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The cover is a little misleading as although Diana and the Queen do indeed cross swords momentarily, the outcome is not quite so dramatic for the Amazon Princess or Ranagor! After the espionage type tales we have been accustomed to, this story almost reads like an issue of Marvel Comics' Red Sonja!
As dawn breaks once more, Diana goes to the armourer and equips herself with breastplate and sword. Then from a hilltop she, Ranagor and King Zangor watch as their men manoeuvre huge siege engines into position and oxen haul a massive battering ram into place for the assault. The army groups into attack positions ready to storm the castle and with a yell, the King roars the order to advance!
The mighty barbarian army moves forward slowly, ponderously crossing the moat on wooden bridges they throw down in front of them. Fire, burning oil and huge boulders rain down on the troops as the attack on Castle Skull begins in earnest! Again and again they try to scale the wall only to have their efforts defeated by sudden counter charges from men hidden in secret alcoves in the stone wall. When victory seems in sight, defeat suddenly takes its place and the battle horn sounds the retreat. The beaten barbarians slowly and reluctantly withdraw across the moat taking their wounded with them.
Queen Chalandor watches them and smiles, yelling down at them that she looks forward to them returning tomorrow and watching them throw themselves uselessly against her city's mighty walls!
More attacks prove equally futile as the defenders use grappling hooks to rock the assault towers back and forth until they topple and crash to the ground. Those who are not killed by the fall are finished off by fire and burning oil! The queen watches and gloats once more. Some of the barbarians manage to leap off the tottering towers though and wreak havoc among her soldiers until they are cut down by encircling archers.
Diana and Ranagor watch the carnage with pity and horror as brave men die fruitlessly. She tells the prince that another attack has ended in failure and he grimly replies that they will go on until they either win - or die!
The siege continues until darkness falls at last and the respective armies rest for the night. Under the moonlight Diana and Ranagor wander through the fields of dead bodies and the Prince comments that his men die fight bravely and also die bravely. But for how much longer can they take such terrible losses Diana wonders. Ranagor sternly responds "Until the job is done!". She turns to him and says that in truth he can only ask so much of his men. She suggests they go and see his father as she has had an idea.
Soon in King Zangor's tent they discuss the grim situation they find themselves in. Zangor acknowledges that they are taking too many casualties and winter approaches. He fears that the siege is doomed to failure. Diana then says that she believes she has the answer and requests to see the King's wise men. Minutes later she is deep in conversation with the sages and describes certain ingredients she requires. They tell her that they can collect the substances in a matter of hours as the area around the camp is rich in all three.
A while later they return with three bowls containing the ingredients the Amazon Princess has requested. She describes what to do next and soon soldiers are working on a project they do not even understand. Some work hollowing out tree trunks while blacksmiths hammer out iron bands which are then wrapped around the tree trunks as further reinforcement. The strange tubes are then lashed to wooden wheeled platforms and as morning slowly approaches King Zangor and Ranagor survey the finished articles. They ask Diana what the devices do and she tells them to wait until the attack at dawn.
She orders kegs of powder mixed from the requested ingredients brought forward and the King and his son watch as she pours the powder into the touch hole of the mysterious tube. She then rams a cloth bag containing the same powder down into the front end of the weapon followed by a round stone ball. Diana instructs the men as to what they must do to operate the cannon and waits for the full light of dawn.
High up on the castle walls meanwhile Queen Chalandor watches these activities with interest. Her captain says he cannot make out what the devices are in the morning twilight and the nervous queen decides to order a party of troops to be sent out to take a closer look.
Diana sees a gate open in the wall and a group of enemy soldiers advance on their position. She raises her hand and waits. As they draw nearer she gives the command and the morning air is split by a thunderous roar as the cannon fires, cutting a devastating swathe through the enemy! The queen watches in shock and horror as the remainder of her men flee in terror back to the castle!
Ranagor and King Zangor are momentarily stunned into immobility by the havoc they have just wrought and the Prince tells Diana that her magic has harnessed a thunderbolt! She explains that it is not magic but chemistry! Suddenly she shouts a warning as she spots three flying ships approaching their location. As they run for cover the ships hover over the cannons and begin to pour a rain of burning oil onto them!
Back in the trees where Diana and her gunners are hiding, the Amazon Princess positions mortars she has had made and as the ships draw nearer, she orders the men to open fire. Crude though the devices are, they have no trouble striking the slow moving ships and in moments all three have been felled! Awed by this display of firepower, the barbarian army suddenly lets out a great cheer!
Bringing up newly made replacement cannons, the army resumes its bombardment of the wall surrounding Castle Skull But the price is high for no one knows when a cannon has reached the limit of its endurance and several self destruct! Finally, the day they have been waiting for arrives and under the constant pounding of cannon balls a section of the wall starts to crumble - and then collapses!
