Costume Party: Part 7
This arc will feature Demetri (Pretty), Rossi, Rossi’s sister Analia and her unfortunate new pet Dachs!
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CW: pet whump, captivity whump, noncon touching (nonsexual), intimate whumper, fever, infection suggested, noncon stripping (nonsexual), brand healing, collared whumpee, psychological whump, delirium, Rossi and Analia are their own warnings.
Two days, just two more days and Rossi would be flying out. Analia had promised it to him through the bars of his ‘kennel’ the previous night before she drifted off to sleep, likely dreaming of new ways to hurt her puppy.
The words were little comfort for the aching welt marks that striped his thighs nor the brand on his chest that was smothered daily in some cream to help it heal cleanly. He had tossed and turned the entire night to avoid his injuries and not daring to put any pressure on the brand as he dozed.
The Rossi’s wouldn’t stand for their crest being unrecognisable where it was burned into his skin. There had already been more than one threat to flay it off and start again if he damaged it, Dachs might have hated the symbol, but he knew by now the siblings were serious about marking him no matter the painful cost.
Dachs had promised himself he would make a break for it as soon as he was alone with Analia before he was broken but after Rossi had left them. He had no doubt the man would kill him if he upset Analia trying to escape. He just needed to hold out a little longer.
At least that was the plan until the fever set in.
The brand burned. That was normal. It itched where the skin tried desperately to knit back together, scarring over the damage as best it could. But as soon as Dachs woke, he noticed the heat had spread rapidly, his entire chest was flushed red, and the sweat that coated his skin has soaked through the thin cotton pyjamas Analia had dressed him in the night before.
He shuffled forward in the small space the kennel allowed and pressed his forehead to the cool metal bars, groaning softly at the temporary relief it gave him. Dachs wondered briefly if Analia would even notice he was sick or if it was preferable to just suffer in silence.
Dachs wasn’t given the option to quietly power through what was sure to be an infection. He blinked, or had he fallen asleep again? He wasn’t sure, but it was light now, and Analia’s hand was through the bars feeling his clammy skin. Her cold fingertips were like heaven on the heated flesh, and he couldn’t keep from groaning and trying to chase the touch when she pulled back.
“Oh, puppy, you’re not feeling so great, are you? Poor baby, you’re running a fever, aren’t you?” Her voice was softer than Dachs had ever heard it. His delirium easily fooled him into believing it was a genuine concern. Until she called for her brother, he felt the glimmer of hope that he might be treated kindly vanish.
Rossi appeared in the doorway within moments. He was always an early riser and was surprised when Analia and her pup weren’t at breakfast with them. He had assumed she had been playing with the pet, but the scene that greeted him was much less entertaining. The pup was flopped on his side in the kennel, not bothering to move even with the door lying open and Analia standing beside it looked especially concerned.
“What did you do?”
“Why do you assume I did something?”
The annoyance at his accusation was clear in Analia’s voice, but Rossi only laughed, now crouching at the kennel to peer in at Dachs.
“Because you’re a Rossi, we’re known for breaking our toys Lia..” Rossi trailed off as he pulled Dachs into a sitting position by his collar. No resistance and a red flush over the pup’s body wasn’t a good sign.
“Did you clean his brand as I showed you?” A nod, but it was clear something had triggered Dachs’ fever and no one else in the house was sick. Not yet anyway.
Dachs lifted his hand, just barely able to grip Rossi’s wrist to steady himself as the man blurred across his vision. He tried to beg for a break, for no more pain, but the slurred sounds were closer to an animalistic whine than anything intelligible.
“Get him stripped off, burn the clothes in case he’s really sick and get the staff to run a bath for him.” Rossi guided Dachs’ head up until their eyes met, studying his gaze for any sign he was faking the delirium. Satisfied this wasn’t a ploy, Rossi wasted no time lifting the mostly limp body out onto the floor for his sister to deal with.
As soon as Rossi let go, Dachs slumped onto his side, letting his head rest on the cool tiled floor chasing what little relief it gave him. He hadn’t been this sick since he had been a kid, and his mom... He struggled to bite back the sob, barely managing to hide it in a full-body shiver. He couldn’t afford to think of his family now.
