Fear of Falling Edit
This is the story from Vertigo Preview #1. This is a very short story, concerning a theatrical author/director who is afraid of the consequences of his new play, be they success or failure. Drawn by Kent Williams.
Three Septembers and a January Edit
A playful story concerning the (mostly true) history of Joshua Abraham Norton, first, last and only Emperor of the United States of America. Despair challenges Dream to keep him in his realm for the remainder of his life. While Dream is uninterested, Despair harkens to the memory of their brother's departure which Despair states was caused by Dream's lack of caring. Neatly dovetailed with his story is an explanation for his strange career centering on a challenge between Morpheus and Desire.
An altogether darker story set in the heat of the French Revolution, featuring the character of Lady Johanna Constantine (who first appeared in "Men of Good Fortune") and introducing, briefly, Orpheus. The villains of the story are Robespierre and Saint-Just. Thomas Paine also appears. Penciled by Stan Woch and inked by Dick Giordano. Stan Lee.
The Hunt Edit
A fairy tale of the East European tradition concerning a young man of 'The People' (werewolves) who comes to possess a portrait of a beautiful princess. It makes reference to The Death of Koschei the Deathless and the witch Baba Yaga. Penciled by Duncan Eagleson and inked by Vince Locke.
Another story concerning a month. An extremely bleak tale about the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar set in 7 AD. Disguised as a beggar, he talks of his life to the dwarf who instructs him in this disguise. We learn that as a young man, he was raped by his great-uncle, Julius Caesar; and we learn that Augustus chose the future of the world from two sets of prophecies, one in which the Roman Empire grew to cover the whole world and lasted millennia, and one in which it died out after a few hundred years. He spends one day a year disguised as a beggar because Morpheus told him, in a dream, that if he does so the gods cannot spy on his plans. It is implied that, during his days in disguise as a beggar, Augustus plotted for the Roman Empire to fall after his death out of his hatred for Julius Caesar. Penciled by Bryan Talbot and inked by Stan Woch.
Soft Places Edit
A story of Marco Polo lost in the desert, at a location where the boundary between reality and the Dreaming is malleable. There he encounters Rustichello of Pisa, Fiddler's Green, and Morpheus himself, after the latter escapes his captivity in "Preludes and Nocturnes". In their conversation, Fiddler's Green explains the location (the story's eponym), and scolds Marco and other explorers for reduction of their number. Ultimately, Morpheus returns Marco to his expedition. The story is something of a piece with "Exiles", a story from the tenth collection, The Wake. Drawn by John Watkiss.
The Song of Orpheus Edit
This is the central story of the collection, which narrates the Greek myth of Orpheus; but to the main story, Gaiman adds an interpretation based on his own characters, wherein Morpheus and Calliope are the parents of Orpheus, and his uncle Destruction and aunt Death instruct him to reach the underworld, after the death of his wife Eurydice. Here, Orpheus' head is kept alive indefinitely after his dismemberment by the Maenads, and Morpheus' refusal to assist Eurydice's return, estranges him from Calliope (as remarked in Brief Lives). Penciled by Bryan Talbot and inked by Mark Buckingham.
The Parliament of Rooks Edit
This story follows Daniel Hall - the child of Hippolyta Hall, first mentioned in Volume Two, The Doll's House, and introduced in Volume Four, Season of Mists - as an independent character. Here, Cain, Abel, Eve, Matthew, and Daniel hold a storytelling session, in which are described the three wives of Adam (a story appearing in the Alphabet of Sirach); how Cain and Abel came to reside in the Dreaming; and the natural phenomenon, the 'parliament of rooks'. Upon conclusion, Daniel returns to his mother. In a series of panels illustrated by Jill Thompson, the second internal story introduces the so-called "'Lil Endless" characters: renditions of Morpheus and Death as children, which became very popular with fans of the series. Penciled by Jill Thompson and inked by Vince Locke.
At the beginning of this story, the Caliph Harun al-Rashid rules over the brilliant city of Baghdad, but is troubled by the impermanence of its perfection, and offers Baghdad to Morpheus, if Morpheus will preserve it for ever. After the deal is completed, Harun awakes in a far more dreary version of Baghdad, with no memory of its previous fantastical nature. The story ends with an abrupt shift to war-torn modern-day Baghdad, where an old man tells this tale to a young child in exchange for money and cigarettes. The implication is made that the legendary Baghdad is preserved in legend, and therefore immortal.