The

PHANTOM

of fair fortune

High on a hill in an enchanted garden, enclosed by tall walls and protected by strong magic, lived the Phantom of fair fortune.

Once a year, between the hours of sunrise and sunset on the longest day, a single unfortunate was given the chance to fight their way to the Phantom, ask of a favor, and receive it.

On the appointed day, hundreds of people traveled from all over the kingdom to reach the garden walls before dawn.

Male and female, rich and poor, of magical means and without, they gathered in the darkness, each hoping that they would be the one to gain entrance to the garden.

Three witches, each with her burden of woe, met on the outskirts of the crowd, and told one another their sorrows as they waited for sunrise.

The first, by name Asha, was sick of a malady no Healer could cure.

She hoped the Phantom would banish her symptoms and grant her a long and happy life.

The second, by name Altheda, had been robbed of her home, her gold, and her wand by an evil sorcerer. She hoped that the Phantom might relieve her of her powerlessness and poverty.

The third, by name Amata, had been deserted by a man whom she loved dearly, and she thought her heart would never mend. she hoped that the Phantom would relieve her of her grief and longing.

Pitying each other, the three women agreed that, should the chance befall them, they would unite and try to reach the Phantom together.

The sky was rent with the first ray of sun, and a chink in the wall opened. The crowd surged forward, each of them shrieking their claim for the Phantom's benison. Creepers from the garden beyond snaked through the pressing mass, and twisted themselves around the first witch, Asha. She grasped the wrist of the second witch, Altheda, who seized tight upon the robes of the third witch, Amata. And Amata became caught upon the armor of a dismal-looking knight, who was seated on a bone thin horse.

The creepers tugged the three witches through the chink in the wall, and the knight was dragged off his steed after them.

The furious screams of the disappointed throng rose upon the morning air, then fell silent as the garden walls sealed once more.

Asha and Altheda were angry with Amata, who had accidentally brought along the knight.

"Only one can ask of the Phantom! It will be hard enough to decide which of us it will be already, without adding another!"

Now, Sir Luckless, as the knight was known in the land outside the walls, observed that these were witches, and, having no magic, nor any great skill at jousting or dueling with swords, nor anything that distinguished the non-magical man, was sure that he had no hope of beating the three women to the Phantom. He therefor declared his intention to withdraw outside the walls again.

At this, Amata became angry too.

"Faint heart!" She chided him. "Draw your sword, knight, and help us reach our goal!"

and so the three witches and the forlorn knight ventured forth, into the enchanted garden, where rare herbs, fruit, and flowers grew in abundance on either side of the sunlit paths.

They met no obstacle until they reached the foot of the hill on which the Phantom lived.

There, however, they entered a building that stood in their path. Upon entering, they beheld that they were in a single large room, with them on one side, upon a balcony. Directly across from where they stood was another such construction. A chandelier was tied to their own, and on the floor before it lay the words: PAY ME PROOF OF YOUR NEED. Asha and Amata attempted to create a bridge across the gap, but failed. Sir Luckless attempted to descend to the floor, but there was no way down. At last, weary from their attempts, they sat upon the chandelier.

But as Sir Luckless sat, his sword cut the rope that held their seat to the balcony, and it began to swing across the chasm. Terrified, they held on to one another as it tinkled and chimed.

Finally, it gently bumped against the edge of the second balcony, and glittered as a ray of sunshine hit it. They stayed, frozen, before they moved, exiting the room, and sent up a great cheer, finding themselves on the slope of the hill.

Heartened, they began to climb, sure that they would reach the Phantom before noon.

Halfway up the steep slope, however, they came across words cut into the ground before them: PAY ME PROOF OF YOUR STAMINA.

Sir luckless took out his only coin, and placed it upon the grassy hillside, but it rolled away and was lost. The three witches and the knight continued to climb, but though they walked for hours more,they advanced not a step.

The summit came no nearer, and still the inscription lay in the earth before them.

All were discouraged as the sun rose over their heads and began to sink toward the far horizon, but Altheda walked faster and harder then any of them, and exhorted the others to follow her example, though she moved no farther up the enchanted hill.

"courage, friends!" She cried. "We will not allow this mound to defeat us!"

