The Sandman Reader X: The Kindly Ones

“The Kindly Ones” was the longest story arc that Gaiman ever wrote for “Sandman.” It would pull together many story threads and characters from past story arcs. The focus primarily dealt with consequences still needing to be dealt with after Morpheus killed his son at the end of the “Brief Lives” story arc.

The art for the main storyline itself was provided by Marc Hempel in a style that was almost cartoonish noir, very distinct from other artists in the series.

Vertigo Jam #1: “The Castle”

August 1993

Story Artist: Kevin Nowlan (penciler), Kevin Nowlan (inker)

This prologue to “The Kindly Ones” did not necessarily set up the story. Rather, it gave readers a refresher regarding the members of Morpheus’s staff who would become key figures in the coming issues.

Those characters were encountered by a Dreaming Man who inadvertently stumbled into the Dream. He was mistaken for an expected visitor and given a whirlwind tour of Morpheus’s castle.

That tour began with Lucien in the library, where the librarian amusingly pointed out the names of books in his possession, such as “The Bestselling Romantic Spy Thriller I Used to Think About on the Bus That Would Sell a Billion Copies and Mean I’d Never Have to Work Again.” All the books that people wish that they had written but never actually do.

Besides Lucien, the Dreaming Man also encountered Merv Pumpkinhead, Nuala, Matthew the Raven, Cain and Abel, and Goldie the Gargoyle.

The Dreaming Man then finally encountered Morpheus, who quickly figured out that this guest was mistakenly present in his realm. The visit was not a disaster, though, since the dreamer would soon awake and simply think that he was mistakenly in a dream. Indeed, as readers saw next, that was the case.

Sandman #57: “The Kindly Ones – Part 1”

February 1994

Story Artist: Marc Hempel (penciler), Marc Hempel (inker)

Issue #57 opened with the three Hecate witches, here also known as the Kindly Ones, working on a knitting project. In the context of the “Sandman” mythos, the purpose of the Kindly Ones was to punish those who murdered a family member and readers could easily see how that duty might put them on a collision course with Morpheus.

In the instance of this scene, the Kindly Ones were represented by three women in a house that appeared to be set in modern-day times. Note that there was a key moment in this scene where a fortune was read that referred to a king forsaking his kingdom.

The next major section of this issue involved Matthew the Raven visiting with the main characters inside the Dreaming. Lucien the library and Morpheus were given particular attention, with Morpheus revealing that he had created a new version of the Corinthian.

The heart of this first issue, though, belonged to Lyta Hall, who visited with a man named Eric at the Lux Club in Los Angeles. Amid references to Hollywood royalty of the era, such as Michael Eisner and Mike Ovitz, Lyta discussed a potential job with Eric. During that discussion, Eric recounted Lyta’s post-“Crisis on Infinite Earths” history and her involvement in the superhero group “Infinity, Inc.”

Lyta seemed to notice Lucifer moonlighting in the club as a piano player, the first time that readers had seen him since he was retiring on a beach in Australia back in issue #28. Furthermore, some have pointed out that the mute server whom Lyta encountered at the Lux Club might have been the demon Mazikeen from issue #23. Thinking that something was wrong with Daniel at home, Lyta called her apartment, and no one picked up the telephone. The issue ended on a pulse-pounding cliffhanger as Lyta had Eric drive her home where she found that Daniel had been kidnapped.

Sandman #58: “The Kindly Ones – Part 2”

March 1994

Story Artist: Marc Hempel (penciler), D’Israeli (inker)

The opening of issue #58 noticed the cliffhanger from issue #57, with Lyta convinced that Morpheus had stolen her son. She called the police to report Daniel’s abduction and met with two over-the-top stereotypical police detectives straight out of “Dragnet.” Unfortunately for Lyta, this duo did little more than take down the basic facts of Daniel’s disappearance.

