Hamphred Dungbeetle, Billobi's cousin and the second largest person in the whole county, didn't care much for prudishness. The hot climate in the southern parts of the country were notorious, and demanded "certain solutions", as Hamphred often declared. One of these included a large, stationary bathtub out on the front lawn, next to the big road.
"Them believers always talks 'bout sacrifices and pleasing them gods and what not", Hamphred told young Billobi once while lowering his naked body into the bathtub. "So if - aaaaah! - them fancy gods created this warmer-than-a-cat-on-fire-weather, one would think they'd expect some sacrifices, right? Well, I'm sacrificing the very dirt and sweat on me body, I am! The best there is!"
He also made a bathtub for Billobi by taking the wheels off an old wagon and filling it with water. Every evening, after a full day's work, Hamphred and Billobi undressed and got in their tubs, cooling down while the sun slowly set in the distance - and greeting anyone passing by.
Billobi cherished every memory he had of these moments - especially one. It was after a particular warm day. Both he and Hamphred lay in their tubs, eyes closed and minds adrift.
Suddenly, something shaded them both. Something that said: "Good evening, fellow brothers!"
They opened their eyes and saw a naked man, grinning at them both. Judging from his posture - among other things - he must've been old.
"Yes, good evening to you too, old man. A bit warm, are we!" Hamphred said with a laughter.
"Noo, well yes, it's quite hot today, isn't it, but noo, clothes are the burden of the ones yet to be blessed, the non-ascended, don't you agree?"
"I don't care for words I don't know", Hamphred answered and closed his eyes again.
"Well, yes, it's understandable, although a bit ignorant, I must say. However, why don't the two of you come join us in the merry blessing's of the trees? We're building quite the community, you know."
"Them words leaving your mouth doesn't make any more sense than a bucket on a head, old man."
"Well, to make a long story short... By the Itch, is that your dog?" The old man suddenly shouted.
"If this is about them gull flowers..." Hamphred said and opened his eyes, only to discover his neighbour's dog Ten happily wagging his tail next to the bathtub. Usually hairy as a bear, the dog now had a large hairless area on its left hind leg. In the centre of the otherwise pale skin was a strange symbol in red, almost pulsating as if it was breathing.
"Ah, Ten, you dumb dog", Hamphred said and splashed water at the dog. "Couldn't stay away from them itchy trees, could you?"
"This dog's been blessed!" the old man proclaimed with a solemn voice.
"No, he's... Wait a minute... Old man, don't tell me you're one of them rashers!"
"We prefer to call ourselves Huggers!"
Billobi never forget the sight of Hamphred flying out of the bathtub and chasing the old man off his properties under heavy cursing, dressed in what mother nature tailored for them at birth. The dog licked the rash a couple of times, before running after them in an unnatural high speed.
Itchy trees are called so for their highly toxic bark. Touching the bark will most certainly cause complete hair loss at the affected area. More interesting, in some rare cases will the rash form a strange red symbol, pulsating at a slow pace.
The symbol will affect its wearer by some magical means - beneficial or harmful. There have been no successful reports of how to determine this behaviour.
Consuming the bark is lethal, and have never resulted in any magical effects taken place - only death.
The rash will last for a couple of days, after which both the symbol and any magical effects will disappear.
A multitude of cults have evolved around these trees, of which nearly all revolves around the idea of stripping down and rubbing one's body against the bark, in hope of being "blessed". The most famous of these are called "Rashers", although they prefer to call themselves "Huggers".
The 2016 Cartographic Review!
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