A brief summary of Season of Mists: Chapter Five follows. There’s a lot that I like in this one, but I’ll leave most of that sort of commentary to the Comments.

Back in the Dreaming:
A messenger from Faerie, Cluracan, and his sister, Nuala, arrive and are greeted (formally, as always) by Dream. Before they enter the banquet hall, we see the various contingents all feasting at a large table, served by two sleepy-looking people in their bedclothes. Bast finds herself seated next to Thor, who is a drunken, lascivious boor. Odin eats and drinks as well, and notes that Loki does neither; he fell out of the habit over the centuries of having his eyes burned out. During this conversation, Cluracan insist on giving Dream his message immediately, which is that Faerie wishes Hell to belong to no one, so they don’t have to pay their tithe every seven years. Nuala is a gift, to represent one of many things Faerie can do for Lord Shaper. Cluracan tries Dream’s patience by grabbing at his cloak and gets a stern warning.

Back to the banquet hall, Loki makes some observations to Odin of the gathered entities, reminding the reader who the important players are, and that they’re all here to acquire the Key to Hell. Some folks don’t get introduced, but one has a hand on top of his helmet, and another is The Vision (amiright? I’m not good with the DC superheroes.) In addition, Loki expresses his awe at two angels who are present, also observing, their feet never touching the earth. And with that intro over, we can dig into the heart of the matter…

Season of Mists Chapter = 5
In which a banquet is held, and of what comes after; concerning diplomacy and bedrooms, blackmail and threats; and an unusual recipe for sausages.

Lots of little interactions going on. Odin asks to see Dream privately,and Dream says a little light will come to his bedroom later, to guide Odin to him. The Japanese storm-lord, Susano-o-No-Mikoto, makes a similar request, and gets the same answer. The same with the demon prince Azazel, Princess Jemmy of Chaos, and Lord Kilderkin of Order (who, as a cardboard box, communicates by producing notes). In the meantime, Thor takes his flirting with Bast too far and gets a face full of cat claws; the Merkin’s affections toward Chrononzon are better received; and Cain performs a show wherein he pretends tone doing magic tricks, but in fact simply murders his brother by cutting him up more and more finely.

Bast complains to Dream about Thor, but is mainly just angling to get an audience with Dream like everyone else. About the time Abel gets beheaded, the Merkin seduces Chrononzon, distracting him long enough that her spiders manage to web him up, but good. He isn’t there as a member of the delegation from demonkind at all; he’s there as a bargaining chip. Back in the banquet hall, Cain’s show concludes with him mincing Abel and making sausages out of him. Everyone retires to their bed chambers, and the meetings begin.

Odin wants Hell, for what reason he doesn’t say. He does say that hes been running a simulation of Ragnarok, and somehow little, mortal superheroes have found their way into it (Is one of those Hawkman?). One of them has a fraction of Dream’s soul in him, and Odin offers that one in trade for the Key. Dream makes it clear he understands the offer, but will not make his decision known until the next day.

Princess Jemmy merely threatens Dream, and gives him a balloon. Dream appears nonplussed.

Lord Kilderkin offers Dream the collected dream-essences of the newly dead. Dream reacts as though he’s been offered a cardboard box full of rabbit turds. The Lord of Order says he will attempt to make a better case the next day.

The non-drunk storm lord says that the powerful gods of Nippon are adapting to modern times, assimilating other gods and icons (like Marilyn Monroe). He’d like to have Lucifer’s Hell in the same vein, and he offers “any price.” [it bugs me that Dream never gets to explore what Susano could have offered.]

Bast offers the location of Dream’s missing brother.

Matthew the raven arrives next. He’s been chatting with Odin’s ravens, but he had to break it off to tell Dream that Thor started a thunderstorm in his suite. Dream fixes the storm and asks Matthew to leave him be, but gives him Jemmy’s balloon as a parting gift.

Azazel is next. He makes a speech about the injustice done by Lucifer to the demons of Hell. That doesn’t have much traction, so Azazel offers Dream Chrononzon, to wreak vengeance upon, and Nada (A-ha! There she is!) in exchange for the Key to Hell. To clarify the offer, Azazel says if Dream refuses, Azazel will SWALLOW HER SOUL, a la Army of Darkness. He is surprised when Dream doesn’t immediately jump at the offer, but Dream assures him he’s understood the offer and will give an answer in the morning.

Dream is alone with his thoughts. As he ponders all of the powerful offers and threats from powerful beings, he takes the Key to Lucifer’s Hell out of his cloak and tosses it off his dais, where it clangs heavily down the steps to the floor. “If only it were that easy,” he says to himself. “If I could just throw it away…”

The episode finishes with possibly the most moving portrait of Dream in the whole Sandman series.


