Season of Mists is the fourth graphic novel collecting the works of the comic The Sandman
by Neil Gaiman
. Here I offer a rather detailed synopsis of the plot, so if you wish to be surprised when reading it, stop here. Most major and some minor plot details have been included.
The Fates visit Destiny, the eldest of the Endless, and tell him to call a Family meeting. There we meet all of the Endless except one, who is absent, having quit three hundred years ago. Delirium is introduced, and described as having once been Delight.
Desire and Dream once again show their inability to get along when Desire teases Dream about his love life, reminding him of Nada. Outside, Dream and Death have a chat, and Death tells Dream he HAS acted unjustly, and if his sensible sister thinks so, he feels he must make things right and decides to go to Hell to free his old love Nada. Destiny reveals that sparking this trip was the purpose of the family meeting.
So, Dream goes to Hell, expecting to have to break in, but he is not attacked or challenged. He finds Lucifer, who happily informs him that he quits as ruler of Hell and leaves the Key to Dream after he gets the Sandman to cut off his wings and has evicted everyone from Hell.
So, Dream owns Hell and has to decide whom to present it to. Many realms, states of mind, old gods, and embodiments of natural processes clamor for the Key to Hell, so Dream has them all to supper (using sleeping mortals as servants), and hears their proposals, threats, and offers as they come individually at night.
The mass eviction in Hell has consequences on Earth as Dream ponders what to do with the Key. A boy in a boarding school is haunted by a dead friend and other long-dead inhabitants, and eventually dies himself. These ghosts attempt to create a new Hell in the earthly realm.
Back in Hell, both the realm of Chaos and the realm of Order have their threats and gift offerings; the Faerie realm, represented by Cluracan and his sister Nuala, asks that Dream leave Hell empty, to spare them sacrifices. The cats want it. The old Gods want it. The demons especially want it, to have their home back, and one of them, the demon Azazel, has kidnapped Nada, the reason Dream came to Hell in the first place, so they believe they are sure to receive Hell with this bargaining chip. The angels Remiel and Duma watch the whole thing, representatives of the Almighty.
As the Sandman is pressured to make a decision, a message comes through Remiel from the Creator that He is reclaiming Hell and Remiel and Duma are to be its new rulers. The angels are dismayed because this means that despite their faithful obedience, they are to live in the outside of paradise and serve in Lucifer's place. They accept, though, and swear to make Hell a more purposeful punishment for damned souls.
Many other guests are pissed about the decision, and Azazel threatens to eat both Nada and the Sandman. But in breaking his code, Azazel makes himself vulnerable, and Dream traps him in a glass bottle after extracting his old lover. Then he uses Azazel as an example, and no one else challenges him.
They all begin to say their farewells, some expressing regrets and others thanking him for his hospitality or saying they hadn't wanted Hell anyway (Shivering Jemmy of Chaos says, "We just didn't want anyone else to get it."). Cluracan leaves Nuala behind as "a gift," which Dream cannot refuse lest he anger Titania, Queen of Faerie. He forces Nuala to take off her glamour so that she is no longer enchanted. Loki, who has been causing trouble with Thor through the whole thing, tries to avoid going back to a tortuous prison by disguising himself as a Japanese storm god. Dream calls him on it, and then surprisingly offers him a favor: He puts a dream image of Loki in his prison, so that he can be free. He is then in debt to the Sandman.
Finally Dream is allowed to deal with Nada. They have dinner, and he tries to apologize for sentencing her to ten thousand years in Hell, but she is insulted by his lame apology and smacks him. This infuriates him, but he recognizes that punishing her for insolence is impossible, and apologizes humbly. They kiss and discuss her future. She has the option of being his queen, and he the option of becoming mortal, but they both refuse. He allows her to be reincarnated as a baby in Hong Kong, where she begins life anew. Dream cradles her after her delivery and tells her she is always welcome in The Dreaming.
Lucifer, meanwhile, is pretending to just be mortal, watching the sunsets and grudgingly admiring God's craftsmanship.
Remiel and Duma are shown renovating Hell with its new purpose.
See the next Sandman book: A Game of You