More significant for Lyta was her dream that she had encountered the three women known as the Kindly Ones who had been seen at the opening of issue #57. They were clearly up to something creepy in preparing some sort of brew that they appeared ready to throw Lyta into before she woke up.

The issue’s other story focus was on Cluracan of the Faeries coming to the Dreaming to ask Morpheus for permission to bring Nuala back to Faerie. Cluracan had starred in issue #56 while at the World’s End Inn and Nuala had been servicing Morpheus as recently as the last issue. Cluracan did not follow instructions while approaching Morpheus’s castle and he strayed from the castle’s main path. As a result, Cluracan’s ‘nemesis’ was briefly seen before Nuala rescued her brother. That nemesis was written out for the time being when Morpheus indicated that it had fled for another domain.

Cluracan and Nuala met with Morpheus, who was slightly sinister on his throne, waiting for Cluracan’s request. He granted Nuala’s release from his service with surprisingly little pushback, a fact that disappointed Nuala at the end of the story. One bit of foreshadowing was established though, with Morpheus telling Nuala that the crystal that she had had since issue #42 would summon him at any time. Such a time would arise soon when she would need a ‘boon’ or favor from Morpheus.

Sandman #59: “The Kindly Ones – Part 3”

April 1994

Story Artist: Marc Hempel (penciler), D’Israeli (inker)

Issue #59 opened with Daniel’s kidnappers revealed as the team of Loki and Robin Goodfellow, aka Puck. Loki was last seen in issue #28 at the end of “The Season of Mists,” while Puck was last seen in issue #19’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It seemed appropriate that this duo would scheme in a way that Morpheus would find himself as their target. Soon after it was revealed that they had Daniel, they placed him into a roaring fire. As horrible as that situation might sound, a seed of doubt about what would happen to Daniel was planted in the reader’s mind due to his possession of what was identified as a ‘phoenix’ feather. Of course, the phoenix was a mythical bird known for rising from the ashes of death.

Morpheus’s immortal friend Hob Gadling was then shown mourning the accidental death of his most recent wife, Audrey. Hob had last been seen in issue #53, but in terms of the overall chronology of the story, he had last encountered Morpheus in issue #22. Morpheus came to visit with Hob, but their meeting was brief. At their parting, Hob offered the observation that Morpheus smelled of death, leaving readers wondering what to make of that foreboding suggestion.

Lyta found herself in a dark place when Eric came to visit her with assurances that his job offer to her was still on the table but that offer soured when Eric hit on her. Eric’s action proved to be a bad idea, as Lyta broke Eric’s arm and he required emergency medical attention. Lyta’s situation went from bad to worse when she learned that Daniel’s burned body had been found. Readers might have been skeptical that Daniel was dead, but Lyta had no reason to doubt that certainty. Lyta was then filled with despair and anger as she recalled Morpheus’s claim from back in issue #12 that he would someday come for Daniel. She then began a mental breakdown that spanned several issues.

Sandman #60: “The Kindly Ones – Part 4”

May 1994

Story Artist: Marc Hempel (penciler), D’Israeli (inker)

Story threads from issue #28 were revisited with the angel Remiel visiting Lucifer at the Lux club and requesting that Lucifer consider resuming his rule of hell. Lucifer enraged Remiel by quickly refusing the request and Remiel later vented about this refusal to his mute co-ruler of hell, Duma.

Rose from “The Doll’s House” story arc showed up as the babysitter who had been watching Daniel during his abduction. She had moved to Los Angeles and was potentially immortal after giving away her heart at the end of “The Doll’s House.” Lyta’s friend Carla visited with Rose and was surprised to learn that the police detectives who had investigated Daniel’s abduction had not yet taken a statement from Rose. Adding further mystery to the situation, Lyta’s contact card from the detectives who had interviewed her had suddenly gone blank.

