Our assignment was to read the seventh and eighth issues of Season of Mists: Chapter Six and Chapter Lemniscate (Epilogue). Ken will be reviewing both this week.
A Doll’s House recaps here: KatherineMW took on the first two issues, then the next two issues. KatherineMW and Jason Tank then reviewed the fifth and sixth, respectively. Mike Schilling reviewed the final two issues.
Dream Country recaps here: Glyph reviewed Caliope then Jaybird and Maribou reviewed Dream of a Thousand Cats in the first review post for Dream Country. Alan Scott reviewed A Midsummer Night’s Dream then Mike Schilling reviewed Façade in the second.
It’s very difficult to discuss this book without discussing the next one (or the one ofter that, or the one after that), if you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them.
We good? We good! Everybody who has done the reading, see you after the cut!
Chapter 6: In which the vexing question of the sovereignty of Hell is finally settled, to the satisfaction of some; the finer points of hospitality; and in which it is demonstrated that while some may fall, others are pushed.
It’s the morning after Dream has heard his guests’ pleas, bargains, and threats. The Cluracan wakes his sister, who has spent the night alone. He has not, which is why he’s not too upset at the likely failure of his mission.
Nuala wanders to the main hall, eating her breakfast flowers and overhearing snatches of conversation. Bast confesses to Anubis that she wouldn’t be able to deliver on her promise to Dream. Two unnamed wizardly gentlemen speak of theological, or perhaps political, matters. When Nuala passes the Norse contingent, Loki hits on her, not a wise idea around a very unhappy Thor. (The storm-god’s hangover manifests as a little thundercloud hanging over him.)
She reaches the main hall, where everybody is waiting. “Everybody” is more than the principals we’ve been following; Hell is prime real estate, and many realms have sent emissaries. A Native American, someone in vaguely Roman armor, a dragon-headed being in a tabard, and – just what is that, right behind Loki?
Matthew observes that Dream doesn’t look like he’s slept. “I don’t sleep, Matthew.” (Nice to have that confirmed.) Dream still has no idea what to do with the key.
They’re interrupted by the angels. Remiel relays a message (literally – he has no idea what it is, until the words are coming out of his mouth) from the Creator: Hell is needed as a place for the demons and damned, and as a reflection of Heaven. Without it, Heaven has no meaning, and it must be under the Creator’s control. It will be taken over by – Remiel and Duma?
In a sequence of five panels Remiel loudly and angrily falls while Duma silently and obediently descends. With tears streaming down his face, Duma takes the key. Faced with his example, Remiel agrees to join Duma in Hell.
Back in the main hall, Thor tellth hith joke, the one we’ve all been dreading. Judging from the reaction, Odin has heard it about a billion times and is for once looking forward to the rising of the Midgard Serpent.
Dream enters and says he will not give the key to any of those present. The Cluracan is elated, until the angels appear and explain the arrangement. Hell will go back to what it was, with the two angels overseeing it. “On whose authority?” Anubis asks. “Whose do you think?”
Azazel is enraged, but gloats that the decision will cause Dream great distress. He still has Nada, and because Dream extended him hospitality, Dream can’t touch him. Yes, Dream says, but the hospitality was offered to all his guests, known and unknown, and Nada and Choronzon are also under Dream’s protection.
Azazel challenges Dream to recover the two, and renounces Dream’s hospitality. Dream enters Azazel – who seems to be a pocket dimension, and contains multitudes – and finds both the captives. Azazel sneers that Dream has only become another prisoner himself.
Well. They are in the heart of the Dreaming and the center of Dream’s power, so that works out about as one would expect, and Azazel finds himself inside a small globe in Dream’s hand. He tucks it away in a chest with the Corinthian’s skull and other curious mementoes, and asks if anyone else has a problem with his decision?
Portrait of eleven very powerful beings, momentarily feeling very powerless.
Departures are made. It turns out Dream hasn’t made any new enemies, so maybe Lucifer’s gift hasn’t destroyed him. Order and Chaos are both satisfied with the outcome, for their own reasons. Choronzon and the Merkin are returning to Hell; she asks about Azazel, and Dream assures her that he will be released. Eventually. As the Egyptian gods leave, Dream tells Bast that he respects his brother’s desire for privacy, and she tells him to seek her if he ever changes his mind.
