Born in California late in the 18th century, Diego de la Vega is a child of two worlds. His father is an aristocratic Spanish military man turned landowner; his mother, a Shoshone warrior. Diego learns from his maternal grandmother, White Owl, the ways of her tribe, while receiving from his father lessons in the art of fencing and cattle branding. It is here, during Diego's childhood, filled with mischief and adventure, that he witnesses the brutal injustices dealt Native Americans by European settlers and first feels the inner conflict of his heritage. At sixteen, he is sent to Barcelona for a European education. In a country chafing under Napoleonic rule, Diego follows the example of his fencing master and joins La Justicia, a secret underground resistance movement devoted to helping the powerless and the poor. With these tumultuous times as backdrop, he falls in love, saves the persecuted, and confronts for the first time a great rival who emerges from the world of privilege. Between California and Barcelona, the New World and the Old, the persona of Zorro is formed, a great hero is born and the legend begins.