As an aside, the scene in Rose’s apartment featured an array of early-1990s pop culture references. There was the popular talk show host Montel Williams, who was interviewing a fictional comedian who referred to the Michael Jackson molestation accusations of the era. The comedy television show “Roseanne” was also mentioned, along with “The Golden Girls” and “Bewitched.”

Elsewhere, Lyta’s mental breakdown continued. She thought herself to be on a quest to enlist the Kindly Ones in getting her revenge upon Morpheus for what she believed to be the death of Daniel. That journey involved her being guided by a host of mythological figures, such as the two Gorgon sisters. The Gorgons dressed similarly to Rose’s old “The Doll’s House” roommates Chantal and Zelda. They referenced missing their third sister, who in Greek mythology was the slain Medusa.

Lyta was told that the Gorgons did not have food available, and she wandered into the gardens of the Hesperides, figures from the mythology of Hercules. The Hesperides guarded an apple tree and Lyta then encountered the three-headed Geryon, another figure from the Hercules mythology.

The skull that Morpheus placed into the Corinthian’s head came from a chest that had been seen back in issue #27. Its contents contained artifacts that related to characters seen throughout the series, such as a watch owned by Prez. The Corinthian’s return came amid a brief scene involving Morpheus’s minions talking about him among themselves. Mervyn Pumpkinhead, in particular, nearly made amusingly ill-timed concerned remarks about Morpheus.

Sandman #61: “The Kindly Ones – Part 5”

July 1994

Story Artist: Marc Hempel (penciler), Marc Hempel, D’Israeli (inker)

Readers saw Zelda revealed as the dying friend whom Rose was supporting in Los Angeles at the beginning of issue #61. Her lover Chantal from “A Doll’s House” was referred to in the past tense, presumably already dead. Zelda’s health had quickly deteriorated from the effects of the AIDS virus. Amid what seemed like an otherwise mundane visit, Rose’s dead grandmother communicated with her via Zelda and gave instructions to go to her old home. Rose was to reclaim the heart she had lost at the end of “A Doll’s House.”

Nuala returned to Faerie and met with her queen, Tatania. Tatania had previously been seen in issue #52, but in this case, she was shown in the form that readers would recall from issue #18. Tatania asked Nuala if Morpheus had given her any messages to deliver and seemed disappointed to learn that was not the case.

Lyta concluded her visit among the Gorgons, her hair frequently turning into snakes in their presence as they tried to lure her into staying on as a replacement for Medusa.

Morpheus continued to acclimate the new Corinthian to his domain, making references to how the new Corinthian was made from a small piece of the first Corinthian. Based on statements made by the new Corinthian, it seemed that the piece he had inherited contained fragments of memories that were not entirely up to date. He was eventually given a cryptic assignment by Morpheus to retrieve an unnamed child.

Carla’s involvement in the story came to a sad conclusion as she made a fruitless visit to the local police station in hopes of tracking down the detectives, who had disappeared. She learned that there was no record of them and later had her hand burned as the photo of the charred Daniel disintegrated in her hand. Carla was confronted by Loki soon thereafter and she was burned alive after a nasty encounter with the prince of lies.

Sandman #62: “The Kindly Ones – Part 6”

August 1994

Story Artist: Glyn Dillon, Charles Vess, Dean Ormston (penciler), Glyn Dillon, Charles Vess, D’Israeli (inker)

Rose took center stage in issue #62 as she visited the nursing home where her grandmother, Unity Kincaid, had been a resident. This opening mirrored Rose’s first appearance back in issue #10. After an uncomfortable arrival in England and a polite ride to the facility by a young man who was part of Rose’s family’s longtime law firm, Rose began a tour of the nursing home facility.

Gaiman’s use of threes in “The Kindly Ones” continued as Rose spent much of her visit meeting with three elderly residents of the nursing home. They made references to British pop culture of the era, such as the game show “Blockbuster.” One told the story of a World War II romance with a black American soldier and how she was forced to give up their unplanned child.