Into the breech pour the jubilant barbarians only to be met by a second wall with a third behind it! A hail of spears and arrows is unleashed upon them by the waiting enemy and what seemed to be victory turns into another defeat as Zangor's army retreats under fire. Diana and Ranagor watch their hopes crushed and a crestfallen Prince says that they have lost. But Diana reminds him that they have lost this battle perhaps - but not the war!
Up on the castle parapet meanwhile Queen Chalandor revels in the sight of the dead bodies strewn at the base of the walls. She gloats that the barbarians do not have enough men to get through three walls!
Ranagor acknowledges to Diana that having been driven back yet again, his men may soon lose heart that victory can be achieved at all. Diana suggests they try something else and orders a cannon to be mounted on a battering ram platform. Under a hail of rocks, spears and arrows the protected cannon is hauled, pushed and pulled to within a few feet of the second wall. At point blank range they open fire and as salvo after salvo pounds the structure, a second cannon is manoeuvered into position, adding to the fire power.
Day after day the pounding goes on with losses on both sides as the wooden cannons reach their endurance point and self destruct. The nights are made hideous by the attacks of Challandorian suicide squads as they leap out of secret openings and fall upon barbarian outposts. During the day attempt after attempt is made to scale the wall only to end in failure again as the defenders fight with the fury of demons.
Each day the number of wounded grows and Diana and Ranagor do their best to keep up morale. As night falls the Amazon Princess tells her comrade that his men cannot keep this up for much longer. Ranagor agrees but responds that if they do not destroy this queen and her evil city now then they never will. There has to be a way to beat the enemy! Diana thinks for a moment and then says that she may have the answer and that she will explain after a night's rest.
Next morning under a flag of truce a herald stands at the foot of the castle wall and issues a challenge as instructed by Diana. The queen peers down and tells her captain that the fools want to fight her and one of her champions! This may prove amusing! She agrees to the challenge and so preparations are made.
Diana and Ranagor ride out towards the waiting queen and her champion named Thang. Ranagor comments on how big the brute is and tells Diana that he will go in first and engage Thang while she takes the queen. As the Prince rides forward though the queen's champion suddenly whips his arm up and sends a mace flying at his opponent. Ranagor suffers a glancing blow to his head and falls from his horse!
Right behind the fallen Ranagor thunders Diana and as she rides past Thang, she slaps his horse with the flat of her sword, causing it to rear and buck in terror and giving Ranagor a chance to recover. She then engages the queen and using the commotion to his advantage, Ranagor draws his own sword and lunges at the off guard Thang, killing him! Queen Chalandor sees she is suddenly out numbered and makes a hasty retreat back to the safety of the castle!
An hour later back at their camp, Ranagor is arguing with Diana. He tells her that what she proposes is not a job for a woman and that he should do it. She calmly replies that if he falls, his men will not follow her as their leader. She then instructs the fuses on a horse drawn wagon load of gunpowder kegs to be lit and leaps onto one of the steeds. She instructs Ranagor to advance with the army as soon as they see her leap away from the wagon.
She then urges the horses to gallop towards the castle gate and as they thunder ever closer, she draws her sword and cuts the chain holding the horses to the wagon. As the wagon continues to roll straight for the main gate Diana veers the horses to one side just in time before the explosives detonate in a thunderous explosion! As the smoke clears a battle horn sounds signaling the attack and with a roar the barbarian army charges forward into the gaping hole created by the explosion.
Diana joins Ranagor as they run into the city. The defenders are unable to halt the charging horde of revenge seeking barbarians and soon only a small number remain, fighting as they retreat. Deeper and deeper into the castle they go until finally the battle rages in the lowest depths of the fortress. Eventually there is only one captain standing between Diana and the queen herself. Diana swiftly dispatches him and confronts the queen who offers her surrender. She begs them for mercy and a scowling Ranagor replies "We'll see..."
Some time later at the Queen's trial her judgement is passed and King Zangor sentences her to go forth into the countryside with only the clothes on her back - to wander until fate decrees her time is up. The terrified queen begs them to kill her quickly instead, desperately not wanting to go out into the countryside. A puzzled Diana asks Ranagor why she is so scared and he replies that the queen knows she will be recognised. After what she has done to the people of the countryside they will seek their terrible vengeance!
Just then Queen Hippolyta and her Amazon warriors arrive at the camp and a smiling Diana greets her mother, who in turn says that they had come as fast as they could - but it appears they are no longer needed!
A few days later final goodbyes are said. Diana takes Ranagor's hand in hers and he tells her that they will meet again someday.
A week later back on Paradise Island, Diana's visit to her home finally comes to an end and she bids Hippolyta a fond farewell. The Amazon queen wishes her well and says that she will have a guide take Diana back to Earth.