Scott Starin is an aerospace engineer with a specialty in spacecraft dynamics and control. He works at NASA, but of course he does not speak for NASA or the Federal Government in any way on this site.


  1. Vision is a marvel superhero. Are you talking about the guy with no face? Insofar as he has no face and is maybe wearing a trenchcoat, he resembles the Question. But the question is more of a street-level vigilante. Not the kind of guy who would pay a visit to the king of dreams. And usually, he has a hat.

    Pretty sure that the pointy-hat wizard on the previous page is Merlin.

    • Hmm . . . I do not remember the character in question. I will have to remember to check when I get home.

  2. I found seeing all these being interact utterly fascinating, and the different approaches to Dream really show off the character of the different entities.

    • It’s like reading really good mythological crossover fanfiction.

      I really enjoy crazy “X meets Y” stories. (Especially the ones I make up in my head, like that one where The Doctor met Mary Poppins and they fought zombies. I ought to finish writing that some day, heh.)

  3. I’m with James.

    The way the representatives of the different pantheons and legends and such interact with each other and with Dream is among my favorite elements in the entire Sandman run. I love the idea of Thor hitting on Bast and such. I like the idea that all of these entities sort of “know” each other in a manner similar to how I imagine most celebrities of a certain echelon are at least nodding acquaintances with all the others.

    • I read someone somewhere complaining a little about the Japanese storm-god; apparently they felt Gaiman “orientalized” him by making him so polite and formal (traditionally, as befits a storm god, he’s apparently more unruly like Thor).

      • Not knowing the deity in question, I can hardly comment about his particulars. But his comportment seemed consistent with my understanding of how high-level business interactions are handled in Japan.

      • hehe. makes sense. Storms, being unruly, fall into the same category as kitsune and cats — things that are disapproved of, because they will not behave.

  4. Oh, for the record: Odin is interested in Hell as a piece of real estate he can bugger out to when Ragnarok comes. As he notes to Dream he’s been fretting and worrying about his looming apocalypse and the painful certainty that when it comes he’ll perish and has been seeking an escape. Lucifer’s former Hell is apparently outside of the span of the Norse Ragnarock and thus offers hope of escape for ol’ One eye.

    • The way Odin is depicted in Sandman – visually, and in personality – is one of my favorite depictions of him. He’s a right hard and cunning old bastard, isn’t he?

      • Yes, agreed. He’s the way you’d expect a norse ruler/deity to be. Cunning as hell, hard as iron, grim and grey as the North Atlantic.

  5. I am planning to reread Mike Carey’s Lucifer after we finish Sandman. Would there be any possibility of a follow up book club for this series? It received Neil Gaiman’s endorsement, and it is a high quality series. It may have quite the literary depth of Sandman (but not much does), but it holds up very well on its own.

    • It is good, isn’t it? I loaned mine to a friend. Some of the individual setpieces are stunning, maybe even moreso than Sandman, even if the whole thing doesn’t hang together quite as well IMO. And the art is way more consistent. I like Carey a lot.

      • It really picks up a lot from this arc. Not just Lucifer, but some of the other characters introduced here come into play, and it also shows what happens to Hell after this book’s resolution.

  6. I think this issue is the one where I really got a clear understanding of the difference between being a god and being an Endless. Gods represent different aspects of being alive and striving. Thor, for instance, isn’t Storm itself; instead, he behaves the way people obsessed with storms would behave. When the lights go out, when your roof caves in, when lightning sets fire to your village, you bash things and drink. Well, that’s what I do when lightning sets fire to my village…
    Anyway, Odin will murder and steal for his people, as any good Viking would do. Anubis and Bes are like the good cop/bad cop of the Egyptian mythos surrounding human control. Even the demons are defined by how they are like and unlike humans (or, in Azazel’s case, how delicious they find human souls).

    But what is Dream? He is something all these gods and demons try to manipulate in the same way that they would manipulate their followers. In the end…well, we will see soon. I know I could rot13, but I’d rather add on to this idea at the next installment.

  7. I haven’t had opportunity to sit down with the book over the last couple of days at the same time the computer’s been available, but the scene with Matthew flying off with the balloon is one that sticks in your head long after the various details of the story have been forgotten.

  8. One thing I noticed this time (surely *ONLY* because I reviewed Dream of 1000 Cats) is that Dream gives the line “I keep my own counsel” to Odin.

    In 1000 Cats, we hear a cat say “I am a cat and I keep my own counsel”. Dream gives the line as well. I google it and don’t find anybody *FAMOUS* famous using it. Sure, Joseph Heller used it in a book and it seems to be an old phrase… but it’s not a famous phrase.

    Which, surely, the fact that Gaiman put it into the mouth of the cat and Dream within a year of each other means… SOMETHING.

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