Analia had paled watching the assessment. It was no secret she had never dealt with a sick pet before and would have panicked without Rossi’s guidance. She stared at the slow rise and fall of Dachs’ chest, too afraid to touch him when he looked so fragile. Her hand trembled, hovering just above her pet’s damp cheek.
“Gee I... Is he going to be okay?”
Sick pets were nothing new for Rossi, but it was a somewhat jarring sight for first-time owners. He restrained his sigh, resisting the urge to scold his sister for her sentimentality and instead offered his pocket knife to her.
“Practicalities first, Lia, get his clothes off. I’ll have Pretty come sit with him while we get a bath run. I promise he’ll be fine.”
Rossi took a seat on the edge of the bed, busying himself sending staff orders for a fresh bath, clean clothes and a medic just to put Analia’s mind at ease. A single whistle was all it took for Pretty to appear in the doorway. As always, his pet was smiling and eager to please. He could hardly wait until Dachs showed his sister such reverence, that kind of power was intoxicating.
“Dachs is sick. Help get him undressed. And toss out the clothes. We can’t have anyone else getting sick.”
Analia had made a start slicing off Dachs’ shirt rather than drag the sweat-soaked material over his healing brand. Pretty made short work of his pants and underwear adding them both to the damp pile, his smile never wavering as he tried to offer Master’s sister some comfort.
Dachs couldn’t even find the strength to pull back when Analia petted his cheek nor when Pretty leaned in closer to feel for his pulse. Every thought of fighting back was just stripped away. This seemed almost nice.
He didn’t want the pain, but it was like grasping at smoke trying to hold his desire to hate and curse and escape when he was being shown such tenderness.
Another layer of his soul was flayed off from the kindness, and he was left just trying not to weep through the feverishness.
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Sandman bonus notes: Interviews (7)
And I think these are the last informations I can gather from the Neil Gaiman interviews first seen in “The Sandman Companion”.
# The wordplay with “the wake” came to Neil Gaiman’s mind back when he was writing “Season of Mists”
# The poem at the beginning of the volume is “The Bridge of Fire” by James Elroy Flecker, that Neil Gaiman chose because it exactly described what happened in The Wake. He thinks that it is quite sad that most of Flecker’s work is forgotten today, and as a result he used some of his poems several times in The Sandman (the gir sailor, Jim, misquotes one, and the “Ramadan” issue was inspired by another piece of Flecker).
# Neil Gaimans highlights the wonderful work Michael Zulli did with the flowers during the funeral ceremony: Destiny is surrounded by hydrangea and foxglove flowers, Desire has red roses, while Despair is in the middle of the same roses but wilted and dead. As for Delirium she has a weird assortment of yellow daisies, plastic flamangos, butterfly-shaped lawn ornaments, and one octopus.
# You can see Darkseid sitting next to Joshua Norton - because they are two emperors. And if you look carefully when the Alderman gives a speech under his bear form, in the audience there are Neil Gaiman, Michael Zulli and Alice Cooper.
# Originally the appearance of Clark Kent had him in full body - from his suit you could see a part of his Superman cape hanging out and he was noticing it as he spoke. It was because Neil Gaiman thought Superman would be prone to dreams where his secret identity was revealed by accident. But the people responsible for Superman at DC refused to have this happen, deeming it a lack of respect towards the character, and so the panel was redrawn. However, if the scene had been drawn in full body, the readers would have seen that Bruce Wayne’s dream of Batman actually is not entirely human.
# Neil Gaiman would have lot to have the readers “hear” (well, see) what Alianora was saying at the funeral - but they ran out of space and could not include it. As for Thessaly’s way to recap her relationship with Dream, it is a nice opposition with Nada’s tale as told in the early issues: Nada’s tale was told exclusively from a male point of view, while Thessaly’s tale is entirely told from a female point of view. Neil Gaiman explains that with them, he wanted to represent this kind of relationship were you are two friends that get together and it seems improbable, and you know it will end badly but you can’t do anything about it. In Neil Gaiman’s words, after Dream conquered Thessaly he returned to his duties, but as a result he wasn’t enough anymore for Thessaly since she needed constant attention, and so this is how she decided to just stop their relationship and abandon him.
# Neil Gaiman wanted Matthew to embody the reader in The Wake. Daniel makes a much nicer and kinder Dream, and in fact he is not “our Dream”, and he never will be the Dream the readers grew accustomed and attached to - so Daniel can’t be loved immediately, and this is what Matthew is supposed to represent, all the readers unsatisfied with how Dream got killed, who miss the old Dream or think him impossible to replace.