Another of the three women recounted a story that her mother used to tell her as a child, with Gaiman’s text for the story being accompanied by folktale illustrations. The story was entitled “The Flying Children,” adapted from Neil Philip’s “Penguin Book of English Folk Tales.” In this story-within-a-story, a vile man tricked a woman into being the mother of his eventual three children outside of marriage. The man had made a bad series of promises to the woman that eventually backfired on him when his children killed him after learning that he had killed their mother. The mother then came back to haunt the man after death.

The woman who told that story was named Helena, but she did not reveal her last name and she hinted at a life involving murderous revenge. Speculation among fans suggested that Helena was Helena Kosmatos, the lost mother of Lyta Hall.

The issue concluded with Rose being invited to visit the property’s old main house by the representative of one of the property’s investors. That representative was Paul McGuire, the lover of Alex Burgess. Readers would recall Burgess from issue #1, as Burgess’s father had been the person who originally trapped Morpheus at the beginning of the “Sandman” series. After Morpheus had escaped from his imprisonment, he cursed Alex with living an endless nightmare.

Alex’s body was being cared for at the nursing home, having fallen asleep under Morpheus’s command on the same day as Unity Kinkaid having awoken from her long slumber. Rose left her grandmother’s ring with Alex to give him good luck.

Sandman #63: “The Kindly Ones – Part 7”

September 1994

Story Artist: Marc Hempel (penciler), Marc Hempel (inker)

Issue #63 opened with Thessaly tracking down Lyta and then guarding her at her apartment. Thessaly had not been seen since the conclusion of “A Game of You” in issue #37 and she operated under the name ‘Larissa’ in this issue, a play on the name of the capital of Thessaly in Greece.

It became more apparent than ever that Lyta had never journeyed outside of Los Angeles. Rather, her fantastical quest was occurring entirely in her mind. That spiritual quest finally led Lyta to approach the Kindly Ones about killing Morpheus. In the form of the triple-goddess, the Kindly Ones refused to kill him based on Daniel’s apparent death. That said, the ending of the issue might have explained how Lyta’s request brought to the attention of the Faerie the fact that Morpheus had killed his son, an act that was indeed punishable.

Elsewhere, the rest of the issue concerned putting certain character pieces into place. Odin went to confront Morpheus about various concerning rumors and actions that he had been hearing and Morpheus was oddly dismissive of Odin’s statements. Morpheus also had a similarly melancholy visit with Fiddler’s Green in which they briefly discussed punishments and responsibilities. Inevitably was casting a shadow over Morpheus and perhaps he knew that his actions against his son would catch up to him.

Delirium seemed concerned about her brother while visiting with Destiny about having lost the dog Barnabas, whom she had taken as a companion back in issue #49. Delirium eventually chooses that aiding Morpheus should be her top priority.

Finally, the Corinthian and Matthew the Raven only briefly appeared while following up on their assignment to find Daniel by briefly visiting Lyta’s empty apartment in Los Angeles. They were not immediately successful. A certain comedic tension then emerged in the bickering between the ‘new’ Corinthian and Matthew.

Sandman #64: “The Kindly Ones – Part 8”

October 1994

Story Artist: Teddy Kristiansen (penciler), Teddy Kristiansen (inker)

The structure of issue #64 was unique as it covered a week’s worth of days in the story progression, primarily from Morpheus’s perspective. Amid everything else going on in Morpheus’s greater world, he was shown to be going about his usual duties as the Lord of Dreams.

That routine was interrupted when a visitor came to Morpheus’s realm, whom he initially mistook for Lyta. It was an amalgamation of Lyta and the Kindly Ones. These visitors killed the gatekeeper Gryphon and met Morpheus. After a debate about Morpheus’s command of his realm versus the ability of the visitors to destroy him, Morpheus was reminded that he was vulnerable to death due to killing his son. That said, no immediate action was taken on the part of the visitors.

