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In 1673 in England, John Ridd writes the tale of Exmoor Valley, beginning years before: Sir Ensor Doone and his kinsmen govern the valley and its rich farmlands with firm hands and remain protected in their impenetrable castle. For their support of Oliver Cromwell's rebellion, King Charles II declares the Doones outlaws and orders their lands confiscated. Because Charles is occupied with a war with France, however, Ensor and his family are allowed to continue their ruthless control of the valley. The villagers, believing themselves free, are stunned when the Doones demand their usual quarterly fees. Farmer Ridd refuses to pay and is shot by the Doones. Young John Ridd is brought home from school to find his father dying and promises to continue the valley fight. When the sheriff takes no action against Ridd's murderers, John resolves to take matters into his own hands. Skirting the great falls and scaling the cliff on which Doone castle sits, John ends up on the castle grounds, where he collapses in exhaustion. He is discovered by young Lorna Doone, who tends to his cuts, until her cousins, Carver and Charleworth, arrive and thrash John for refusing to leave. Ensor breaks up the fight and is impressed when John demands that as a knight, Ensor is obligated to assist him in finding his father's murderer. Years later, as a young man just returned home after five years in service to the king, John finds himself still thinking of Lorna. When John's mother confides that the villagers meet secretly about the continuing Doone oppression, John decides to attend a meeting. As he urges the villagers to use extra money gathered from a bountiful crop to purchase arms, Carver and Charleworth ride up and order John publicly whipped for instigating insurrection. Lorna, waiting in a nearby coach, reduces John's punishment. Later, John again rallies the villagers to attack the Doone militia for their arms. Soon after, John is held up by a masked bandit, who turns out to be his cousin, Tom Faggus. Tom cheerfully agrees to help battle the Doones and quickly rounds up a stash of weapons. One day when Carver and his guards ride out to inspect the lands, John claims some militia attire and, disguising himself in it, climbs the cliff to return to the Doone grounds. He meets Lorna and is dismayed when she reveals she is betrothed to Carver. Returning to the village, John plots to take eight men with him up the cliff to capture the crucial drawbridge and allow the villagers into Doone castle. Suspicious of the men's absence, Carver rounds up their families. Ensor, bedridden, demands that Carver refrain from harsh measures, but backed by Charleworth, Carver refuses. In desperation, Ensor confesses to Lorna that she is not his granddaughter, but was taken hostage as a child from his most bitter enemy at court, the Duke of Lorne, cousin to the king. Carver knows the truth and harbors hope that their marriage will bring about the king's forgiveness. Before dying, Ensor writes a confession halting the wedding. Although she is being held on the grounds on Carver's order, Lorna sends a message to John seeking a meeting at the top of the cliff. There, she shows him Ensor's letter and guarantees the duke's assistance against the Doones. John's men consider the ploy a trap, and when Carver intervenes and John and Tom escape with Ensor's letter, the men believe they have been betrayed. John finds the duke with the king and persuades them to help Exmoor. As John hurries back with the king's guard, Carver arranges his wedding to Lorna. John breaks into Doone castle just before the ceremony and captures all the Doones except Carver and Charleworth, who hide in a room below the castle. Carver watches in a mounting rage as King Charles arrives, knights John and awards him the castle. As John and Lorna are about to wed, Carver comes out of hiding and shoots Lorna, then he and Charleworth are killed fighting John. Lorna recovers from her wound, and she and John take up living in Doone castle in the now-free Exmoor Valley.