# When it is mentionned how Daniel-Dream pets and touches the guardians of the palace gate, Neil Gaiman reminds the interviewer that Dream was never seen touching anyone with affection, and that he visibly disliked being touched.
# Neil Gaiman wanted to give Death a speech too but ran out of space - and he thinks that the narration of her appearance is a much better option.
# There is an echo to the first Sandman issue - where the first Dream decided to severely punish Burgess in a dark and grim location, here Daniel forgives Lyta (despite having more grievances against her than Dream had against Burgess) in a very white and clear location.
# An interesting fact about the character of Gwen in the Renaissance fair Hob takes part in. She is a young Black woman and nothing bad happens to her... It is actually quite significant. There is a recurring scene in the Sandman where a young Black woman ends up burned alive - Nada, Ruby, Carla... It was all a repetition of the story of Nada. But now that Dream is dead, this cycle is broken, and the story of Nada is finally over and can stop repeating.
# With “The Tempest”, Neil Gaiman wanted to sincerely answer the question “Where do artists find their ideas?”. Here, we see with a retrospective of Shakespeare career that a part of what he wrote is a reflection of his own life, that another part is a dream manifested, an echo of the things he wished he could have controlled in his life. A third part comes from small observations and weird things he noticed and that stayed around in his head, and the last part comes from places that are an absolute and utter mystery.
# There is a very fascinating explanation by Neil about his beliefs about Shakespeare, his angle of attack towards the character and his feelings towards theories about his identity and how to write the man. But I’m not going to copy it here because it is much better for you to read it yourself. If I did not make it clear, I do not put everything there is in these interviews in my small posts, and these interviews are filled to the brim with interesting facts, trivias and revelations.
# Yes, the turnip-headed gardener is indeed the 17th century version of Merv Pumpkinhead : Merv Turniphead.
Here is a quick explanation. The original “The Sandman Companion” covered the entire original series, from Preludes and Nocturnes to The Wake. But at the end it had another section, about the behind-the-scenes, the “secret origins” and about how Neil Gaiman got his ideas and characters. Here is some of the most interesting facts.
# When creating the Endless, Neil Gaiman began with “Death, Sleep and ?”. Death stayed, Sleep became Dream and the question mark became Destiny (which was originally a creation of Marv Wolfman). Reaching this point, Neil Gaiman noticed each name began with a D and so he rolled with it.
# When creating Dream, Neil Gaiman wanted him to belong to the DC Universe, and so he thought that people would ask - if he is so important and powerful, why hasn’t he showed up earlier? Answer: because he was locked up. The idea of his imprisonment corresponding with the mysterious encaphilitis epidemy of 1916 came from the novel of Oliver Sacks “Awakenings”. And that’s how he decided to start the imprisonment of Dream (which ended in 1988, the year of the release of Sandman’s first issue).
# When designing the look of Dream, Neil Gaiman wanted him to feel like royalty or that he belonged to a royal family. At the end of the 1980s the royalty dressed up and acted like regular, ordinary people, and so he felt that the new and true roylaty of this era were the celebrities, most notably the rock-stars: hence why Dream has a “rock-star” look. He originally made some sketches with this idea and Dream wearing a black kimono (inspired by a book he saw about Japanese design), and Mike Dringenberg (that inked the first issue) noted that Dream looked a lot like Peter Murphy from Bauhaus, which became another inspiration. They also tried out giving him the look of Bono in the video clip of “In a Lifetime” for the early drawings. Finally, Neil Gaiman wanted to convey a “moody loneliness”, the kind taht teenagers experimented especially when they are sixteen. The same behavior Dream expresses when in Brief Lives he stands dramatically on a balcony and causes a heavy rain just because he was dumped by a girl.
# For Dream’s personality, Neil Gaiman said he didn’t plan anything and it wrote itself on its own “on the pages”, but he noticed that he was infleunced by the Phantom Stranger of Len Wein/Jim Aparo, and by the short story “The Shaper” of Roger Zelazny. However he absolutely denies having taken any inspiration or similarity from Elric (of Michael Moorcock): Elric keeps lamenting about his past actions, something Dream does not ; the ruby of Dream is not a magical weapon like Elric’s sword but just a supernatural computer that automatized the tasks of Dream (he just had to say “Ruby, do this, ruby, do that” and it was done) ; and the chalk-white skin of Dream was originally a mistake of printing (absolutely not a reference to Elric’s albinism). It is true that Gaiman described Dream with a clear, pale skin, but his iconic skin tone was really originally an accident.