Rose was shown during this time as having excitedly entered into a liaison with her family lawyer, Jack. Amid her happiness after that liaison’s first night, Rose reflected on her past shallowness in not being affected by romantic rejection. She then learned that Jack was involved in a relationship that he had failed to mention the previous night, leaving her crushed by that revelation.

The ‘new’ Corinthian and Matthew the Raven found Carla’s burned body in a morgue and the Corinthian used her eyeballs to see the last moments of her life, providing clues as to where they might head next.

Brief vignettes in the issue’s final pages caught readers up on the other storylines of note. Lucifer showed boredom at the Lux Club while playing obscure Cole Porter songs. Thessaly continued her watch over Lyta while being financially exhausted. Nuala continued to not find happiness in Faerie. The Corinthian and Matthew approached a castle in the mythological Norse land of Svartalfheim together, far from the ‘real world,’ and were attacked by an easily dispatched wolf. The last panel showed a funeral for Gryphon on what also happened to be known as ‘Son’s Day.’ Morpheus’s minions in the Dreaming and Delirium looked on.

Note that issue #64 had a guest artist, with Teddy Kristiansen filling in for Marc Hempel. Kristiansen’s style was similar enough to that of Hempel to not be a distraction.

Sandman #65: “The Kindly Ones – Part 9”

December 1994

Story Artist: Marc Hempel (penciler), Richard Case (inker)

Rose’s tour of the ‘Fawney Rig’ manor, first seen in issue #1, opened issue #65 as she was given a tour by Paul McGuire. She had a private visit with Desire in the location where Morpheus had been held prisoner by Alex. Desire claimed to have fathered her mother with Unity. What began as a tense encounter unraveled into Rose expressing the inherent unfairness of love’s ability to inflict pain.

Paul McGuire woke Rose up from her encounter and escorted her from the manor after presenting her with a heart-shaped lighter that had been left behind in the room. Readers could presume that the lighter represented the return to Rose of the heart that she had given up at the end of the “The Doll’s House” arc.

The Corinthian and Matthew the Raven confronted Loki at Svartalfheim, with the Corinthian incapacitating Loki such that he could use Loki’s eyes to find Daniel within the immediate vicinity.

At the same time, Fiddler’s Green was killed by the Kindly Ones. Matthew the Raven was called back to Morpheus’s domain by a force other than Morpheus himself and it was then that Matthew learned of the murder of Fiddler’s Green. When Matthew went to visit Fiddler’s Green’s dead body, he encountered another raven that had ties back to Noah and his ark. That raven was content to feast on the body of Fiddler’s Green, but Matthew declined to join him. It was apparent to the ravens that a war was already afoot.

Morpheus went to visit Thessaly in Los Angeles, intent on killing Lyta’s human body to try to stop the increasingly murderous rampage of the Kindly Ones, but he was not successful in crossing the bloody circle that Thessaly had put around Lyta. When questioned regarding her motive, Thessaly admitted that she had struck a deal to extend her life by protecting Lyta’s body. In a way, Thessaly was betraying Morpheus. Yet, their relationship remained as ambiguously antagonistic as ever amid continued hints they had been unsuccessfully linked romantically in the past.

Sandman #66: “The Kindly Ones – Part 10”

January 1995

Story Artist: Marc Hempel (penciler), Richard Case (inker)

The Corinthian confronted Puck while still at Svartalfheim with Daniel to open issue #66. A potential fight was diffused when Puck decided to back off and return to Faerie. As the Corinthian was departing, Loki regained consciousness and begged for either death or the return of his eyes. He was granted neither request by the Corinthian. Odin and Thor arrived to claim Loki soon thereafter as Loki spun a series of unsuccessful lies. Loki appeared to exit from the story as he was returned to eternal torture in hell at the hands of his wife while being tied down by the entrails of his son.

