of bullets.

Almeida looked around, searching for a way to get us out of that situation. Reluctantly, he ended up opting for the only possible solution.

“Retreat to the town,” he shouted.

With the soldiers firing constantly, we retreated to the water. The river flow was low, so it wouldn’t be difficult to cross the ford that led to the bank near the town’s marketplace. Curiously (or maybe not), we stopped seeing and hearing our pursuers as soon as we left the island. It was undoubtedly the effect of the spell that hid their presence from the town’s inhabitants.

When we got to the town, we simply waited. We had some hope that the Witch of the Night’s creatures wouldn’t follow us out of their camp, but they entered the water without even slowing down. The Organization’s soldiers immediately opened fire on them once more.

The gunshots’ noise then began to attract the attention of passers-by. Fortunately, as it was mid-afternoon on a weekday, the streets were almost empty. Still, as expected, the few who saw the monsters that chased us, after a moment of disbelief, fled in panic. They would certainly not be long in calling family and friends or even the media. The situation could become the Organization’s worst nightmare. However, at the moment, we had bigger concerns.

Even with the water slowing our attackers’ advance, the bullets couldn’t shoot down enough to prevent them from getting closer and closer.

“Fall back to the historical center,” ordered Almeida.

We did so. Even to me, a layman when it comes to tactics, Almeida’s plan was obvious. He hoped that downtown Amarante’s narrow streets and constant climbs would help offset the creatures’ substantial numerical advantage.

With the soldiers firing constantly, we retreated towards the narrow passage that separated the São Gonçalo Church from the old bridge. It was a dozen meters beyond it, in the middle of the Praça da República square, that Almeida’s men formed a firing line. They immediately started shooting at the creatures that tried to cross the passage, counting on it to let only a few enemies pass at a time and thus help compensate our disadvantage.

At first, the tactic worked. Goblins, trolls, and even ogrons crossed the passage and were immediately slaughtered by a rain of bullets from the soldiers, never having a chance to get close. However, as soon as the first giants and ogres arrived, the situation changed. These creatures were large enough to go over the bridge’s parapet, which bordered one side of the passage, and forced the soldiers to split their shooting.

One of the giants even tore off one of the bridge’s stone blocks and threw it at us, killing three of the Organizations’ men.

After these casualties and seeing that the enemy was getting closer and closer, Almeida ordered a new retreat.

This time, we entered the narrow street that led to the top of the historical center. With the soldiers constantly shooting, we went up to the small square in front of the Senhor dos Aflitos’ Church. From there, Almeida’s men could shoot all the creatures that had invaded the Praça da República, including the giants, from an elevated position.

The creatures, of course, went after us, but like the passage between the convent and the bridge, the narrow street limited the number of enemies that could reach the square at the same time. And now, there was no obvious shortcut for the bigger monsters.

During the minutes that followed, the soldiers slaughtered several creatures with impunity. Even one of the giants fell.

However, our enemy soon realized that they had to change their approach. The creatures began to enter the streets adjacent to Praça da República in search of another way to reach us.

I knew that town well enough to know that, although it would take some time, they would eventually find the way to our rear.

I was about to inform Almeida of that fact when he shouted, “Fall back!”

I suppose he came to the same conclusion.

We went up the street that led from the square to the old Santa Clara Monastery, with the soldiers, once again, constantly shooting behind them. When we arrived at the next junction, we could already see, in the distance, the force sent to surround us.

Part of what was once the monastery had been transformed, centuries later, into a residential house, which now served as the Municipal Library. The librarian, when she saw us running in front of the glass that formed the walls of the ground floor, got up from her desk. But when she saw the creatures that were chasing us, she hid under it. Fortunately, there didn’t seem to be anyone else in the building to see what the public shouldn’t even know existed.

We crossed the narrow passage between the library and the ruins of a chapel that had once belonged to the monastery and climbed to the top of the walls revealed by a recent archaeological excavation, looking for a high point that would give us some tactical advantage.

Almeida’s men kept firing at the creatures, trying to stop them from climbing up to our positions. The giants and the larger ogres were the only ones that could reach us without having to climb, and they provoked some casualties. Still, there weren’t many of them, and the soldiers’ concentrated fire, mainly when aimed at their heads, managed to kill them.

One or other projectile thrown by the smaller creatures managed to hit a weak point in the protective equipment that the Organization’s men and I wore, but they had little influence in the fight.

Finally, for the first time since our arrival in Amarante, the situation seemed to be under control. My only fear was that the soldiers would run out of ammunition. After all, they had been firing almost constantly for more than fifteen minutes.

Fortunately, the monsters’ attack began to weaken before that happened. New creatures stopped joining the fight, and the rest ended up retreating.

Carefully, fearing a possible ambush, we went back down to the river. Apart from a few bodies (most seemed to have been taken by their retreating comrades), we saw no sign of the enemy. As such, we crossed to the island where the camp was. The creatures had disappeared completely. Only their abandoned shelters showed that it hadn’t all been an illusion.

Almeida used his cell phone and called a helicopter to pick me up and reinforcements to help him hide what had happened in Amarante.

When it arrived, I got on the helicopter. It took off just in time for me to see the reinforcements’ trucks arriving at the São Gonçalo Bridge.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get any closer to discovering the Witches of the Night objectives, and the camp at Gerês was running out of portals to explore.

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