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Thursday, December 10

No Pain, No Gain: Part 6 – The Festival

The festival was a three-day event that began Friday night and ended on Sunday. It featured live music from a variety of bands, food, crafts, speeches, and all sorts of other stuff. The festival was largely confined to the open areas of the park.

On Saturday night a popular pro-environment band held a concert which thousands attended. While everyone else was heading to the show, Cynthia Dexter and her cultists headed for the woods to prepare the sacrifice.

“Ishniggarah!” Dexter slashed precisely at one of the sacrifice's wrists.

The agents crept up to a clearing in the woods. It was a dark and dank part of the forest that felt quite eerie. The area was devoid of animals. In the center of the clearing was a stone that seemed to have been worked at a bit, giving it a roughly cubic shape.

“The Black Mouth!” Dexter used her knife to slice a second sacrifice. She was only inflicting flesh wounds. The real murders would come at the end of the ritual.

All around the altar, nine cultists dressed in dark robes and hoods chanted in unison. Four of the cnidocytes were there, lurking in the darkness, squealing and wailing along with the chanting. Splayed out on the altar were four naked men, all unconscious.

At the center was Dexter, wielding a knife. She looked different. She had dyed her hair blonde and wore blue contact lenses.

“The Black Tongue!” Dexter struck the third sacrifice with a ritual flourish. Blood from all three sacrifices splashed out over the altar.

Archive, Hammer, and Jim-Bean took positions on platforms in nearby trees. The speed of the ritual caught them by surprise – Dexter had moved up her timetable knowing that the ambush would only delay the agents for so long.

Dexter plunged the knife down at the throat of the last sacrifice.

“The Black—"

"Now!" hissed Hammer into the comm.

Several things happened at once. Hammer, taking aim with his sniper rifle, shot the knife right out of Dexter's hand. Her scream of rage and surprise was immediately muted by a whispered chant from Archive.

An eerie silence fell over the cultists and their squealing cnidocytes.

Whirling around furiously to spot her attacker, Dexter pointed and the cnidocytes spread out like dogs on the hunt.

"They're looking for us," commanded Hammer. "Keep firing while we have the advantage!"

There was a familiar FOONT sound as Jim-Bean launched a grenade. Enchanted by Archive's Elder Sign sigil, the grenade tore through one of the cnidocytes and two of the nearby cultists.

But he gave himself away. As gunfire from Archive and Hammer pounded the cultists, Jim-Bean was violently yanked downwards out of his perch by a deathly white tentacle. The cnidocyte squealed excitedly as it dragged him out of the tree.

Jim-Bean yelled and blindly fired his submachinegun into the thing at point blank range, but that didn't stop it from jerking him spastically closer. more

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posted by Michael Tresca at 9:57 AM


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