Rose appeared briefly on her plane flight home to the United States. She was seated next to an English woman named Celia Cripps who mentioned having an aunt who relocated to the United States. Some readers speculated that Celia was related to Ethel Cripps, a mistress of Alex Burgess’s father Roderick.

The Kindly Ones continued to strike at Morpheus’s staff, this time killing Abel. Soon thereafter, Mervyn the pumpkin head was shown in a parody-like wartime defense of the Dreaming, but his defense proved ineffective since the Kindly Ones quickly killed him. Inside Morpheus’s castle, he was berated by Lucien over why he would allow his minions to be killed one after another without restoring them. Morpheus admitted that he had thought he could stop the rampage of the Kindly Ones by killing Lyta. That plan had failed, and he was still devising an alternative plan.

The issue ended on quite an ominous note as Nuala used her crystal gift from Morpheus to summon him to Faerie. Morpheus confessed that he was in trouble but insisted that he was safe if he remained in the Dreaming realm. Nuala pointed out the obvious fact that he was no longer in the Dreaming.

Sandman #67: “The Kindly Ones – Part 11”

March 1995

Story Artist: Marc Hempel (penciler), Richard Case (inker)

Issue #67 featured the Corinthian returning to the Dreaming with Daniel, where he met with Abel and Morpheus’s other staff. Abel lamented the death of Cain in the prior issue.

Nuala’s meeting with Morpheus continued as he confessed the murder of his son to her, and she confessed her love to Morpheus. They parted on good terms as Morpheus headed back to the Dreaming.

Rose arrived back in Los Angeles, where she learned of Zelda’s death and then dealt with the associated obligations. Barnabas made a ‘blink and you miss him’ appearance behind a homeless man who was residing outside of the hospice where Zelda had been a resident.

Once back in the Dreaming, Morpheus prepared to confront the Kindly Ones. When that confrontation occurred, it did not go as the Kindly Ones had likely planned. Lyta noticed that Daniel was alive and present, thereby nullifying her desire to kill Morpheus. Of course, the Kindly Ones had their motive for desiring to kill Morpheus, but they held back their fury for the time being. Also, disturbingly, they pointed out that Daniel was somehow both not dead and no longer entirely alive.

Sandman #68: “The Kindly Ones – Part 12”

May 1995

Story Artist: Marc Hempel, Richard Case (penciler), Richard Case (inker)

Issue #68 opened in the aftermath of an apparent off-panel discussion between Morpheus and baby Daniel. Matthew the Raven then volunteered to go with Morpheus to face the Kindly Ones, a mission that seemed destined to result in death for both. Morpheus suited up with his articles of office, such as his helmet, which readers might recall from the first few issues of the series.

The issue’s cutaway storylines first involved Delirium and her visit with Lucifer at the Lux Club in Los Angeles. The conversation between the two included a reference to Morpheus embarrassing Lucifer back in issue #4 and Lucifer vowing his revenge. Lucifer admitted that he felt sorry for Morpheus’s present situation.

Rose visited with the cross-dressing, controversial comedian Hal Carter, who had last been seen in issue #16 during the “A Doll’s House” arc. Hal was quite clear regarding his disinterest in attending Zelda’s funeral. As it stood, Rose would be the funeral’s only attendee.

Nuala visited with her brother Cluracan in Faerie, and she requested that he restore her normal appearance. Nuala seemed determined to finally leave Faerie on her terms.

Most ominous of all for readers was the appearance of Death at the end of the issue. As Morpheus prepared to make his final confrontation against the Kindly Ones, he sent Matthew back to his castle with his articles of office. When Matthew arrived at the castle, he notified Death that Morpheus had requested her presence.

Sandman #69: “The Kindly Ones – Part 13”

July 1995

Story Artist: Marc Hempel (penciler), Marc Hempel (inker)

“The Kindly Ones” concluded with issue #69. The opening pages checked in on Morpheus’s staff as they dealt with a spider-like creature that the Kindly Ones had let out of imprisonment within the Dreaming. Among themselves, they knew that the situation was likely dire for Morpheus.