# Originally, Death was conceived as male and part of three brothers (the “Death, Sleep and ?” mentionned above). But he felt something was wrong, and it was solved by making Death a “lady”. Fascinatingly, Death’s appearance is not of Gaiman’s creation. Originally, Gaiman wanted Death to look like the rock star Nico in 1968 (and took inspiration from Nico’s face on her album Chelsea Girl). But Mike Dringenberg (again, the inker of the first issue) had other ideas and sent Gaiman a drawing of a friend of his, a girl named Cinnamon and that became the basis for Death’s appearance. Gaiman thought the drawing cool, but what really settled Death design was how the same day he received the drawing of Cinnamon, he went to eat with Dave McKean at “My Old Dutch Pancake House” in Chelsea, and was served by an American waitress that looked exactly like the Cinnamon drawing, was dressed all in black and had a big silver ankh cross on a silver necklace. Neil Gaiman saw it as a sign, and thus Death’s appearance was born.
# While not related to the creation of Death, Neil Gaiman tells that the Kabbalah describes the Angel of Death as so beautiful that anyone falls in love with them the moment they see them - and you love the angel so much your soul leaves your body, sucked out through your eyes.
# To deal with how frequently his characters had to appear, Neil took the idea that each character was getting paid, and that while all other characters had a regular, usual pay, the Endless needed to be paid much, much more, and thus he needed to be careful with their appearances. (He got the idea from how Marlon Brando asked for four million dollars just to appear ten minutes in the Superman movie). It was a neat way to not over-use those characters who were really popular.
# Neil Gaiman created Delirium as he started the series. He saw in a magazine the picture of a girl around thirteen or fourteen years old, wearing a lot of piercings and torn, crumpled clothes - yet very sexy ones. And the girl looked really mad. This was Neil Gaiman’s original basis for the character, and thus he started writing her as an aggressive character. But then he felt it did not work, so he just “listened” to the character and let her write herself for him.
# The idea of “Delight” did not come from him, but from Brian Hibbs. After Neil Gaiman had settled on the two last Endless (Destruction and Delirium), Brian Hibbs sent him a drawing titled “Delight” and suggested that she be an Endless, and Gaiman liked the drawing so much he decided to add Delight as the past life of Delirium - because he wanted the character to be in a constant “flow”. She was something once, she is now a different thing, and in the future she will yet another different thing. When asked about why Delirium changes so much and if this “flow” is unique to her, Neil Gaiman explains that this constant change is due to her being the youngest of the Endless: she is a cosmic “post-scriptum”
# When asked about those that inspired Delirium, Neil Gaiman mentions Tanaqui C. Weaver that had a tendency to said absurd but very right things, and that said at one point in her life she only saw colors and nothing else ; as well as Kathy Acker, though there is nothing of her personality (she was a very focused woman). Tori Amos was a late inspiration for Delirium (Delirium received very Tori-like appearances in Brief Lives), and contrary to urban legend, Neil Gaiman did not create Delirium after meeting Tori Amos - Delirium existed long before they met. Jill Thompson also was a huge influence on Delirium because she draw her more than any other artist, and thus Delirium inherited her body language and gestures.
# Destruction was inspired by the actor Brian Blessed, a tall bearded man with a loud voice and who loved to have a good laugh. Neil Gaiman especially remembered an interview Brian gave where he said he was often using dumbbells and carried them everywhere with him during his travels - and he had a laugh upon seeing the lobby boys trying to lift his luggages filled with a dozen heavy dumbbells. This picture, of a huge man preparing a ridiculous situation just to have a laugh, stayed in Gaiman’s mind when he created Destruction.
# For Desire, they were inspired by two sources: the sexy, androgynous works of Patrick Nagel ; and Annie Lennox, especially around 1987. He needed Desire to be both male and female to express everything one could desire, plus it made a nice symmetry among the Endless with three men, three women and Desire.
