Preludes and Nocturnes consists of The Sandman issues #1-8.
Dream has been imprisoned for 72 years by The Order of the Ancient Mysteries. Upon escaping, he must reclaim his objects of power while still in a weakened state, confronting an addict to his dream powder, the legions of Hell, and an escaped madman.
The first seven issues form the More Than Rubies storyline. The eighth issue, The Sound of Her Wings, acts as an epilogue.
In 1916, the magician Roderick Burgess attempts to attain immortality by capturing the embodiment of Death. Mistakenly, he binds Death's brother Dream instead. Fearing retribution, Burgess keeps Dream imprisoned. In 1988, after Burgess has died and his son Alex has been charged with watching Dream, Dream is able to escape. Dream punishes Alex by cursing him to eternal waking.
Dream (also known as Morpheus) is weakened after his captivity, and attempts to return to his realm. He is found by Gregory, a gargoyle belonging to Cain and Abel. Once they have nursed Dream back to health, Dream returns to his home and is shocked to see it has fallen into ruin. Lucien, the librarian, fills Dream in on the goings-on since his incarceration.
Dream begins a quest to recover his totems of power (a pouch of sand, a helm, and a ruby), which were dispersed following his capture. After retrieving the pouch from a former girlfriend of John Constantine, Dream travels to hell seeking his helm. While in Hell he stumbles upon his lover Nada (who knows Morpheus as "Lord Kai'ckul"), but states he has not forgiven her and shall not free her. He is guided by the demon Etrigan to Lucifer Morningstar. Dream explains one of the demons in Hell has his Helm, and it is returned to him following a battle of wits which Dream wins. Lucifer is angered by his loss and swears vengeance on Dream.
The ruby is in the possession of John Dee, a.k.a. Doctor Destiny. Dee escapes from Arkham Asylum before going to a diner, where he distorts reality for those inside it, using them as toys until they all ultimately murder each other or commit suicide. Dream arrives and attempts to take the ruby, only to be overpowered by Dee. Thinking it will kill Dream, Dee shatters the ruby, inadvertently returning its power to Dream. Considering Dee at least partially responsible for his victory, Dream shows mercy and returns Dee to Arkham Asylum.
Reflecting on his recent incarceration, Dream is visited by his sister Death. She talks Dream out of his brief depression and persuades him to explore the world and see what he missed during his seven decades in prison.
|1||Sleep of the Just||Neil Gaiman||Sam Kieth||Mike Dringenberg||Robbie Busch||Todd Klein||Art Young||Karen Berger|
|2||Imperfect Hosts||Neil Gaiman||Sam Kieth||Mike Dringenberg||Robbie Busch||Todd Klein||Art Young||Karen Berger|
|3||Dream a Little Dream of Me||Neil Gaiman||Sam Kieth||Mike Dringenberg||Robbie Busch||Todd Klein||Art Young||Karen Berger|
|4||A Hope in Hell||Neil Gaiman||Sam Kieth||Mike Dringenberg||Robbie Busch||Todd Klein||Art Young||Karen Berger|
|5||Passengers||Neil Gaiman||Sam Kieth||Malcolm Jones III||Robbie Busch||Todd Klein||Art Young||Karen Berger|
|6||24 Hours||Neil Gaiman||Mike Dringenberg||Malcolm Jones III w/ special thanks to Don Carola||Robbie Busch||Todd Klein||Art Young||Karen Berger|
|7||Sound and Fury||Neil Gaiman||Mike Dringenberg||Malcolm Jones III||Robbie Busch||Todd Klein||Art Young||Karen Berger|
|8||The Sound of Her Wings||Neil Gaiman||Mike Dringenberg||Malcolm Jones III||Robbie Busch||Todd Klein||Art Young||Karen Berger|
|Collections||Preludes and Nocturnes • The Doll's House • Dream Country • Season of Mists • A Game of You • Fables and Reflections • Brief Lives • World's End • The Kindly Ones • The Wake|
|Novellas||The Dream Hunters • Endless Nights • Overture|
|The Sandman Universe||The Dreaming • House of Whispers • Lucifer • Books of Magic • John Constantine: Hellblazer • The Dreaming: Waking Hours • Hell & Gone|