Indeed, Morpheus was still anticipating his demise while standing on a mountaintop within the Dreaming with Death. She suggested that he could have prevented his pending death and abdicated the Dreaming to flee but he admitted that he could not have brought himself to do so. The Kindly Ones announced that they were ripping the Dreaming apart, but Death simply requested that they stop while she had a word with Morpheus. After Morpheus and Dream discussed how he had planned for this moment for a long time, Death took Morpheus by the hand and they both disappeared.

Nuala was confronted as she tried to depart Faerie, but Tatania let her go after everyone became aware of Morpheus’s seeming death. Tatania cried over the revelation. Astute readers might have noticed Puck chained in the background, having not been able to depart Faerie himself.

Delirium found Barnabas in Los Angeles next to the homeless man whom he had been lurking near in issue #67. Delirium tried to offer the homeless man a reward, but he insisted that he only wanted rewards that he had truly earned.

Lucifer decided to shut down the Lux Club after it no longer met his needs. He reflected on his old hubris of trying to establish himself as a ‘co-creator,’ only to then find himself reduced to the role of mere character.

Hal surprised Rose by attending Zelda’s funeral. The history behind Zelda and Chantal having AIDS was then related to Hal by Rose. The illness had resulted from Chantal unknowingly receiving an infected kidney during a 1989 transplant. Bad luck was not uncommon at the time when HIV screening of donor blood or body parts was not very evolved. Rose also briefly mentioned that she believed she might be pregnant from a broken condom during sex, that instance presumably being her encounter with Jack in the U.K.

In another sign that Morpheus was no longer alive, Alex Burgess woke up from the nightmarish state where Morpheus had left him. He was comforted by an overnight nurse.

Lyta also woke up and met Thessaly for the first time. Thessaly explained that Lyta had merely been a pawn who ascended before being taken off the metaphorical playing board. She seemed oddly calm given that she knew that Morpheus was gone and issued a warning to Lyta that people would be planning to hurt her. Ominously, Thessaly included herself in their number.

Back in the Dreaming, an aged and transformed Daniel appeared to Morpheus’s staff while holding Morpheus’s artifacts. It was clear that Daniel had become the new Lord of Dreams.

Finally, a couple of pages of epilogue featured the women who had personified the Kindly Ones back in the first issue of this story arc. They were shown together in the same setting from the opening pages of issue #57 as finishing knitting and cutting the string on a project. They read a fortune cookie’s fortune and debated the message found inside. One of the women proclaimed it more of a motto and was grateful that it was not a moral.

Of course, any morals or lessons to be gained from “The Kindly Ones” were debatable at best. It was a story that came about due to a series of past choices and external factors converging together.

And then it was done.

Gaiman never entirely revealed who had persuaded Loki and Puck to steal Daniel in the first place. Some speculated that it was Morpheus himself and that theory would make a certain amount of sense. Given Loki’s nature to deceive though, it would not be a surprise if he did things that were contrary to Morpheus’s will. Burning away Daniel’s mortality would be just such a double-crossing action but it might have also been intentional as instructed.

Many readers wondered why Morpheus had to die, despite Gaiman making it very clear that Morpheus had violated an ancient rule and the punishment for such a violation was death. Morpheus was able to break rules at times, but in accepting his death he did not try to sidestep rules this time. He instead embraced responsibility. That character development was very striking given how Morpheus had behaved in the past.

As was the case in past story arcs, Gaiman teased action-filled conflicts but ended up resolving those conflicts in a simpler and more cerebral fashion.

“The Kindly Ones” was Gaiman’s most impressive story arc but it was also hugely dependent on the reader having been familiar with the wide array of characters that had been introduced in the prior story arcs. Memorable characters came back for what felt like triumphant curtain calls as they played a role in this final major storyline.

D.S. Christensen
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