The story tells of the last days in the life of General Josep Moragues, a military officer who fought the Bourbon troops of King Philip V and of the latter’s grandfather, Louis XIV of France, in the War of Succession, and was subject to a harrowing ordeal by the Spanish Bourbon monarch to serve as an exemplary punishment before the whole country.
The action of the film starts in February 1715, following the capitulation of Barcelona and Cardona, the last strongholds of Catalan resistance. General Moragues is compelled to appear in Barcelona before the new Captain General, Prince Tserclaes, an appointee of Philip V’s.
At his estate in Pallars Sobirà, he and his wife, Madalena Giralt, in the midst of a scene of love and emotion, express their fear at the fatal consequences this order may entail.
On the way from Sort to Barcelona, Moragues meets two veteran war volunteers who had fought under his command and a blacksmith who has not given up his job and is now engaged in the clandestine forging of arms. During the last stage of his journey, he is accompanied by his faithful stable lad and aide, Captain Paloma, both of them riding together.
They stay overnight at Sant Miquel del Fai Monastery and hold a conversation with the abbot of Santes Creus, who has been forced to go to Rome under the orders of Philip V.
As they enter the city, they find a man who has been hanged for not respecting the Royal Edict prohibiting the possession of arms.
Following a manifestly strained meeting with Captain General Tserclaes, the latter orders him to appear at the captaincy every day.
Worried by this decision of the Bourbon officer’s, and fearful of being arrested sooner or later, Moragues chooses to make his will in his wife’s favour, for which purpose he pays a visit to Rosell, a notary and old friend of the family, even if the latter is now moderately on the side of King Philip. As the will is being drawn, Moragues starts to fleetingly remember a series of moments in both his personal and military life.
Appealing to his feelings for his family, the notary tries to convince Moragues that, if he collaborates with the new regime, he will have no problems remaining undisturbed for the rest of his life. The general, however, remains true to the cause for which he fought and his countenance reveals that he has taken a decision.
Moragues is determined to risk his life, aware as he is that leaving the city is punishable by death. He and three companions plan to travel to Majorca, which still lies under Habsburg control, in the belief that, with eventual help from the English, he may resume the struggle against Bourbon absolutism. Disguised as friars, they leave in the morning in a small merchant vessel.
During the journey, and following an anguished dream in which Moragues remembers the dramatic capitulation of Castellciutat, a thoughtless remark by one of his men leads the captain to suspect that these men are not friars but soldiers. Fearful of punishment for participating in such an operation, the captain changes his course without the passengers realizing and heads for Barcelona once again.
Moragues and his men walk on the beach, thinking they are in Majorca, until they notice the unmistakable silhouette of Montjuïc Castle. They find shelter in a cave and work on a new plan, this time with a fisherman who is a friend of Paloma’s.
They are, however, betrayed once again and imprisoned by Bourbon soldiers, who were waiting for them on the beach.
After being tortured, they are put on trial, and the minister of the Interim Government Board, Gregori Matas i Pujol, pulls the strings so that the judge passes an exemplary sentence.
General Josep Moragues is dragged by a horse through the streets of Barcelona; his throat is slashed and his body quartered. Finally, his head is placed in a cage at the Porta de Mar of Barcelona.
His head is to remain there, exposed to public scorn, for twelve years.
Magdalena’s moving words put an end to the narrative.