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The peaceful silence in the village that night was shattered by a sudden explosion.

Empath's house was on fire. Those living nearby who heard the explosion were the first to witness and to call attention to the other Smurfs who lived further away but still heard the explosion.

Papa Smurf was one of them. Seeing Empath's house ablaze, he thought that his son would actually kill himself for what had happened to him and what he heard about himself. That scared him as much as was leaving Empath with the Psyche Master years ago.

"Get Handy and the fire brigade over to Empath's house immediately," he shouted out to his little Smurfs as he rushed out of his house in his nightgown.

Handy and his team were on their way, bringing out the experimental fire engine pump Handy designed a few years ago to take care of such situations. One Smurf put the end of one hose into the village well while others worked the pump by hand and Handy aimed the nozzle of another hose at the inferno.

"I just hope Empath wasn't in there when it smurfed up in flames," Handy shouted as he continued to spray the house down.

"I hope not myself!" Papa Smurf said, grimly watching.


Besides Lazy, who could sleep his way through almost any noisy disturbance, Baby Smurf was also still asleep in his crib in Papa Smurf's house. While the others were too busy with fighting the fire at Empath's house, a shadowy figure crept into Papa Smurf's house and gently lifted Baby from his crib.

Baby started to cry as the shadowy figure lifted him up. But with the glow of a yellow star on the shadow's head, Baby closed his eyes and fell back to sleep.

The figure left the house through the window and silently carried Baby away from the village and into the dark forest.


It only took a few minutes until the fires were completely out. Then Handy and his team went searching through the entire house with lanterns, seeing if Empath was inside when it exploded. A minute or so later, Handy reported what he found to Papa Smurf.

"Everything in his house was already desmurfed, Papa Smurf," he answered. "It looked like a tornado had smurfed through it or something. I did find some pieces of Jokey's surprise boxes in various places, which is what most likely caused the explosion,..."

"My surprises?!?" Jokey gasped. "I wondered what Empath did with all those surprises I smurfed him over the years. I had no idea he'd ever smurf them to surprise himself!"

"...but none of us could smurf a trace of Empath anywhere in the smurfage," Handy finished. "My guess is that Empath wasn't even in the house at all!"

Papa Smurf let out a sigh of relief, but he still felt bewildered. "Could Empath have left the village and possibly smurfonated the explosives from a distance so that he didn't want any of us to find him?" he wondered aloud, stroking his beard.

"Papa Smurf!" Smurfette cried out as she approached him with a piece of parchment. "I found this note left on your door...it's from Empath!"

Papa Smurf feared the worst. He pulled out his reading glasses as he took Empath's note and read it aloud:

If you are truly "the great Smurf" as everyone in your savage village claims you to be, it would be wise for you and your followers to continue on with your worthless lives, because this smurf will end his inside the volcanic heart of Mt Vesmurfius.
However, this smurf will not leave this world alone. For the life that you have taken from this smurf, this smurf will now take from the youngest of your kind.
Farewell forever and to smurf with all of you!
Empath

"Great Smurfs!" Papa Smurf said, overcome with shock from what he read and figured out from the note. "Empath's going to kill himself...and he's taking Baby Smurf with him!"

That news shocked the other Smurfs, some to the point of outrage.

"How could Empath smurf this to us?"

"I never smurf he could ever turn out like this!"

"What an unsmurf monster!"

"I never did trust Empath as far as I can smurf him!"

"He could've done that to any of the Smurflings!"

"Papa must've been crazy to ever bring a Smurf like that into our village!"

"Quiet, everyone!" Papa Smurf shouted, silencing everyone. "Whatever bad things you may be thinking that Empath is, he isn't like that at all. He's only been away from us for so long, he feels that no Smurf here truly cares for him. And now that he knows that I'm his real father, the anger and hurt he's feeling has most likely made him turn against us."

"What do you mean, you were Empath's father?" one of the Smurfs asked in disbelief.