# Neil Gaiman insists that Desire only has the villainous role in The Sandman because it is a story told around Dream, who deeply dislikes Desire. If the story was centered around Desire (who dislikes even more Dream), then Dream would have appeared as incredibly stuffy, annoying and rigid, and he would have taken the role of the villain.
# Despair original inspiration was a picture in an 1980s photography book called “Modern Primitives” (and no, it was not the once of RE/SEARCH compiled by Vale), it was a different book. In it was a picture (called “Mandy of Mars”/”Mandy of March” or something like that) that depicted a naked woman with rotten teeth, and he immediately thought upon seeing her “This is Despair”. Neil Gaiman, while not revealing much about her, is very satisfied with his description of her in Season of Mists - and while originally he did not like much her character, he grew to change his mind and appreciate her work, her world behind the mirrors, and everything she did with her ring. Jill Thompson was especially pleased with Despair because it was visually refreshing and broke out from the idealized people she had to draw for other super-hero comics - she welcomed this large, stout, bizarre appearance. Though Thompson also noted that it was very difficult to render Despair’s facial expressions (because of how twisted and exaggerated her facial traits are) and her body language (because of how round and hunched her body is).
# When asked about the death of the First Despair, Neil Gaiman only answered this: It happened. We didn’t learn about it as much as he would have liked to tell. And he doesn’t know if he will ever come back to it in the future.
# Most of the characters of the Dreaming come from earlier DC series. The three witches came from the 1970s comic “The Witching Hour”, Cain and Abel came from “The House of Mystery” and “The House of Secrets” comic books - and Neil Gaiman found out later the line in the Bible about Cain going to the “land of Nod” which he thought was an hilarious wordplay and coincidence. However he also took very obscure characters - for example Lucien comes from an obscure series called “Tales of Ghost Castle”. Neil Gaiman liked to imagine that the titular “ghost castle” was actually Dream’s castle as it stood empty during his disappearance. However no one among the DC staff remembered him, so Tom Peyer dug through the DC archives to find material for Neil Gaiman to work with and in the process found other obscure series Gaiman later used. For example, “Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love”, which depicted a beautiful woman with a pet crow - this picture reminded Gaiman of an obscure recurring character, a mad witch with a pet crow named Eve from “Secrets of Sinister House”, “Secrets of Haunted House” and “Plop!”. So he got the idea that the two were different sides of a same character.
For Lucien, Neil Gaiman also kept in mind a character in the novel “Lilith” by George MacDonald, a man in a frock coat turning into a crow and later revealing to be Adam, the first man. He kept it to design Lucien in appearance - and in how he turned out to be the first raven of Dream. As for the existence of Matthew, it was Rick Veitch, the scenarist of Swamp Thing, that first contacted Neil Gaiman to know if he could have his character Matt Cable die in The Dreaming (Rick and Neil were good friends). Neil accepted because he needed a new character who would be unfamiliar with The Dreaming and have a need to be explained everything.
# All the names in Sandman are important. The fact the characters in Brief Life are named “Ruby” or “Bernie Capax” is not an accident. Neil Gaiman suggests checking the “Dictionary of Phrase and Fable” of Brewer to find more about the meaning of the names he chose. He also mentions that for example “World’s End” is the name of a real pub in Chelsea (London), while a “free house” is originally a term which in England refers to a pub who is not affiliated with any brewery. Neil Gaiman also reveals that while the name of the owner of the tavern is never revealed, clues in the story imply that she is the Hindu goddess Kali - for example she does hand gestures reminding of Kali, and her shadow shows her with several pairs of arms.
# Destruction was always for Neil Gaiman a dog lover, the same way Dream is a cat person. As for the name of Barnabas, while it partially comes from the saint, it is also a nod to “Barnaby”, the comic book by Crockett Johnson.
# There is an importance to the “blood on the throne of Dream” which appears as early in Brief Lives, when Destiny has a glimpse of the future Dream. Neil Gaiman did intend this blood to be the one of Matthew, and wanted the Corinthian to kill the raven in The Kindly Ones. Hoxever Alisa Kwitney, a supervising assistant, was very saddened by Matthew’s death and convinced Neil Gaiman to spare the bird (it might be because she had just given birth to a boy named Matthew). As a result, Neil Gaiman introduced out of nowhere the Nybbas monster - but he felt that he cheated and thus he had Daniel-Dream speak for him as an author and explain he had changed the story.
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