After hours of walking beneath the high, burning sun, his skin began to prickle and he became aware of an aching in the pit of his stomach. Once he had been party to all the secrets of the cosmos, so these sensations were no mystery to him, and yet he had never experienced them himself before, never known such banal discomforts of a weak, mortal body. He held his hands out before him, saw how his flesh had begun to redden in the glare and felt a renewed spark of mania. He knew fear then, fear that what he had begun to suspect was true: he was indeed a creature of mere flesh and blood now, subject to temporal suffering, condemned to animal hungers and, eventually, surely destined to weaken and die. Death. The idea was unthinkable: that he, once highest of the host, who had beheld the unfolding blooms of galaxies unnumbered, might now be confronted with finality. How would it be to cease to exist? Only one being in the universe had knowledge of a time when he, the First, had not been.
“I will be forgotten,” he murmured, “left to rot on this world.” A renewed sense of purpose gripped him. He would not be lost to these desert winds. He would be remembered. He would leave some mark; some trace of his being that would carry down the ages. But, in order to do that, he must survive here and now.
After more hours of stalking through the scorching wastes, he came across a herbivore of some kind by a muddy creek. It was a sickly, emaciated thing, perhaps a stray from a herd that had passed some days ago, lapping at the filthy water with the last of its strength. He overpowered it easily, wrestling it to the ground in the dust and then falling on its carcass with ravenous hunger he hadn’t realised he’d possessed. He rent it apart with his bare hands and satiated himself on its raw, bloody meat. He savoured the metallic taste as he chewed through muscle and tendon and no thought entered his head beside satisfying this newfound desire to assuage the pangs in his stomach. When it was done, and he lay in the stinking remains of his meal, he considered this act of animal gluttony. He had lived so long and never eaten before. Perhaps that was what had driven him. The impulse to eat might have been less than a day old, but his hunger had survived aeons. He sat up in the ruin of bone and skin that was all that remained of the animal and looked down at himself. More blood encrusted his skin now, staining his body a dark, ugly crimson. He must be a grisly sight. He laughed loudly, showing his bloody teeth. Some manner of scavenging beast, slinking in the shadow of a nearby clump of scrub, was sent yelping off into the desert by the sight of this, the apex predator of the land. Mortal he might now be, a slave to desires he could not control, but he was still a being of the celestial sphere, powerful beyond the reckoning of the inhabitants of this small world.
The First stood again and resumed his trek across the wasteland. He slung the bloody pelt of the dismembered creature across his shoulders to protect himself from the sun and, heedless of the flies that now buzzed around him, continued his search. He did not know what exactly he sought, except that he would know it when he found it.
As the sun began to sink below the horizon again, he came to a region of more fertile land. Low, bristly bushes and patches of yellowed grass gave way to copses of taller trees and prairie. In a short time, he found a stream of clear running water, and he followed it downstream until it joined a larger watercourse. The river led him further into the green country and eventually he found water deep enough to immerse himself within. Here, by the banks of this nameless river, the First soaked the blood and filth from his skin. The waters ran brown around him and he felt his body relax in the cool flow of water. The cares slipped away from him, just for a moment, and he could imagine, as he floated, that he soared again on white pinions amongst the stars. He considered letting the current take him. Eventually, this river must flow into some great wide sea. Perhaps this fragile body would be dashed against a cliff, or lost in a swirling maelstrom. But then, wasn’t that exactly what his father wanted? To see him reduced to an animal and then die in some brutish way down on this foul little planet would surely please the pompous fool.
He clambered from the cold water, relishing despite himself the comfortable feeling of the warm evening air on his naked flesh. He took the time to wash the skin of the beast he’d killed, scrubbing it clean of the last hunks of bloody flesh that clung to it, then hung it on a branch to dry. He climbed a rocky crag – this whole land was covered in such eroded promontories, for this was an ancient place, at least by the standards of this young world. He was not high as he surveyed the purpling landscape, but his vision still bore the memory of what he once was and he could see far across the horizon. He perceived that this fertile region covered a great swathe of some hundreds of miles and that the river in which he had bathed was but a small tributary of a greater network that converged on two mightier rivers that themselves met before they reached the sea in the distant south. Even as dusk fell he saw that the whole country bordered by the two rivers was untouched; unworked by any civilised hand. As he had suspected, though there was potential on this world, nothing yet had risen from barbarity. This then was his opportunity. “Whoever they are, father,” he vowed into the twilight, “when I find them I will teach them to hate and fear you.”