Chapter 16

A few days have passed. Scruple spent those days straightening out his master's laboratory, even though he hadn't seen Gargamel anywhere in that time. Part of him was hoping that his master had disappeared for good, since he wasn't very fond of being bossed around by an adult so obsessed with capturing those Smurfs and yet so inept at doing so. If that was the case, Scruple himself could take over Gargamel's castle as his very own, learn the many kinds of spells and formulas that his master had learned, and become a sorceror without ever having to deal with the headmaster of that sorceror's guild that he had last been apprenticed to.
Right now, Scruple was asleep clutching a broom with his heads, lying with his head propped up on a table, when he was awakened by a slow rumbling underneath his feet -- a rumbling that got louder, and then was followed by a crash as something emerged through the floor.
Scruple fell to the floor, startled by the sudden noise. It took him less than a minute to see what it was in front of him that knocked him from his sleep.
It was his master, Gargamel. But as he looked in amazement, Scruple noticed that he looked very different -- that he looked less like a wizard and more like a knight in some kind of armor that he couldn't recognize. Even more disconcerting were the pair of gauntlets Gargamel wore with the armor, each with glowing crystals embedded within that shone with an unearthly power beyond anything Scruple had seen.
"Behold, my pestilent pupil, the ultimate weapon against those wretched Smurfs," Gargamel announced, smiling proudly at himself.
Scruple was still too surprised by what he saw his master was wearing. "This...suit of your ultimate weapon?" he finally asked.
"Not just any suit of armor, Scruple," Gargamel explained. "This suit of armor is a magical creation of these, the Gauntlets of Gantharros, which the Great Book of Spells has led me to these past three days. These gauntlets respond to my every thought, and give me physical powers I've never dreamed possible, such as superhuman strength and the ability of flight." With that, Gargamel picked up the table with both hands effortlessly and threw it against a nearby wall, splintering it with such force. "They can also do this," he added, pointing one of his gloved hands toward the stove. From the palm of that hand, Gargamel generated a magical energy blast that struck the wood inside the stove, igniting it instantly and knocking the pots and cauldron to the floor.
"Okay, so you can fly and pick up tables and start up the stove with those fancy gloves of yours," Scruple humored, feeling himself becoming more uncomfortable and fearful with this display of Gargamel's latest weapon. "But, Gargamel, don't you think this is a little too much for such a simple thing as going after those Smurfs?"
Gargamel suddenly grabbed Scruple by the collar and lifted him high above his head before Scruple could react.
"I spent five years of my miserable life doing everything possible to capture them and turn them into the gold I need to get out of this forest," Gargamel hissed angrily. "And those Smurfs have never made it easy for me to do that, no matter how small they really are. All my best plans, even that little wench I created, Smurfette, have been turned against me by those blue vermins. I haven't given up my plans then, and I don't intend to do so now. But my patience with them has run out. Now is the time I will show them once and for all that I mean what I say that they will pay for crossing me...and their blue buzzboy won't be able to stop me from doing just that!"
With that, he flung Scruple to the floor and flew right through the roof, sending some thatching down on his apprentice. In seconds, Gargamel was gone without a trace.
Scruple still looked at the sky through the hole in the roof, unharmed but now paralyzed with the fear of what his master was about to do with his newfound weapon.
"Those Smurfs will never stand a chance of surviving Gargamel now," he said, more out of sympathy for his master's victims despite his own destructive nature.