"I was his Papa Smurf, long before any of you became my little Smurfs," Papa Smurf confessed. "All of you lost your parents when you were Smurflings, but Empath lost more than that. He lost his sense of self and his childhood, and if we don't come to his rescue, we may lose him and Baby Smurf forever. Now you can all come with me and help bring Empath to his senses, or you can stay here and live with losing him. But whatever you Smurfs decide to do, I'm going into the volcano to talk to him!"

None of the male Smurfs said anything or even moved. But Smurfette stepped forward.

"I'm going with you, Papa Smurf," she announced. "I don't know him as much as any other Smurf did, but I care for him enough to smurf him from dying on us!"

Papa Smurf was a little pleased to see that at least Smurfette was coming with him. "Anyone else?" he asked, looking through the crowd.

"Yo, Pappy, don't leave us out of the party!" Sassette called out as she and the Smurflings joined the crowd. "Empath's our friend, too, and we won't go for any Smurf making him take a jump in the river. Besides, we have a Smurf who's more than ready to beg for Empath's mercy!"

Papa Smurf was startled to see the Smurflings dragging along Hefty, who was gagged and tied with Sassette's jumprope as well as decorated with finger paint and Sassette's toy jewelry. Hefty looked angry as he struggled uselessly to break himself from his binds.

Papa Smurf was thinking of scolding the Smurflings for doing that to Hefty, but his concern with stopping Empath from killing himself and Baby Smurf made him only nod in acceptance.

Smurfette was more amused when she saw Hefty. "Why, Hefty, you truly do smurf so beautiful when you're angry," she giggled, winking at Sassette in approval. "I must do your facial more often!"

"I'm always with Papa Smurf, no matter what he does or where he smurfs!" Brainy announced, stepping forward to join Papa Smurf and his group.

"I just hate losing Empath!" Grouchy snarled, doing the same.

"Heaven forbid that I should let Empath smurf this to himself or Baby Smurf if there's a way that we can help him smurf to his senses," Tapper said.

"Aye, and that smurfs the same for me, laddie," Duncan McSmurf said.

One by one, the other Smurfs recognized how silly it was for them to be angry at Empath when both he and Baby Smurf needed their help, and slowly they decided to help turn Empath around. They knew that they would lose both of them if they didn't help. Seeing Empath's statue in shattered ruins was only a small measure of that loss.

Papa Smurf was pleased to see all his little Smurfs pulling themselves together. "Now the sooner we can get dressed, the sooner we can get ourselves smurfing to Mt. Vesmurfius before Empath makes good on his threat."

Everyone changed into their day clothes and headed off in one group to the mountain.


Meanwhile, in Gargamel's castle, the wizard quietly opened a hatchway into his cellar and crept down into it with a lighted candle while his apprentice and his cat slept. He didn't want to let Scruple or Azrael know exactly what the Great Book of Spells, the source for much of Gargamel's magical powers, would give him to finally defeat the Smurfs. Gargamel knew his previous experiences with the spirit that inhabited the Great Book of Spells were anything but successful. But this time, Gargamel told himself, he would get it right, and it would be a real surprise for his undeserving pupil, his unfaithful pet, and his soon-to-be-gold-crafted victims.

Gargamel could see the Great Book of Spells ahead of him in the darkness. The aging book sat on a lectern in an arched niche, flanked by two candles, protected by a magical barrier so it would not be disturbed. Now all Gargamel had to do was awaken the spirit of the Book by reciting a chant he learned when he first encountered it.

"Oh, Great Book of Spells, upon whose pages dwell," he began, speaking as quietly as possible so as not to awaken Scruple or Azrael, "the secrets that no one tells...awake, awake, awake for Gargamel!"

He waited for almost a minute to see if the spirit of the Book would awaken, but he couldn't see anything happening. It continued to sit quietly in the dark. Gargamel sighed, losing his patience. "Oh, Great Book of Spells,..." he began again, a little louder.

Then instantly, he felt the ground slightly rumbling, as if an earthquake was just starting. Suddenly, the two candles on the lectern lit themselves, and the Book opened itself to the middle pages.

Gargamel was ecstatic. The spirit of the Great Book of Spells was awakened at last. Now all he needed to do was tell it exactly what he wanted.

Smurf to Part 15

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