Part 4

Papa Smurf and the four other Smurfs that were with him arrived in the village of Villers around nightfall. He decided that they should spend the night resting in a nearby barn and then begin their search for Empath the first thing in the morning. Smurfette didn't like sleeping on hay because it made her hair all full of hay when she awakened, but she had to take whatever creature comfort was being offered like her fellow Smurfs. Besides that, finding Empath was on her mind more than worrying about how her hair looked in the morning after sleeping on hay.
The night passed by without incident. Then came morning, when the Smurfs awakened to the rooster crowing. Brainy was the first to rise from his sleep when he noticed that the cow was starting to feed on the hay...and the cow was ready to feed on Grouchy!
"Grouchy! Wake up!" Brainy shouted.
But Grouchy woke up only to find himself being chewed on along with a mouthful of hay by the cow. "Help! Papa Smurf!"
Papa Smurf and the others immediately rose to their feet. "Quick, my little Smurfs! Shout or smurf something to scare away the cow!" Papa Smurf said.
Hefty, Brainy, and Smurfette did their best to distract the cow by making a lot of scary noises. Papa Smurf in the meanwhile used his strength to pull a rake out of the pile of hay and tilted it so that it would strike the cow. The cow mooed as she dropped Grouchy to the ground and ran off to another part of the barn.
"Grouchy, are you all right?" Smurfette asked.
"Uh...I hate being smurfed on by a cow," Grouchy muttered.
Just then, a farmer came into the barn. "Sweet mother of God, dear Margaret. What's gotten into you?" He looked around the barn to see what caused the cow's behavior, not noticing the Smurfs crossing behind him to reach the door. "It's probably some vermin roaming around."
The Smurfs made it out of the barn without being noticed. Then they ducked behind a barrel near a corner. They looked and saw that the streets were filling with people eager to start their day and tend their business.
"This smurfs me an idea," Papa Smurf said. "Usually around this time at the market, people always smurf the latest gossip. Whether Empath is in this city or not, this is where we will learn. We will smurf among the humans and listen carefully to what they say. So be careful and try to smurf hidden from them. We will smurf together here at this barrel around noon. Good luck."
And so the five Smurfs separated and traveled around the market, trying to keep themselves out of sight, and yet close enough to listen to the humans with their various discussions. Smurfette, however, found herself listening to what the ladies had to say, although she felt like it was distracting her. At some points, however, Papa Smurf had to come to a Smurf's rescue whenever they were in the path of a human doing some important task like rolling a barrel.
Finally, around noon, the five Smurfs reconvened around the barrel near the corner. "So have any of you smurfed something that was of interest in helping us find Empath?" Papa Smurf asked.
"Not a thing, Papa Smurf," Hefty said.
"If Empath's smurfing somewhere in this village, which I have a distinct feeling that he isn't, nobody's smurfing a word about it," Brainy said.
"I hate smurfing nothing about Empath," Grouchy said.
"So what do we smurf now, Papa Smurf?" Smurfette asked.
Before Papa Smurf could answer, a wagon pulled alongside a window near their location. "Do you happen to know the directions to the village of Abelagot?" the driver of the wagon asked the person in the window.
"For Abelagot, you turn north at the crossroads where you see the three crosses," the man in the window said. "Then you veer east, and that should take you straight there."
"We may be in luck, my little Smurfs," Papa Smurf said. "This cart is smurfing towards Abelagot. Let's smurf aboard before it takes off."
The four Smurfs followed Papa Smurf as they raced toward the wagon while it was moving and hopped into the back. Four of the Smurfs made it without a problem. Smurfette, however, barely made it and was hanging onto the sideboard for dear life. "Help!" she cried out.
"Don't worry, Smurfette, I've got you," Hefty said, pulling her into the cart.
Smurfette sighed with relief. "Thanks, Hefty. I knew I could smurf on you."
"We'll find Empath, Smurfette," Hefty said, trying to encourage her. "He couldn't have been smurfed very far from us."

At night in Abelagot, Vincent Devereaux was preparing a new expedition in his hideout. "Tonight we go after the herbalist," he said. "At the pub this afternoon, I have learned where he hid the jewels!"
"Our little blue friend here is going to look rather conspicuous, Devereaux," Stanley noted.
"Exactly what I was going to bring up," Devereaux said. "He needs to slip in and out of houses without being readily seen, or drawing any attention to us. Have you finished the outfit that the elf is going to wear, Simon?"
"Here it is," Simon said, showing him a Smurf-sized black bodysuit that he stitched together along with a mask. "It's ready for him to wear."
"Good," Devereaux said, sounding a bit pleased. He then took the bodysuit and mask and gave it to Empath. "These are going to be your clothes from now on, elf. I would suggest that you put them on immediately."
Empath looked at the clothes in wonder. "So this is what I'm going to be...a Bandit Smurf. All right, then, I will be your Bandit Smurf, and that's what you can smurf me from now on."
"So what are you waiting for?" Stanley asked, sounding a bit impatient as Empath didn't make a move to change his clothes.
"For you three to smurf around," Empath answered. "I'm not smurfing on these clothes with you watching me like some pervert."
Stanley and Devereaux sighed as they both turned around along with Simon, giving Empath some privacy. "Perhaps you should also remove the hat," Devereaux suggested.
"Oh no!" Empath shouted. "This hat smurfs on no matter what! You want to smurf my hat, I'll smurf my hand on it!"
"Fine, fine, just hurry up!" Devereaux said.