A few days have passed without incident in the village as well. Empath had been busy with Handy and Hefty helping him rebuild his house. Nobody questioned the fact that Empath was wearing his old white hat and pants suit, let alone that he also wore a shirt to go with it now. Tailor went through the trouble of sewing up a new star-patterned suit for Empath, though he couldn't understand why Empath had requested a shirt to go with the suit. But as much as Empath appreciated the effort from Tailor, he still felt more comfortable wearing the traditional white clothes of his brothers and sisters, even if it is with a shirt. Tailor decided to hold on to Empath's new suit, just in case Empath had a change of mind.
Meanwhile, Empath had been staying with Brainy during the rebuilding. Of all the other Smurfs who had the misfortune of having Brainy being with them overnight, Empath was the most tolerant and the most patient with him. Both of them had very little in the way of personal habits that really offended each other. Empath was very mindful of Brainy's property and didn't ask anything of his host that Empath couldn't get for himself.
On this third day of staying over, with nothing much going on in the village that was out of the ordinary, Brainy was amazed to see Empath drawing a picture of Papa Smurf with the toes of his right foot holding the pencil and the paper suspended in midair with Empath's minds-eye.
"How is it that you were able to smurf that?" Brainy asked. "I've never any Smurf before smurfing a pencil so proficiently with their feet, not even you!"
"Years ago, when this smurf was visiting the village, this smurf's arms were broken in a rockslide ," Empath answered. "This smurf was learning how to draw and paint at that time, and when this accident happened, this smurf feared that I would never be able to continue learning. That was when Papa Smurf told me about one of the famous artists, Christy Smurf, who lost both of his arms but nevertheless learned how to draw and paint with his left foot. It taught this smurf, as one of this smurf's instructors taught the other Psyches, that just because one part of you is dead doesn't mean the rest of you must die with it. Fortunately, this smurf's injuries had healed in that time, but even to this day, this smurf has mastered the skill of doing artwork with both my feet."
"You know, I could only wonder what this Christy Smurf would had to smurf about seeing what you are smurfing right now," Brainy said, still watching Empath.
"He would most likely say that this smurf has two left feet," Empath answered, laughing to his own reply. He sighed as he put the finishing touches to his picture and showed it to Brainy.
"Hmmm, now this has got to be the most realistic picture of Papa Smurf," Brainy commented, raising an eyebrow as he looked at Empath's work. "Though it's not entirely accurate as far as detail smurfs, because I smurftainly don't remember smurfing Papa Smurf's beard covering up his ears!"
Empath smiled, appreciating Brainy's critique. "This smurf can always count on you for your expert opinion on this smurf's art style, Brainy. However, it is possible that this image of Papa Smurf reflects that of how he would appear before he gets his haircut from Barber, since the hairs in his beard do grow at a constant rate of...!" He stopped talking when his minds-eye sensed something.
Brainy noticed that Empath had stared off into space, the smile on his face instantly vanished. "Empath, what's smurfing on?" he asked out of concern. "Are you smurfing something in your mind right now?"
Empath barely heard the question as what his minds-eye saw was gone in a flash. He couldn't make out what it was, or whether it was real, long enough to make any notice of it.
"This smurf is not sure, Brainy," he finally answered. "But it's probably nothing to concern the attention of any Smurf."

Gargamel was having a time mastering the art of flying with his new magical armored suit created with the Gauntlets of Gantharros. He thought it would be difficult to do so, especially since he knew that the Great Book of Spells never gave him anything that did exactly what he wanted it to do without something going wrong. This time, all the Great Book of Spells gave him was the directions to a secret chamber hidden somewhere in the forest where the gauntlets of a legend Gargamel hardly ever knew about were located. And true to the legend, the gauntlets gave Gargamel exactly what he needed, what he thought he needed. It made flying feel like it was second-nature to Gargamel, and it made the armor feel very lightweight, not constraining but actually enhancing the wizard's physical movements. The only thing he had yet to know was how well it would protect him in a battle he knew he was going to win. He knew that he was going to find out soon enough.
But now Gargamel was too exhilarated by his flying high over the forest to even care. He remembered dreaming about flying around as a child, wondering how it would feel to be such a creature that could fly. It may have been a childhood fantasy back then, but now that he experienced it firsthand as an adult, Gargamel couldn't help feeling like a child again, letting the thrill of soaring high above the trees of the forest, seeing things below him from another angle as well as things beyond what he could see on the ground, overtake him.
As he reveled himself in flight, Gargamel saw the very thing he was looking for -- the Smurf Village. He knew that their village was somewhere in this forest, but he never knew exactly where it was even though he had been there some times before. Now, the village was right there below him...and the Smurfs were all there waiting for him as well.
Gargamel cackled with laughter. Finally, he had found them...and finally, he was going to get his revenge. "Prepare to meet your doom, my little Smurfs!" he hissed as he dived down headfirst from the sky toward the village.

