This is an excerpt from a work in progress by Tim Willard and me.

The Tree of Bellocar (From Mother Damnation)

Great bronze wheels shod in iron bracketed the hard rock maple cart, the exposed surface of the wooden planks stained with the blood of countless offerings. Within the cart, its roots sunk deep into the dirt filling it, a huge and gnarled old oak thrust its skeletal fingers into the sky. Not a single leaf decorated the massive tree, in place of leaves skulls dangled from bronze and copper wires, each skull carved with a miniature version of the skull festooned tree, filled in with rusted iron that left reddish stains on the skull as if the engraving had bled.

Each of the six of the huge carts were pulled forward by six braided copper cables, skulls woven into the cables, dangling free to display the fact that each skull had been dipped in iron and had a copper inlay of The Tree in miniature upon the forehead. Each cable was pulled by twenty-one half-bloods whose eyes were pierced by iron nails, who had bronze rods driven into their skulls through ears. The half-bloods were naked, their flesh, normally lean and emaciated appearing, was ample with rolls and layers of fat covering the muscles that pulled the carts forward. Upon their flesh was carved sigils of loyalty to Bellocar, and of ecstatic agony, the runes filled with an internal sickly green fire. Their feet were pierced by long thorns, plucked from the branches of the very trees they served, each step leaving a footprint of blood from each half-blood, creating a path of bloody footprints for the tree to travel over.

Around each tree, holding hands, stood priests in black and red robes. A stylized fireball, resembling a fist, done in orange and crimson and black upon their back completing the symbol of the Jihad of Fire. The symbol repeated on the ribbons hanging from the tree that were fluttering in an unfelt breeze. At the rear of the large carts were gongs, carved with the symbol of Bellocar, the same disease and skull decorated tree hammered into the bronze, surrounded by twisted runes glowing with a lurid purple light. A lesser blood was chained to each gong by heavy iron chains that were sunk into the blood’s chest. The gongman, clad only in a bronze mask of Bellocar and an iron skull with jaws wrapped around the blood’s genatilia, beat the gong slowly with a massive ebony rod with a striker cast in the shape of an iron skull whose eyes glowed a baleful red.. One on each side of the gong was a hornblower; the horn easily a dozen feet long and two feet wide at the end. Twisted runes that glowed with a ruddy orange light covering the horn’s surface. The horn blowers were female, masked with the visage of Bellocar, the end of the horn melded with the surface of the mask, and their flesh carved with symbols to the Lord of the HellGods that dripped blood down their skin and onto the skulls whose jaws were clamped to their breasts and their groin. On the outside of the rear rank stood drummers, who beat vast drums with sticks capped with bronze skulls. The drummer’s faces and chests were hidden behind bronze masks of Bellocar’s face, their genitalia gripped by the jaws of bronze skulls, and their legs were wrapped in strips of cloth died orange and black, lined with prayer runes that glowed with a purple light. They were beating the drums with fists covered by iron skulls adorned with the Tree of Bellocar wrought in polished brass. With each impact of the skulls upon the stretched skin, the beaten brass of the sides of the drum flared with different sigils, runes, mantras, and prayers, the light flaring with the impact, and fading to nothingness a heartbeat before the drum sounded again, and the runes flared again to life.

“THE TREE! THE TREE!” someone screamed, and Private Lwenious pulled his rifle off the sandbags, put the muzzle under his chin, and blew his own head off as he screamed, wild-eyed with terror. Jennings noted that the shot had sounded in time with the great bass booming of the drum. Several other shots sounded, and someone began screaming, a high animal noise of agony.
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Hey Mikakke, this is real writing.

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