In the days following the defeat of the Gerês' ghosts by the Witches of the Night, everyone told me that I looked distracted and tired. I had to agree with them. Since that night, I could barely sleep and only thought about what I could do about the Witches of the Night. I contacted everyone I remembered, hoping that someone could give me an indication of what to do next, but I didn't have any luck.
Finally, the Sea Witch that I had met in Esposende called me a few days after to tell me about a Great Covenant that would happen the next Saturday night to discuss the Witches of the Night. I immediately decided that I would attend for what I had learned until that moment could prove useful.
As such, I told my wife that I was going with my urban exploration group to visit the ruins of a factory in Guimarães. It wasn't entirely a lie as the Great Covenant was, in fact, going to be in Guimarães, but on the top of Monte da Penha, near the Catholic shrine.
When time came, I got into my car and drove to Guimarães. Through the motorway, it took me about twenty minutes to reach the city; however, the climb to the top of the hill took a while longer.
Finally, I came to the sanctuary area. It was winter, so the shops, cafes, and even the hotel were closed at that time of night. I parked in the main parking lot, which was completely empty, and got out to look for the location of the Covenant.
It was then that I remembered why I had loved that place since my first visit – it was like a playground for adults.
A false castle wall separated the hill slope from the parking lot. To its right, an earth ramp led to the traditional taverns built below, and on the left rose a pile of boulders on which a chapel had been built. However, the real attraction was under this building. Passages created by the overlap of the boulders led to caves and niches under the rocks that had been adapted as chapels and taverns. It was like something out of a fantasy novel.
The Covenant, however, would happen in opposite direction. I crossed the road, passed by the relatively modern sanctuary, and entered a network of passages that lead south. Some of them went through small tunnels and caves formed by boulders. Finally, I emerged in a large clearing.
In the middle of it burned a huge bonfire, around which gathered several groups of people, mostly women. Among them, I could recognize some of the witches I found in Montalegre, Porto, and, to my surprise, those who had attacked the Citânia of Briteiros as well as the warlock and healer of my home town. The leaders of the Great Covenant, the witches I first met as will-o-wisps, were, as expected, in the center, by the fire.
I sought the Sea Witch, who had called me there, and found her alone, along the edge of the clearing.
"You came," she said when I approached.
"Of course. The Witches of the Night's enemies are falling like flies. I had to come find out if anyone can stand against them."
"The Witches of Briteiros seem to have a plan," she said, pointing towards the Covenant leaders. "We'll just have to wait until we're all here."
With nothing else to say, we waited in silence, though it didn't last long. A hand grabbed my shoulder from behind.
"You're also here!" Said a voice.
I turned and found Susana, Northern Portugal's demonologist. The small girl held one of her homemade tablets on the other hand.
I introduced her to the Sea Witch and explained to her why I was there.
"And you – what are you doing here?" I asked.
"I like to keep tabs on all kind of witches. They use demons. Besides that, this Great Covenant is about the Witches of the Night and, from what I hear, I should be keeping tabs on them as well. Some rumours say that they are demons in disguise."
Although that hypothesis didn't seem probable to me, the truth is that, at the time, it was as valid as any other considering that the nature of the Witches of the Night's was still a mystery.
We didn't have time to say anything more, because the Witches of Briteiros called for everyone's attention.
Once everyone gathered around them, one of Witches of Briteiros said, "Thank you all for coming. It's good to know that the Witches of the Night aren't a concern only to us."
Another of the Witches of Briteiros, the male one, continued, "I don't know if you're all aware, but the Witches of the Night have attacked several communities of magical creatures in the past few months. We don't know who will be next. It can be any one of us."
"We have to unite and do something about the Witches of the Night," said one of the Witches of Briteiros who hadn't yet spoken. "They are a threat to us all."
Although there were many witches with reasons to dislike and even hate the Witches, I got the feeling that the Great Covenant had been summoned because the Witches of Briteiros felt threatened by the newcomers.
"What do you suggest we do?" Asked a witch on the audience.
"First, we must combine our scrying abilities to locate the Witches of the Night," said the first witch of Briteiros.
I knew where they could start looking, but hesitated to tell them, as I had trouble trusting those witches. Perhaps because I grew up in a Catholic country, I somewhat feared those who dealt with magic and demons. On the other hand, the Witches of the Night and their servants had already killed several people as well as magical creatures. They had an army at their service and had made me partially responsible for some of these deaths by using trolls that I had released from the Cerqueira's vineyard to do their dirty work. Taking everything into account, I couldn't help but think that the witches of that Covenant were a lesser evil.
I stepped forward and got ready to announce what I knew.
Suddenly, the ground began to shake. Shortly after, I heard trees breaking and thundering footsteps. The witches started looking around, but I didn't. I had been through that before, in Tibães. I knew what was coming.