None of the Smurfs were prepared for Gargamel's unexpected appearance, let alone even how he got there. They had only an instant to watch as the wizard fired an energy burst from one of his gauntlets that struck and completely destroyed one of their mushroom houses.
They had only time to scream and run for their lives.
"Help! Gargamel's in the village!"
"He's smurfing down our houses!"
"We need Papa Smurf out here to smurf care of him!"
"Somebody get Empath, too!"
The Smurfs reacted as Gargamel uprooted a tree with his gloved hands and threw it right on top of several more Smurf houses, crushing them on the spot. Some ran away. Some stayed and tried a useless assault on Gargamel, only to find themselves ensnared by an energy orb Gargamel had projected that pulled them inside like a black hole. Some barely had time to do anything before the same energy orb captured them as well.
It was quickly becoming a catastrophe that got the whole village involved as more houses got destroyed, damaged, or knocked over, and as more Smurfs found themselves prisoners inside the energy orb that absorbed them. Catapults and other weapons the Smurfs came up with to deal with something as big as Gargamel in Empath's absence did nothing against his armor or the gauntlets. Soon, even those weapons were destroyed.
Gargamel smiled viciously as he relished every moment he was exacting his revenge against the Smurfs. Even Puppy was no match for Gargamel, for one of his magical energy bursts had shrunken the brave dog down to Smurf-size. He had them right where he wanted them, and nothing they could do against him could ever stop his assault.
The only thing left that could was Empath. And Gargamel was waiting for him to show up.

Empath and Brainy were digging themselves out of the rubble when the roof of Brainy's house collapsed upon them. Empath's minds-eye was able to shield them physically from the rubble, so they were for now unharmed.
But when they made it outside to see what was going on that caused the damage, Empath and Brainy couldn't believe what they saw.
"It's Gargamel!" Brainy yelped. "But how did he smurf his way to the village like that?"
"That armored suit he's wearing may be the answer," Empath suggested. "This smurf needs to stop him before there's nothing left of the village or us. In the meantime, Brainy, try getting as many Smurfs as you can to safety!" He grabbed his shoes and put them on.
"Wait, Empath!" Brainy exclaimed. "You don't know what you're smurfing with...!"
But Empath leaped skyward and was gone.

Gargamel had captured at least a few dozen Smurfs by now, and almost half of the village was demolished. Most of the other Smurfs were left in disarray, and now Papa Smurf had come out to face him.
"So you've come to try forcing me out of the village again, haven't you?" Gargamel sneered. "You may be a master sorceror, but even your magic can't rescue your little followers who will soon be my little golden surely as you will be, Papa Smurf!"
"You can't have the rest of us, Gargamel!" Papa Smurf stated boldly. "My magic will protect those that remain in the village in the event that I am ever captured by you. No matter what you do to me, the village will survive!"
"Not for long!" Gargamel hissed viciously, but just as he fired an energy burst straight at Papa Smurf, his target disappeared from sight before it had struck the ground where the village leader stood.
Gargamel turned to see Empath flying straight toward his midsection. There was a loud metallic clang as Empath rebounded off Gargamel's armor without even making a dent in it.
"Not expecting that to happen, now did you, my star-browed troublemaker?" Gargamel sneered as he saw Empath shake off the effects of the deflection. "Papa Smurf may have had an ace up his sleeve, figurately speaking, but now that he left his hand exposed, I will take advantage of it!"
Before Empath could react, Gargamel shot forth another burst from one of his gauntlets at Papa Smurf, instantly encasing him within an energy orb that soon joined the larger energy orb that contained a good deal of Empath's fellow Smurfs, including Baby Smurf and the Smurflings.
"You won't get away with abducting the Smurfs!" Empath shouted, furious at what he had seen happen.
"Oh...but I will!" Gargamel answered back. "And not even your vaunted minds-eye can stop me!"
Empath flew straight toward Gargamel, only to be instantly struck by a powerful energy burst from the wizard's gauntlet. The force of the blast was enough to repel Empath, sending him spinning out of control until he crashed into a rooftop and then fell to the ground, knocking him out cold.
Gargamel continued to capture a dozen more Smurfs, this time with little opposition of Empath's or Papa Smurf's magnitude to deal with, until he realized that the gauntlets' energy levels were running low. Still, he had enough Smurfs to begin making gold with -- including the traitorous Smurfette whom he had created to destroy them in the first place -- so there was no need to continue the assault. He felt that he had the Smurfs right where he wanted them -- on their knees, ready to surrender.
"You will give your worthless lives over to me by sundown," Gargamel demanded, "or I will return and destroy you and your village in a single blow. Either way, your days of living in the forest are over!"
With that, Gargamel headed back into the sky, eager to begin the very experiment with his captured Smurfs that he had waited years to perform.
His road to the future seemed very much to be paved with gold.