After Silenus's tale in Chapter 3, we're back to third-person P.O.V.
The Pilgrims reach the beautiful but deadly Sea of Grass and wait for the windwagon that will take them across.
They watch a beautiful sunset and try to get more information out of one another, specifically what special item each person brought on his or her journey: Silenus's manuscript, Colonel Kassad's weapons, the Consul's spaceship (which can be called by remote), and Het Masteen's Möbius cube, whatever that is.
Everyone wants to know what's in the Möbius cube. Sol Weintraub even offers to trade numbers with him, but Masteen refuses.
Just then, the windwagon appears. It must be fully automated, because it's deserted, yet totally stocked with food.
The Consul whips up a scrumptious meal and they settle down to eat and hear the next tale. It's The Scholar's Tale: The River Lethe's Taste is Bitter
"Lethe" isn't mentioned at all in this tale, but its meaning might give you a clue about what might happen. Nope, this one isn't going to be a happy story either.
We follow Sol Weintraub and his wife, Sarai, as they meet at university, marry, and have a baby, Rachel. It's like looking at snapshots in a family album. This is so sweet, we almost think we're reading another book.
Fast forward a couple decades to when Rachel majors in archeology and decides to research Hyperion. Specifically, the Time Tombs.
Five years after Rachel leaves, Sol has a life-changing dream. A voice speaks to him in the might: "Sol! Take your daughter, your only daughter Rachel, whom you love, and go to the world called Hyperion and offer her there as a burnt offering at one of the places of which I shall tell you" (4.200).
Um, we don't need a dream dictionary to figure out that this is a very bad thing.
(But it might help to know that this is a reference to the story of Abraham and Isaac.)
Way out on Hyperion, Rachel has fallen in love with Dr. Melio Arundez and is researching the time tides that surround the Time Tombs.
Whatever these time tides are, they're bad news. They fluctuate and move just like real tides, but they have something to do with traveling back in time.
Rachel's main focus is on the Sphinx, the Time Tomb least affected by the time tides.
One night, while Rachel is in the basement area of the Sphinx, all the electrical equipment goes haywire. They show the Sphinx generating new rooms, some larger than the structure itself.
Then, even though everything is on battery power, it all goes dark at once.
We're not normally afraid of the dark (seriously, we swear), but we do not want to be locked inside a pitch-black Tomb with the Shrike. That's not fear; that's just common sense.
Rachel gets transported to a medical facility on a different planet, Renaissance Vector.
Because of the way time works, what takes ten days for Rachel traveling faster than the speed of light takes Sol and Sarai five months of torturous waiting.
They find their daughter alive but unconscious. Not only is she in a coma, but she has what doctor's are calling Merlin's sickness: she's aging backwards.
Eventually Rachel wakes up, but every night when she goes to sleep, she ages backwards a day. And loses all of her memories. It's all very Memento. Or Before I Go to Sleep. Or Benjamin Button.
No cure is in sight, Sol keeps having the dream of sacrificing Rachel, and Rachel believes that she'll "just keep getting younger and smaller and less capable until [she] just disappear[s] someday" (4. 354).
Scientists on Hyperion are trying to replicate Merlin's sickness in lab animals, but they just die. We hope PETA isn't still around seven hundred years from now.
As Rachel gets younger, Sol and Sarai start dressing like they did when she was sixteen so that she doesn't notice anything suspicious happen.
Sol experiences a crisis of faith, questions his belief in God, and eventually visits a new religion for answers: the Church of the Shrike.
They believe that Rachel is "the most blessed and cursed of individuals" (4.457) and that she has been "chosen by the [Shrike] to atone in a way which all sinners and nonbelievers must someday suffer" (4.459).
Um, this is a scary religion.
For years, Sol and Sarai continue regressing, avoiding the media, and questioning God and fate.
One day, Sarai confesses that she, too, has been having the freaky sacrifice dreams. She thinks they should travel to Hyperion and offer to sacrifice themselves instead.
Sol convinces Sarai to take a small vacation, go visit her sister. She does, and, as if things couldn't get any worse, dies in a horrible car accident.
Rachel gets smaller and smaller, quickly running out of time. She begins to lose her ability to read, to speak, to lose her hair, and regain her baby fat.
The Scholar's Tale ends as Sol boards the treeship Yggdrasil with Rachel, now seven weeks old. She smiles at him: "It was her last or her first smile" (4.721).
Everyone's pretty much in shock when his story ends.
And the shocks keep coming: war between Hyperion and the Ousters breaks out in the distance, and the Yggdrasil burns and crashes to the ground.
Het Masteen, the Templar who called Yggdrasil his home, goes below deck on the windwagon without a word.
The rest of the pilgrims form a night watch and get ready to survive their first night in Shrike territory.