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In the 16th century, Thomas Stanwood, an English adventurer and mercenary, arrives in the Italian city of Siena and joins the guard of Don Carlos, the city's despised, tyrannical Spanish governor. For political reasons, Don Carlos plans to wed Orietta Arconti, a member of one of Italy's most influential families; and he assigns Stanwood as her bodyguard. Violently opposed to the match is Orietta's younger sister, Serenella, who loathes the Spanish, disapproves of her sister's complicity, and sympathizes with The Ten, an underground force of Italian patriots. She learns that Don Carlos plans to force her to marry his cousin Hugo and attempts to flee the city, but she is killed by a guardsman. Stanwood then joins the underground and discovers that Orietta is the group's secret leader. For a number of years Hugo has contrived by foul play to win the annual Siena horserace, thereby obtaining the homage of the populace. Don Carlos arrests Paresi, who is to ride for The Ten in the race, and has him tortured to death. Stanwood then enters the race in his place. Don Carlos tries to have the Englishman murdered, but a stray crossbow bolt strikes a woman bystander, and the crowd riots. Hugo is unhorsed and trampled to death as he tries to kill Stanwood; and the Englishman is victorious. The Spaniards are driven from Siena by the elated populace, and Stanwood rides off to seek new adventures. However, Orietta sends her men to bring him back, and he returns a willing prisoner.