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The Rise of Barking Thunder

Too big, Shanyáng was always too big. Born too big, killed his mother the night he was born. His father died slowly, working to keep Shanyáng's bulk fed. After that, Shanyáng used his extra bulk, and the strength that size gave him to feed himself. Shanyáng was always a big. However, he was also dumb, and there was always someone with a use for someone big, dumb, and hungry. Shanyáng did not take long to know many who would call him friend, and in most cases, he was dumb enough to believe them. This dumb belief in false friends had a habit of causing trouble for him and his few true friends. Once the Magistrates became involved with his unwanted troubles, his false friends threw Shanyáng to the wolves and his troubles quickly spread to his few true friends. His family sent one friend away, using their influence to spare him from prosecution. Another Friend, showing true loyalty, took full blame for a crime that was not his and he was sent into slavery. Yet another of his friends, showing courage by standing up to an apparent aggressor, fled as a wanted criminal. None of his friends was aware that Shanyáng had instigated their misfortune by placing his trust again in false friends. Shanyáng was sent away to a short term of hard labor for his involvement. Shanyáng had spent time in a jail, a week or a month at a time, so he felt he had gotten off easy due to the sacrifices made by his true friends. Did I mention he was dumb? Time bound on a labor party had a life expectancy of only a few years. Fortunately, the work only made him stronger. He spent his days focusing on his labors building physical strength, but his nights were spent contemplating his culpability in the worse fate of his friends.

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up." -Anne Lamott

It was rare but not unheard of for high-ranking Imperial bureaucrats to choose archons or minor functionaries from the criminal element. Therefore, when a minor Magistrate came to investigate rumors of a young thug of reputable strength and stamina, Shanyáng was eager to put his criminal past behind him, help enforce the law, and become a man of Honor. Alas, Shanyáng's luck with false friends had struck again. The Magistrate Shanyáng followed, made it clear in no uncertain terms that he had no interest in law or honor, only in the funds he could 'Assess' from his victims and the political influence those funds could buy. Shanyáng's guilty conscience fought daily against the promises of Honor and Respect, afforded to his climb in station. The magistrate's wormlike tongue equally soothed away or lashed into submission, any of Shanyáng's misgivings or second thoughts. Shanyáng's guilt and disillusionment grew like a painful malignant tumor in his chest.

"And so we remained till the red of the dawn began to fall through the snow gloom. I was desolate and afraid, and full of woe and terror. But when that beautiful sun began to climb the horizon life was to me again." - Bram Stoker

If asked later Shanyáng would be unable to answer what made that day different from any other day before. There was nothing to differentiate the petty cruelties and greed he had enforced for his Magistrate before, and the strong-arm torment he had resigned to inflict that day. It was if all the weight of his shameful guilt had suddenly torqued on his very soul like the limb of a siege engine. He smashed violently into action. Shanyáng's heart glowed with the fire the rising sun. The flames danced across his skin as his fists crashed down like meteors. The peasants who were there fled unharmed. They would later claim that Shanyáng glowed with the hell spawned fires of an anathema, but in the weeks that followed the village showed signs of an unexplained prosperity.

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