From the trees around the clearing emerged a variety of creatures including giants, ogres, goblins, trolls, and others whose name’s I didn't know. The next moment, hooded figures with long, black robes appeared in the sky above our heads. The Witches of the Night had arrived.
Completely surrounded, the witches of the Great Covenant prepared to fight. The Witches of Briteiros transformed into will-o-wisps and took flight, while others started the long process that was necessary to cast spells.
The demonologist, the Sea Witch and I were very close to the tree line, so the monsters were almost upon us. We turned to face them. Susana stood, immobile, looking at them, probably wondering if she had any weapon that would be effective against those creatures while the Sea Witch imitated the other witches and began casting a spell. Meanwhile, I picked up a fallen branch and prepared to defend myself. This time, I was going to face the Witches of the Night's soldiers.
An ogre and several goblins came straight at us. I waited until the former was within reach of my improvised weapon and tried to hit it. However, the creature grabbed the other end of the club and tore it from my hand. Terrified, I got ready to be crushed by the enormous mallet that the creature carried. It, however, threw me to the ground with one hand and kept going forward. Then, it did the same to the demonologist.
The goblins, who followed close behind, ignored us and, along with the ogre, advanced toward the Sea Witch. However, before they reached her, she finished her spell. Water covered the ground under the creatures feet and quickly infiltrated into the soil, forming a mud puddle that buried the ogre almost to its knees and the goblins to their chests, immobilizing them.
Susana and I gathered up and prepared to re-join the Sea Witch. However, between realized that one of the Witches of the Night was heading towards her. Fortunately, my ally had time to cast another spell. A water jet shot out of her hitting her attacker. However, the Witch of the Night kept going, cutting the water almost without slowing down. Shortly before she reached the Sea Witch, huge claws, over a foot long, grew on her hands.
Susana and I still tried going around the mud puddle to help my ally, but we didn't reach her in time. With a brutal blow, the Witch of the Night struck the head of the Sea Witch, her claws slashing flesh, bone, and, fatally, reaching the brain underneath.
Terrified by that bloody vision, Susana and I halted, convinced that we would be the next victims. However, the creature flew away toward another witch without paying us any attention.
I then took a moment to look around and see how the fight was going.
The warlock from my homeland lay on the ground, dead, as did some of the witches from Montalegre and Porto and many others that I didn't knew. However, some had managed to invoke imps and alongside them, fought with some success against the enemy soldiers. However, whenever a Witch of the Night attacked the enemy on the ground, nothing could prevent her from causing death.
Fortunately, three of the Witches of the Night were busy in the air, facing the will-o-wisps while the latter threw small fireballs constantly at them. Now, while these didn't seem to cause them any injury, they clearly bothered them and prevented them from casting spells.
Gradually, the fight spread beyond the Great Covenant's clearing. After a while, imps faced trolls and goblins in passages built under boulders, while witches cast spells from concrete bridges designed to imitate trees and other natural shapes.
Though it was the most balanced battle against the Witches of the Night I had seen, their forces were gradually gaining ground.
Susana and I killed the creatures trapped in the mud of the Sea Witch with small knives, but we were unprepared for battle and dared do little else than attack wounded and dying enemies.
Finally, the witches of Great Covenant suffered a fatal blow. With the situation on the ground under control in their favour, the Witches of the Night focused entirely on the Witches of Briteiros. Outnumbered, they were unable to keep their opponents occupied and spells began coming at them from all directions. Lightning, energy balls, ice spheres and many other magical projectiles hammered at them. One by one, the will-o-wisps turned back to their human forms and fell to the ground, dead before they reach it.
Without the constant barrage of spells from the Witches of Briteiros, the Witches of the Night could now devote all of their attention to the witches who fought against their soldiers. While the latter were already losing the battle, their defeat now became inevitable.
Susana and I continued to help as we could, but it made little difference. Within minutes, the few surviving witches fled as fast as they could to wherever they could, while their invoked demons all lay on the floor, dead.
To our surprise (and relief), the Witches of the Night didn't pay us any attention, and their soldiers only interacted with us if they had to and only to take us out of the way. However, the reason for it was a mystery that we would solve only latter. We didn't want to tempt fate and, together, we returned to the parking lot where I left my car.
As the sounds of fight and persecution disappeared behind us, I commented, “Another victory for the Witches of the Night."
"What is their goal?" The demonologist asked, rhetorically.
I didn't know how to answer, so I said nothing.
"I will keep tabs on their activities. Something is happening, and it isn't good," she said, returning to her old Ford Transit.
I got into my car and headed towards Braga, rebuking myself for my inability to help stop the Night Witches, or even just find out what they wanted every step of the way. However, one thing had become clear that night: they were trying to avoid engaging me and Susana in their struggle. Why, was another mystery to solve, though I didn't know how I was ever going to do it . I had no clues to follow, especially now that I had lost another ally.