The first thing he became aware of was the pain that seemed to reverberate through every part of his body. Pain like he’d never felt before. Pain like a thousand needles forcing their way into every pore. Pain like his bones were being slowly ground to dust within him. He rolled onto his back, eyes still screwed shut against the glare overhead, and arched his spine in a desperate attempt to ease the agony. It only made things worse: hot torment laced its way across his back and he collapsed into the dust. Somehow, he drifted off to sleep, or maybe it was just unconsciousness.
Hours later, with the sun low in the sky, he awoke. His mouth was dry and he drew a finger across the dirty ground, moving listlessly, almost automatically, taking strange comfort in the meaningless motion. He traced an angular rune without realising what he was doing and then, as understanding dawned, he furiously scrubbed it out, pushing himself up to his knees as he clawed at the desiccated soil, finally pounding at it with his fists until they were bleeding and the glyph was utterly obliterated. He sank down to the ground, cradling his head in his raw, bloody hands. He wanted to weep. The pain was enough for that, but deeper and more fundamental was the ache of loneliness he felt within, the agony of this, the first parting any of his kind had endured, and the awful silence of a world forever closed off to him. But he wouldn’t weep. He wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
Slowly, he lifted his head and stared balefully at the sinking sun. He straightened up, gritting his teeth through the lances of pain across his back and planted his fists against the ground. He tensed the muscles in his body rhythmically, working through these new, unfamiliar sensations, learning how to ignore the pain, mastering it, rising above it. Arrogantly, he raised his jaw to the sun and bared his teeth. The silence stretched. There was nothing. It was all gone. Forever.
“FATHER!” he bellowed across the empty wasteland that stretched in all directions as far as he could see. He threw his head back and screamed wordlessly at the sky. He knew he could hear him. Of course he could. He was probably watching him right now, more disappointed than angry, just like always. But he’d never return.
His scream turned into a choked sob and he sank down again. He closed his eyes, and then became dimly aware of something falling all around him. He gazed around through the tears he bluntly refused to shed and at first he thought it was snow. Snow, here in this hateful, blank desert? No. If it was snow, it was shot through with crimson. He reached out a hand and let it rest on his palm. Feathers. White feathers, stained with blood. His blood: his feathers. He began to laugh, and it caused his whole body to convulse so that the rain of feathers came thicker and faster. The pain shooting across his back got worse and now he could feel blood trickling from his wounds, thick and warm, down his back and his buttocks, over his thighs, pooling on the floor around his knees. His laughter became hysterical, cracked, desperate and he balled his fists and threw his arms out wildly. He toppled over into the dust and writhed in the dirt until it mingled with his blood and the blanket of feathers he’d shed, a hideous, stinking mulch. This was the final indignity then, he supposed, reduced to the level of a brute beast, rolling in its own filth. How they must be laughing at him as they watched. More likely they had turned away in disgust though. More likely still, they were ignoring him entirely, leaving him to his miserable fate. That was the true punishment, perhaps. He who had been so proud, now beneath even the contempt of his former people. He laughed manically into his ruin.
Later, the blood and dirt crusted his skin as he sat, alone and naked on a ragged outcropping of stone, watching dawn come. A point of light shone just above the horizon, a glimmering, bright star, steady where its brothers twinkled through the atmosphere’s haze. He knew what it was; why it was different. But, for now, it pleased him to see it through the eyes of a creature of this world. It was the first star to rise, as he was the first to fall. And, unlike the rest, it shone without compromise, true to its nature. He smiled. The madness had passed, at least for now, and now he had awoken resolute and determined.
He surveyed his meagre kingdom. Bleak, endless waste in all directions. He thought little of the land of his exile, but he knew there were minds here to be moulded, if he had the will to find and nurture them. He might yet craft a new legion of servants and then maybe he could rise again. Maybe he would live to eke out some measure of revenge. It was a pleasing thought, although he knew it was a fantasy born of his newfound mental instability. No rebellion would get past the gates of his former home. At best then, he might spit in his father’s eye. At best, he might bend his creation to his own will. He had been sent here to suffer, but what an act of defiance it would be to corrupt his own prison! He sneered at the sky. “If you won’t have me serve you there, father, perhaps I’ll rule down here. How would you like that, old man?”
He set off into the waste. The rents in his back were healing slowly and discoloured feathers still clung to his dirty skin. The rest were lost to the wind. He didn’t need them now. He was not without resources; not without strength, even in this diminished form. He had witnessed the birth-cries and death-throes of stars. He had soared through multi-coloured nebulae and danced across black holes’ event horizons. This was but one small world, and he would conquer it. He was the First. The Morning Star. Who, on this tiny rock, could stand against his glory?