Witches of the Night Chapter 28 — The Fifth Witch
Thanks to our expeditions through the portals in Gerês’ abandoned camp, we have already found the lair of four of the Witches of the Night. Unfortunately, that didn’t take us closer to stopping them or even understanding what their goals were. The only thing we knew was that they didn’t want to involve us or for us to involve ourselves.
However, we still needed to find the fifth witch, so there was still a chance of getting the answers we were searching for, even though we were getting to the last portals in the abandoned camp.
Eventually, we got lucky, if that word can be used to describe what happened next.
Like many other times before, we crossed one of the portals and, in an instant, found ourselves in a completely different place. We were among the ruins of what looked like a castle, on top of a small plateau. A low wall, which had clearly been reduced over the years, surrounded the large space where we were standing, which was littered with what was left of the foundations of long-vanished buildings. I immediately recognized that that was Castro Laboreiro’s castle, as I had already visited it several times.
As always, we immediately began to investigate the site, looking for any sign of the Witches of the Night or their servants.
About five minutes after our arrival, suddenly, we heard a thunder-like crash at a distance. However, the sky was clear, so we immediately ruled out the possibility of a thunderstorm.
Then, a shout from one of the soldiers who had accompanied us alerted us to an approaching point in the sky. This quickly transformed into five black hooded figures.
At an order from Almeida, the soldiers pointed their rifles at them, but that didn’t make much difference. Before they came within gun range, each Witch of the Night launched a high-speed ball of flame at us. We barely had time to crouch behind the crumbling ramparts and walls before they reached the plateau.
Explosions erupted around us, spewing flames and hurling dirt and rocks in all directions. Some soldiers fell, either consumed by fire or hit by shrapnel. And the bombardment continued, with the Witches of the Night unleashing an overwhelming torrent of explosive spells, giving the soldiers no chance to respond. There was only one thing Almeida could do:
“Retreat!” he shouted.
Doing our best to avoid the explosions around us, Almeida, I, and the surviving soldiers ran towards the portal, hoping it was still there. Such was the intensity of the bombardment, that we had no chance of retrieving the wounded, and whoever tried immediately fell.
With great relief, I managed to reach the portal unharmed and instantly found myself in the abandoned camp, far from what had clearly been a trap from the Witches of the Night. Almeida appeared soon after, limping, probably hit by shrapnel.
Of the fifteen soldiers who had accompanied us, only two returned. Unfortunately, they didn’t cross the portal alone. On their heels, one by one, appeared the Witches of the Night.
They immediately rose above the Organization’s men guarding and studying the abandoned camp and began shooting their fireballs again. The soldiers responded with their automatic rifles, but the creatures were flying too high and too fast for any bullet to hit them.
Men and equipment were engulfed and destroyed by flaming explosions.
Unable to do anything else, I took cover behind the tree with the widest trunk I could find and desperately hoped I wouldn’t get hit.
Although it seemed longer, my watch showed that the attack didn’t even last ten minutes. When it was over, all of the Organization’s infrastructure — tents, computers, vehicles, etc. — had been destroyed, and more than two-thirds of its troops lay dead.
Almeida had survived, although one of his arms was severely burned. Only me and two other people were lucky enough to escape unscathed.
After their intensive raid, the Witches of the Night had disappeared through the portal, and no one had dared to pursue them. It was obvious that this attack had been a response to our meddling in their affairs.
Almeida, despite his injuries, immediately began to restore order. He called in helicopters to evacuate the wounded and then one to take me back to Braga.
I spent the trip thinking about what that attack meant for the Organization’s investigation of the Witches of the Night. Almeida didn’t comment on the matter and, given the situation, I didn’t ask him. I also doubt he had an answer for me then and there. Only time would bring it.