Soon Empath was all ready in his new clothes and his new identity as the Bandit Smurf. The three humans took Empath to the home of the herbalist, where they found a small enough place for him to enter.
"Take this bag," Stanley said, giving Empath the item. "You can carry more jewelry at a time with it!"
"And I don't need to remind you that the life of your friend is in our hands," Devereaux said, showing Empath the mouse and the knife he intends to use.
Empath didn't like having the life of a mouse being threatened by anyone. But he had a job to do and he was going to do it no matter what. He sneaked into the house through a crack in the wall and looked around. "He smurfed that it was in a box on a beam above the bed." He went through the house until he entered the bedroom, and then he saw a faint glimpse of the box itself, just where Devereaux said it would be. He hopped across the tops of some furniture until he reached the beam where he saw the box.
But then Empath saw something on the box. "Smurf it all, it's locked! Looks like I'm going to need something to smurf this thing open." He looked around on the beam and then saw a bent nail. "Maybe this will help." He stuck the nail into the lock and carefully worked his way into it so that the lock opened. He then opened the box and looked at all the jewels contained inside. "Smurfect!"
He quickly filled the bag with as much jewels as he could carry through the crack in the wall and then closed the box back up. But somehow he felt as if he needed to leave a calling card of some sort behind. He took a few jewels out of the bag and left them in plain sight next to the box. Then he found a piece of paper and a bit of coal that could serve for a pencil and left a note. He didn't know why he cared to leave something like this behind, but he felt that he couldn't leave without doing so.
He then hopped back down to the door of the bedroom and left it. On his way out, though, he saw some ingredients on a shelf that he recognized from somewhere. "Sulfur...coal...and all the ingredients one could use to smurf an explosion," he muttered. And then Empath had an idea.

"I see that he has returned," Stanley said as he was watching Empath heading toward the crack in the wall outside the house, "and that his bag is full."
Empath gave the bigger bag to Devereaux to inspect what was inside it. "Sapphire rings...diamond brooches...and strings of pearls," he said. "How marvelous! You did a fine work!"
"Thank you, Master Devereaux," Empath said. "And as a token of my appreciation, I have smurfed a special bag that is just for you."
Devereaux noted the smaller bag. "For me? How kind of you!" He opened up the bag, only to find himself the victim of a small explosion.
"A little surprise trick that I smurfed up from somewhere," Empath said, laughing. Simon also laughed as well.
This made Devereaux quite angry. "CURSED LITTLE ELF! This time I'll..."
"LOOK OUT! It's the milita! Hide!" Stanley warned as he heard and saw something around the corner.
The four of them kept close to the walls and very quiet as they allowed the militia to pass by the street without incident. Devereaux held Empath up to his face and pointed the knife right at him, warning him to be quiet or he will cut his throat.
After the militia passed by, Stanley let out a sigh of relief. "Things are getting pretty hot around here. The guards have been all over the city in recent times."
"It's been that way since the son of Lord Caravellan is gone," Devereaux explained. "He sent his guard to search all over the country and offers a reward to the one who finds him."
"So that's the reason we've been searched by the militia when he arrived in town, Simon," Stanley said.
"If only I knew where to find this child," Devereaux said, shaking his fist as they departed from the herbalist's house. "I would capture him and demand Lord Caravellan's treasure as a ransom."
"And then we would be clear of our debt to you, eh, Devereaux?" Simon asked, curious.
Devereaux snorted. "You have a long way to go before I considered it paid in full. Let's go."

By morning, the herbalist came out of his house in a panic. "A THIEF! MY JEWELS!" he shouted, gaining the attention of several passersby who were curious to know what happened. "I'm very sure that I had everything carefully sealed! Only a mouse would be able to slip inside! And besides, look..." He produced a small piece of paper. "The thief even left a message, though I can't understand a word he said."
"You hear that? A mouse that can write messages!" one of the listeners said, laughing.
"What a joke," another said snickering. And the crowd all walked away, leaving the herbalist stunned that nobody believed him.
But over time, other people reported the same thing: jewelry that got mysteriously stolen, a note that was left behind written in a language nobody could understand. The one thing that was constant in all this was the identity of this supposed thief was the same. He referred to himself as The Bandit Smurf.

Back in the village, Polaris was watching over things in Papa Smurf's stead, monitoring everything that was going on and trying to maintain order while everyone was worrying about Empath and whether he was going to be found. Even Polaris was in disquiet as he was trying to use his meditation times to see if he could sense where Empath may be beyond the Smurf Forest.
And then he saw flashes of images in his head during one of his meditations. Notes that were left behind. A child that was being held prisoner. A duke's castle. All of them seemed to point to only one person: Empath. Suddenly he knew just where he needed to go.
He headed for Tapper's Tavern where he knew Duncan McSmurf was located, talking to the village bartender and the village warrior in their off-hours. "Great Smurfiny Crickets, my good Polaris. What seems to be smurfing on your mind?" Tapper asked.
"This one has discovered the location of Empath Smurf, and this one must travel to that location in order to help him and the other Smurfs," Polaris explained.
"Hold on there, laddie," Duncan said. "Didn't Papa Smurf say you should smurf him through that minds-eye of yours if you smurf an inkling of where Empath may be smurfing?"
"That was his orders, Duncan," Polaris answered. "However, this one senses things that will be happening that may require this one's attention, as if this one was drawn to these events. It would not be wise for this one to simply ignore these visions and 'hope only for the best', as you Smurfs are fond of saying."
"If you know me, Polaris, I never smurf any visions of future events too lightly," Tapper said. "If these things also concern our good friend Empath, then the best course of action for you would be to smurf heed of these visions before it's too late to smurf anything about them."
"Then that would mean leaving another Smurf in charge of things while this one attends to these visions," Polaris realized.
"You go and smurf the boy back alive, Polaris," Duncan said. "The village will smurf in good hands with us minding the smurf while you're gone."
"May the luck of the Smurfish be with you and Empath, Polaris," Tapper said.
Polaris nodded. "This one acknowledges."