It begins with an Endless family meeting, descending almost immediately into an Endless family argument. Desire angers Morpheus by taunting him about his intolerant treatment of a former lover, whose story formed the prologue to the second collection, The Doll's House. Death angers him further by agreeing with Desire, but Morpheus' immense respect for Death leads him to seriously consider her assessment as he would not for Desire. He eventually cedes to her wisdom in the matter.
Morpheus leaves his realm to travel to Hell, where he imprisoned his lover, Nada, some 10,000 years previously, His goal is to release her. Having left Lucifer Morningstar, lord of Hell, very angry with him the last time he ventured there (Preludes and Nocturnes) Morpheus is apprehensive about the task. He sets about it, wanting to do what is right, but prepared for a confrontation which he knows he may lose. Preparing for his possible death, he says goodbye to the dreams, meets and names Daniel Hall, and finally Hob Gadling in his dreams.
Cain is sent by Dream to inform Lucifer of Dream's impending arrival in Hell. Recognizing that Cain is protected by God's Mark, and cannot be destroyed, he proceeds to mock and torture Cain as they briefly travel through Hell.
Morpheus's apprehension is somewhat misplaced. As he arrives, Lucifer is busy closing down Hell. Morpheus follows Lucifer around in a state of some bafflement before Lucifer finally persuades him this is not an elaborate trick, that he indeed intends to leave Hell, and his obligations, as its lord, forever. His final act before leaving is to eject any demon or damned souls still lingering, lock all the portals to Hell, and cut off his wings; he then hands the key to Hell to Morpheus, to do with as he will. Such action is noted by Lucifer as having the potential to benefit or ruin Morpheus.
Morpheus, who has no wish to rule this troublesome piece of real estate, quickly discovers that there are numerous entities who want to control Hell, or prevent their enemies from controlling it. Odin wishes to control Hell in order to avoid Ragnarok, and travels to the Dreaming with two other members of the Norse pantheon, Loki and Thor.
Susano-o-no-Mikoto, a storm god of the Shinto pantheon, travels as an individual deity, and not as a representative of Shinto gods. He wishes to add Hell to a new underworld controlled by his family, which has been formed by assimilating other lesser pantheons as well as objects of worship including, he says, Marilyn Monroe.
Azazel, a demon, arrives with two other demons who held great power in the old Hell: Choronzon, here described as the former Duke of the Eighth Circle, and Merkin, the mother of Spiders. Azazel had previously ruled Hell in a triumvirate with another demon and Lucifer, although Lucifer tells Morpheus that this was only part of a game he played, and Azazel demands that Morpheus hand him the key. In exchange, Azazel offers to hand over Nada whom he now holds, as well as the demon Choronzon who had previously dueled Morpheus.
Order and Chaos also arrive. Order is in the guise of an empty cardboard box carried by a floating Djinn-like being, while Chaos appears in the form of a small girl in clown makeup. Order offers to trade the dreams of the newly dead, while Chaos simply threatens Morpheus before offering a balloon.
Two representatives from Faerie, Cluracan, and his sister Nuala appeal to Morpheus to give control of Hell to no one. Cluracan offers his sister as a gift to the Dream Lord, in the name of Faerie Queen.
Much to Morpheus's chagrin, the interested parties promptly convene in the castle at the center of the Dreaming. Here many characters who have parts to play later in the series are introduced, among them, the representatives of Faerie, Cluracan, and his sister Nuala. After much bargaining, wheedling, bribery, trickery, drunkenness, and threatening behavior, Morpheus manages to get rid of Hell without much anger from the other participants: he gives it to a pair of angels sent by God, after Remiel relay a message claiming Hell. Dream then enters Azazel and frees Nada. He apologizes to her, and though he still loves her, she chooses not to stay with him, and he reincarnates her in the body of a newborn baby, telling her that she will always be welcome in the Dreaming in any form that she chooses.
The collection ends with Lucifer Morningstar, sans wings, sitting on an Australian beach, grudgingly admiring God's sunset.
|21||Prologue||Neil Gaiman||Mike Dringenberg||Malcolm Jones III||Steve Oliff||Todd Klein||Tom Peyer||Karen Berger|
|22||Chapter 1||Neil Gaiman||Kelley Jones||Malcolm Jones III||Steve Oliff||Todd Klein||Tom Peyer||Karen Berger|
|23||Chapter 2||Neil Gaiman||Kelley Jones||Malcolm Jones III||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Tom Peyer||Karen Berger|
|24||Chapter 3||Neil Gaiman||Kelley Jones||P. Craig Russell||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Tom Peyer||Karen Berger|
|25||Chapter 4||Neil Gaiman||Matt Wagner||Malcolm Jones III||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Tom Peyer||Karen Berger|
|26||Chapter 5||Neil Gaiman||Kelley Jones||George Pratt||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Alisa Kwitney||Karen Berger|
|27||Chapter 6||Neil Gaiman||Kelley Jones||Dick Giordano||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Alisa Kwitney||Karen Berger|
|28||Epilogue||Neil Gaiman||Mike Dringenberg||George Pratt||Daniel Vozzo||Todd Klein||Alisa Kwitney||Karen Berger|
|Collections||Preludes and Nocturnes • The Doll's House • Dream Country • Season of Mists • A Game of You • Fables and Reflections • Brief Lives • Worlds' End • The Kindly Ones • The Wake|
|Novellas||Midnight Theatre • 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 • Nightmare Country|
|Other||Death: The Time of Your Life • Death: The High Cost of Living • Lucifer • Book of Dreams|