"Tales in the Sand": In Africa, a boy undergoes a ceremony meant to make him a man. He is circumcised, and then his grandfather takes him out into the desert. The boy is tasked with finding a certain object, and once he has found it, he will be told a story which is only ever told once, and
- Once more I will offer my love to you, once more, and that is all. If you refuse me a third time, I will condemn your soul to eternal pain. So I ask you, sweet love, for the last time, will you be my queen?
- — Dream
Synopsis for "Tales in the Sand"
In Africa, a boy undergoes a ceremony meant to make him a man. He is circumcised, and then his grandfather takes him out into the desert. The boy is tasked with finding a certain object, and once he has found it, he will be told a story which is only ever told once, and during this ceremony.
The boy discovers a piece of desert-glass, which the grandfather reveals is part of a glass city that was once the home of their people. That city had been ruled by a woman named Nada, who had never found love. One day, a stranger came, and when Nada laid eyes on him, she knew that he was the one she would love. That night, she didn't sleep, but when she went out to find the man the next morning, he was gone.
Nada consulted with the Bird King, and he had all of his birds report on whether they had seen the man. All but a small weaverbird said no, but the weaverbird had seen him. The bird told of how it had seen the man disappear before its eyes. The Bird King realizes what this man is, and advises Nada to seek love elsewhere.
Sadly, Nada returned home, but the weaverbird followed, and told her of a certain tree whose berries were known to bring those who consumed them to the sides of their loved ones. The bird brought Nada such a berry, and when she consumed it, she awoke in the Dreaming. She found her way to a castle, where she asked the ruler about the man she was seeking. He removed his Helm, and revealed that he, Dream, was the man she loved - and he loved her too.
However, once Nada realized that she had fallen in love with one of the Endless, she shied away. She turned herself into a gazelle, but Dream took the form of a hunter and caught her. She returned to her human form, and thinking that he would not want her if she were not a virgin, she broke her hymen with a sharp stone. When Dream caught up with her, she was surprised to hear him say that her virginity didn't matter to him. He healed her, and they made love all night. The rest of the world dreamed of love because of it. When the sun rose, it saw what they had done, and knowing it was wrong, it beat down and melted the entire city of glass. Nada watched in horror, knowing that the death of her people and the fall of her city was the result of their folly. Anguished, she threw herself from the mountain top, and died against the rocks below.
When she woke in the realm of death, Dream came to her and asked her again to join him as his queen. She refused, knowing that more pain would come as a result of their union. He asked again, warning that he would punish her with eternal damnation if she did not agree. She was forced to say no, and so was condemned to Hell for eternity.
The boy is displeased with this story, but his grandfather tells him that the story must be told just so to his own son. It is hinted, though, that there is another version of the story passed down among women - one that may have a happier ending.
Appearing in "Tales in the Sand"
- Unnamed warrior (Single appearance)
- The Warrior's grandfather (Single appearance)
- Desire (Behind the scenes)
- This issue is reprinted in the Sandman: Absolute Edition, Volume 1, the Sandman: The Doll's House trade paperback and Essential Vertigo: The Sandman #9.
- The events from this issue take place over 10,000 years ago.
- Nada is the woman seen imprisoned in Hell in Sandman #4. The reason why Morpheus refused to forgive her at that time is revealed in this issue.