On the treeship Yggdrasil, Father Lenar Hoyt meets the other six pilgrims chosen for the Shrike pilgrimage: the Hegemony Consul, Colonel Fedmahn Kassad, the poet Martin Silenus, the scholar Sol Weintraub, the detective Brawne Lamia, and the tree Templar Het Masteen.
They decide to tell their stories to learn about each other and their connections to the planet Hyperion.
Before descending to Hyperion, Father Hoyt shares his story, The Priest's Tale, revealing that he is of the cruciform, which means he has a weird cross-shaped organism attached to his body which will resurrect him when he dies.
He also carries the cruciform of his mentor, Father Paul Duré.
Because the pain of the cruciform is so great, Father Hoyt is addicted to ultramorphine, which the Consul administers to him after Hoyt reveals that he was partially responsible for the nuclear eradication of an entire tribe of people.
After landing on Keats, Hyperion's capital, the pilgrims take a variety of different transports across the planet, listening to each others' stories along the way.
After they cross the Sea of Grass, they watch as the Ousters shoot down the Yggdrasil, and Het Masteen disappears. They can find no evidence of what happened to him, but they assume he was murdered. There is tons of blood all over the walls, but no body.
They continue their journey through the mountains to Chronos Keep, a castle built by followers of the Shrike.
After a night in Chronos Keep, the six pilgrims approach the Time Tombs, glowing eerily in the night, and prepare to confront the Shrike.