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.