Detailed Summary

Back cover blurb:

Banished for the sin of mercy, Severian, one of the ancient guild of Torturers, flees from exile. In a mountain wilderness he meets the Alzabo, in whom those eaten seem to live on, adopts a son only to lose him in battle, discharges and old debt of vengeance, encounters fanged aliens who hide behind masks of beauty, and helps the people of the floating islands in their unending battle for freedom.


The book opens with Severian and Dorcas in Thrax, skipping their journey there from the Stone Town. Severian is finally performing his duties as lictor, which distresses Dorcas. She falls ill and speechless, and Severian ensconces her at a local inn. Walking the high streets of Thrax alone, he encounters a boy with an infected eye and his dying sister, but does not attempt to heal them with the the Claw.

Back at the Vincula, Severian is visited by the Archon of Thrax, who implies that he wishes someone quietly assassinated and thrown from a window at the festive ridotto that night. Admitted as a guest, Severian encounters a woman dressed as a pelerine named Cyriaca. After an intimate conversation between the two, the archon indicates that she is the intended victim.

Leaving Acies Castle, Severian returns to the jacal of the sick children, and cures them with the Claw while they sleep. As he walks the streets, a flame creature immolates all it touches, and pursues Severian into a wooden house, where it burns through the floor and falls. Severian returns to the inn where he left Dorcas. She at last is able to speak, and tells him that she has vomited lead pellets. She says she saw a chair that sparked rememberance of her past, and she must return south to seek her earlier life, and so Severian gives her all their money. Severian says he must flee north to escape persecution for freeing Cyriaca. He says she reminded him of Thecla, and told him where he could find the Pelerines.