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17th Phantom
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The Seventeenth Phantom
The Seventeenth Phantom was born with a twin sister, Julie. She became, temporarily, the first and only female Phantom (so far!)

The twins learned all their jungle skills and lore together and soon both excelled in riding, hunting, swimming and shooting. At age 12, they were sent together to Rome for their education where they acquired quite a reputation. When the news which every son of the Phantom dreads finally arrived, the news that the Phantom had been mortally wounded in his fight against evil, and Kit was called to return to Bengalla and become the Seventeenth Phantom, Julie decided to return with him. He was surprised, as he expected her to remain in Europe and make a life for herself with any one of the wealthy men that were vying for her favor. Instead, Julie turned down marriage proposals from eight different noblemen, including a prince of the royal family, and went to Bengalla to resume the more exciting life of the jungle.

Kit assumed the duties of the Phantom, and was frequently away on missions, leaving Julie alone and lonely. She began to wonder if she'd made a mistake.

One night, the Skull Throne received an urgent call for help. A caravan had been attacked by bandits, and a young missionary traveling with the caravan was taken hostage. The Jungle Patrol tracked the bandits to a crocodile-infested lake, where they were holed up in a stolen houseboat. They informed the Patrol that the hostage would be killed if they were attacked. The Seventeenth, in his role as secret commander of the Jungle Patrol, sent orders to withdraw from the scene, as he intended to rescue the missionary himself. Julie insisted on going with him, and in the pressure of the moment, there was no time to argue. She promised to take orders from her brother, and rode along with him to the lake.

Julie stayed hidden in the reeds with the Seventeenth swam quietly through the dark water. Through binoculars, Julie could see the missionary tied to a post on the deck, cut and bleeding from his futile efforts to defend himself. Julie immediately fell in love with him.

The Phantom swam to the houseboat, narrowly avoiding the jaws of the crocodiles, and stealthily boarded the boat. He was in the process of untying the hostage when he was shot by a hidden sentry who'd seen him climb out of the water. Badly wounded, the Phantom fell as the bandits swarmed onto deck at the sound of the shot.

They recognized him as the Phantom. One of them, with the skull-mark on his chin obviously received from the skull-ring when it was still worn on the fist of the Sixteenth, attacked the prone Phantom, kicking and trampling him and shouting, "I've waited 20 years to get back at you." Too cruel to merely kill their prey with a gunshot, they tied up the Seventeenth and through him to the crocodiles.

As soon as he hit the water, Julie dived in from the shore and began searching for him. She found him in the murky lake-bottom, barely alive, and began dragging him to shore. One of the crocodiles brushed Julie's leg, and opened its deadly jaws. Julie had to release her brother and dive after the crocodile with her knife... a kind of hunting she had fortunately done before. Finally, she bore the unconscious Phantom into the reeds and revived him. He was far larger than her, and she barely managed to get him back to the Deep Woods.

Knowing her brother's recovery from the bullet wound would take a long time, and thinking of the unfortunate young missionary still captive, Julie resolved to undertake the family tradition. She fashioned a Phantom costume for herself, took her brother's guns and mask, and emerged as the female Phantom.

With the help of a friendly tribe's jungle drums, she sent word to the Jungle Patrol to come to Black Lake, then started for the lake herself. By the time she arrived, it was a day and a half since the Phantom's failed rescue, but the missionary was still alive, tied to the post. Afraid, but fired by anger at the brutality that her brother had endured, Julie dove into the lake and swam to the boat.

She climbed onto the shadowy deck and surprised one of the bandits. When he saw the "dead" Phantom rise from the water, he ran in terror to find his colleagues. Julie sliced the missionary's bindings through. He, too, was amazed. He had seen the Phantom shot, bound, and thrown in the water and, like the bandits, believed him dead. Now, apparently returned from the dead, she filled the costume in a very different way, presenting an image of the human body that the naive missionary had never beheld in his life. Just then three bandits raced on deck. When they turned on The Ghost Who Walks with their rifles, Julie coolly shot all three dead. More arrived on deck. The bandit with the skull-mark on his jaw Julie shot between the eyes, and she felled but did not kill the Bandit chief. Holding the others at bay, and giving a rifle to the quaking missionary, she ordered them to pole the boat to shore.

On shore the Patrol waited, wondering what was going on, certain that they'd heard a woman's voice.

Julie ascertained that the missionary was strong enough to keep the bandits covered until the boat reached shore and then she slipped over the side. The Jungle Patrol almost shot the furtive figure moving through the reeds, but the missionary stopped them, shouting, "No, she saved me."

"She?" they asked, but they could only wonder.

Back in the Skull Cave, Julie nursed her brother back to health, but she was no longer the same woman. The young Phantom finally deduced that his sister was suffering the pain of love, and she grudgingly admitted it. She despaired, since she had only met him when she was disguised as the Phantom, and refused to do anything to win the man of her heart. The Phantom tricked her into going by the missionary's house, where, in his simple and blunt way, he told the young man that his sister, not him, had been his rescuer, and that she was in love with him. Julie fled, furious, but the missionary overcame her embarrassment and confessed his love. They eventually married and had six children.

In 1875, the Seventeenth was summoned to Carpatia, in Eastern Europe, where he helped Johan, Count of Carpatia to rid castle Vacul of vampires. He marked the castle with his Good Mark. This eventually led his grandson, the Nineteenth, into an adventure there.

The Seventeenth himself married an American woman from Boston. On a trip to visit his wife's family, in his customary public identity as Kit Walker, he encountered a strange situation involving a mountain wolf. Local sheep-herders had suffered large losses of livestock, and offered a bounty for wolves, which they believed to be the source of their problem. The Phantom discovered the true predators, sheep thieves who also hunted the wolves for the reward-money. The Phantom's life was saved by a female wolf which was mortally wounded in the process. After the Phantom broke the sheep-thieves ring, he vowed to care for the she-wolf's four cubs and brought them back to Bengalla with him. They were the first generation of mountain wolves in Bengalla, the ancestors of Devil, the wolf-companion of the Twenty-First Phantom.

 

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