She wiped her brow clean of sweat, and spat upon the words cut into the ground.

As the glob fell onto the earth, the inscription blocking their path vanished, and they found that they were able to move upward once more.

Delighted by the removal of this second obstacle, they hurried toward the summit as fast as could, until at last they glimpsed the house in which the Phantom resided, glittering like crystal in a bower of flowers and trees. Before they could reach it, however, the ground leveled, they came upon a tunnel partly filled with water, and with a boat on the surface of the liquid.

Above the mouth of the tunnel a sign read:

The

PHANTOM OF FAIR FORTUNE

can't get

" It's a small world after all."

Out of his head.

Below that, there appeared more writing: SHOW ME PROOF OF YOUR BRAVERY.

Puzzled, they entered the boat, and sat.

Not a second later, the boat jolted forward. As they moved onward, horrifyingly cute creatures and children appeared and began to sing to them:

"It's a world gone crazy, a world gone wrong,

when the Phantom can't even write a song.

Sure he's using his head, but what's up there instead?

It's a small world after all."

and then what appeared to be the chorus:

"It's, a small world after all,

angry cursing fills the hall.

Now, he's crawling up, the wall.

It's a small, small world."

And the song repeated over and over, and at times, screams of horror could be heard from the boats occupants.

At last, the boat carried it's pale and horrified passengers out into the sun, and stopped.

For several moments, not a soul spoke, so amazingly creepy their trip had been, but at last, the small group shook it off, and continued onward.

Finally, they found themselves at the door. The sky burned ruby, and it was time to decide which one of them would ask of the Phantom.

Before they could make their decision, however, frail Asha fell to the ground.

Exhausted by their struggle to the summit, she was close to death. Her three friends would have carried her to the Phantom, but Asha was in mortal agony and begged them not to touch her.

Then Altheda hastened to pick all those herbs she thought most hopeful, and mixed them in sir Luckless's gourd of water, and poured the potion into Asha's mouth. At once, Asha was able to stand. What as more, all symptoms of her dread malady had vanished.

"I am cured!" She cried. "I have no need of the Phantom – let Altheda ask!"

But Altheda was busy collecting more herbs in her apron. "If I can cure this disease, I shall earn gold aplenty! Let Amata ask!"

Sir Luckless bowed and gestured Amata toward the Phantom's door, but she shook her head. "The journey through the terrifying tunnel has made me feel grateful I have not suffered worse! Good sir, you must ask, as a reward for your chivalry!"

So the knight clanked forth in the last rays of the setting sun, and knocked upon the door. Silently, it opened. With no small amount of nervousness, Sir Luckless entered the house. In contrast to it's glittering exterior, the building was dark and gloomy on the inside. It also appeared to only have one room. It was empty except for a large mirror on the opposite wall.

"Why do you disturb me?" A voice, echoing around the room, asked. Sir Luckless, now with a small amount of fear, answered. "It is I, Sir Luckless, and I wish to ask a favor."

There was a moment of silence, and the Phantom, for it was he, spoke. "And what is this wish?"

Sir Luckless, in turn gave an answer. "I – I would like to ask of it face to face. And now I must ask, where do you stand?"

The Phantom, sounding amused, replied. "As you ask." and then he sang. "look at your face in the mirror, I am there, in- side!"

The knight turned to the wall on which the mirror hung, and beheld the mirror swinging open. And from inside came a man in a white half mask. "Now, what is it you wish to ask?"

Sir Luckless gulped, for the man was an intimidating figure. "I wish to have enough gold to live happily for the rest of my life, and for others as well."

The Phantom nodded. "So be it. Your wish shall be granted." And after saying so, the masked man revealed a large mound of gold behind him, along with enchanted bags to reduce the weight to almost nothing. Sir Luckless thanked him a thousand fold, and loaded the gold into the bags. He emerged as the sun fell below the horizon, with the glory of his triumph upon him, and threw his gold laden self at the feet of Amata, who was the kindest and most beautiful women he had ever beheld. Flushed with his success, he begged for her hand and her heart, and Amata, no less delighted, realized she had found a man worthy of them.

The three witches and the knight set off down the hill together, arm in arm, and all four led long and happy lives, and none of them ever knew or suspected that the Phantom didn't belong in this story.