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In the course of this effort, he again visits the Red Sun Whorl, where he meets a young Severian and inspires him to write a book.

When the book ends, he, Hide, and his new "daughter" Jahlee (an inhuma) have left Blanko, and are on the road back to New Viron; the ending of the parallel story on Green is left uncertain.The Tor hardcover editions (see table) were almost 1200 pages long in sum.The story, which is told by a narrator who identifies himself as Horn (the ostensible author of The Book of the Long Sun), is an account of a search "on three worlds" for Silk, the hero of the Long Sun cycle.Near the end, there is a section written by Hoof alone, and the very last pages are written by Daisy.On the Whorl, the Long Sun has been blown out temporarily, and the world is in near-total darkness.The "Short Sun" of the title is an ordinary star, and is named thus in contrast with the "Long Sun" the narrator grew up with, running along the axis of the Whorl.

As the book opens, the narrator, apparently Horn, is the Rajan of Gaon on Blue, acting as a sort of judge and mayor.

He is attempting to set down how his adventure began: he was approached by the leaders of New Viron, who had received a letter from the "Men of PAJAROCU", a distant city, stating that they had a working lander and would be returning to the Whorl.

Horn was asked to find them and go with them, in search of Caldé Silk, who (it was hoped) would bring order to the lawlessness and chaos of New Viron.

In alternating chapters, more or less, the Rajan of Gaon describes his current situation: the war his city is fighting against Han, a nearby city, his de facto imprisonment in Gaon, and his extensive dealings with inhumi and a critical secret he learned about them.

He eventually escapes from Gaon with the help of one of his concubines, Evensong, and ends the first book in the wilderness.

Most of the story takes place in a star system with two habitable planets, Blue and Green, which lend their names to the first two volumes.