On the treeship Yggdrasil, the (already drunk) poet, Martin Silenus, meets the other six pilgrims chosen for the Shrike pilgrimage: the Hegemony Consul, Father Lenar Hoyt, Colonel Fedmahn Kassad, 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, first listening to The Priest's Tale before descending to Keats, Hyperion's capital.
After a whirlwind tour of the capital city, the pilgrims follow the android A. Bettik to the barge Benares and depart.
They take a variety of different transports across the planet, listening to each others' stories along the way.
Martin tells his story, the Poet's Tale, one night aboard the Benares. He reveals that he thinks he summoned the Shrike with his poetry.
Traveling across the Sea of Grass on an automated windwagon, Silenus's drunken insults provoke Brawne Lamia into violence.
The fight is broken up before Brawne kills him with her laser.
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 on their journey, taking a tramcar across 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.