Odin and Thor make their farewells, Odin assuring Dream that he is still welcome in Asgard. Thor has his hand clamped over Loki’s mouth, but Loki briefly breaks free to scream “No! This is wrong–” before Thor knocks him out. The two depart, Thor carrying Loki back to the pit and the snake.
Matthew tells Dream that the fae and “Lord Susan thingie” have asked to stay on for a day. Dream is glad to be rid of the key, but knows the hardest part is still to come. He asks Matthew to tell Nada that he requests her company for dinner, and a talk.
“I don’t want to talk to her, Matthew. I doubt that she wants to talk to me. But still… we will talk.”
Epilogue: In which we bid farewell to absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the Season of Mists, and in which we give the devil his due.
Presumably we all recognize that echo of Hob’s toast from chapter 1.
Remiel stands on a balcony overlooking Hell, talking about the demons and damned returning and planning resumption of normal operations. Duma lies silently on a chaise, the key to Hell around his neck.
In the Dreaming, Dream waits nervously for Nada. As she enters, he changes into Kai’ckul the Dream-Lord, a tall African man, the form he had in Tales in the Sand. Or maybe he doesn’t change, and we are simply seeing him as she does. There follows awkward silence and more awkward conversation.
Eventually Kai’ckul gets around to his apology, which isn’t quite what one might expect from the source of all human imagination and inspiration. Or maybe Gaiman is reminding the readers that he’s not human. Nada’s reaction is very human, and very brave, and ends with a roundhouse slap across the Dream-Lord’s face. He is angry and threatens, and she is defiant and not at all frightened, and suddenly it comes together for him and he manages a real apology. Which Nada accepts.
Dream renews his offer to make her his queen, and she turns him down again. She counters that he could give all this up, and live with her – and we learn that this offer was also made and rejected many centuries ago. So it is time to discuss Nada’s future.
Lord Susano-o-no-Mikoto is leaving the palace, and if he weren’t a dignified Japanese storm-god you’d think he was trying to sneak out. It doesn’t work, of course, and Dream confronts him. Oh, my, he isn’t a dignified Japanese storm-god, he’s Loki, who swapped places with Lord Susano during Dream’s fight with Azazel. Dream doesn’t really care if Loki goes free, but doesn’t want Susano suffering in his place. A bargain is made: Dream will replace Susano with a dream image, and Loki will be in Dream’s debt.
The Clurucan and Nuala are preparing to leave when Dream arrives to make farewells. Or rather, the Clurucan is preparing to leave, for – as he kind of forgot to mention until this very moment – Nuala will be staying, as Queen Titania’s gift to Dream. Were Dream to reject the gift, the burden of Titania’s anger would fall on Nuala. So, though neither of them want it, Nuala will be staying; but Dream removes her glamour of beauty, revealing her natural form.
Nada enters, having chosen the second option Dream offered – we are not told the first, or if there were others. She is surprised to find that she is not afraid, and asks if he will remember her. Yes, he says. But will she know that? No, but he will know.
In Hong Kong, a hospital, labor, a birth, and a baby in a bassinet. Dream picks up the child, addressing it as Nada, and renews his promises that he will always remember her, and that she will always be welcome in the Dreaming.
In Australia, a man is looking at the sunset, when an older man approaches. They chat, and the lettering style confirms that the first man is Lucifer. The other man has outlived his wife and children and had a hard life; but he too comes to look at the sunset, because “any God that can do sunsets like that, well, you’ve got to respect the old bastard, haven’t you?” The old man wanders off, and Lucifer acknowledges that he has a point about the sunsets.
Back to Hell, where Remiel is excessively enthusiastic about the job before them. He flies out over the fields of pain, and spotting a demon whipping a man and enjoying the screams, intervenes. No, he corrects. The torture will continue, but its purpose isn’t pain. It is for redemption. It is for love. He flies away, and so misses the victim’s anguished cry, “That makes it worse.”
And then Season of Mists ends, and Gaiman plays with the form by ending it three times, each a comment on what else? stories ending.
First, we have narration of Remiel’s thoughts as he rejoices that things have ended happily ever after. In Hell.
Then, back to Destiny’s garden where all this started, as he reads Remiel’s final thoughts in his book, then closes it.
And finally, a quote from G.K. Chesteron’s The Man Who Was October, a book which can only be found on the shelves of the library of dreams, on how difficult it can be to bring a tale to an end, and how simple it is to bring it to a happy ending.