Chapter 17

Brainy was the first Smurf to tend to Empath while the remaining Smurfs watched over Brainy's shoulder, half expecting Empath to be revived so he could explain what happened, and half condemning him for failing to stop Gargamel.
Brainy held Empath's hand, frightened at the thought of losing his only half-brother again. "Empath, please smurf to me that you're all right," he pleaded.
Empath's eyes slowly opened. He felt as if he had been hit by a boulder coming down the mountain, but otherwise there was no physical injuries. "Brainy...this smurf hasn't joined the Great Ancestors just yet," he replied weakly.
"Oh, Empath, thank smurfness you're still alive!" Brainy cried out, happy for the moment but still overcome with despair over what had happened as he helped Empath slowly up onto his feet.
Empath looked around and scanned the entire area of the village with his minds-eye. "Papa Smurf...Smurfette...Baby Smurf...the Smurflings...over 56 of our fellow Smurfs are now gone," he finally said. "Fortunately, none of those who are still here are dead or badly injured, but this smurf cannot even detect the presence of our captured Smurfs anywhere else in the forest."
"I know, and it's so horrible," Brainy added without the slightest trace of his usual arrogant tone. "If that armor of his is more powerful than you or Papa Smurf's magic, then I don't think we can smurf a chance against Gargamel. We have failed!"
"What do you mean 'we', Brainy Smurf?" another Smurf angrily said. "This is all Empath's fault. He smurfed us all down because he would rather follow Papa Smurf's example than smurf an example out of that wizard. If he had chosen to smurf Gargamel before he even had the chance to smurf us like he did right now, none of this would ever have happened!"
"Well," Brainy countered, "in case you all have forgotten, Papa Smurf never wanted any of us to smurf...!"
"We're sick and tired of hearing about what Papa Smurf wants," Tuffy barked, interrupting Brainy. "He isn't here to smurf the shots anymore, so let's start smurfing things our way for once...with or without Empath!"
"I'd say we smurf after Gargamel with Empath on our side!"
"Empath isn't a true Smurf...he's just a big crybaby who can't deal with the fact that he smurfed his life outside the village!"
"How dare you smurf Empath like that?"
"Yeah, Hefty...he's more of a Smurf than you ever will be!"
"He wants to be a true Smurf, let him prove it!"
"We're better off without Empath!"
Apparently, there was a lot of verbal chaos being thrown back and forth among the remaining Smurfs, uncertain about what to do, until Empath got tired of listening and silenced the crowd.
"Stop this arguing at once!" Empath shouted. "This pointing fingers and blaming other Smurfs for this event happening is not getting us anywhere. What we need right now is to get ourselves together and find out how we can defeat Gargamel's new weapon and rescue our fellow Smurfs from him."
"How can we even hope to smurf him down, when you couldn't even do it by yoursmurf, Empath?" one of the Smurfs asked.
"Have you Smurfs already forgotten about the time when you were all young Smurflings who had only yourselves and Papa Smurf to look after you?" Empath continued. "Back then, what he faced was a very difficult task, because he knew that he couldn't raise nearly a hundred young Smurf all by himself. You Smurfs found it within yourselves to unite with each other and make the task easier -- and when you did, you became more than just a village, you became a family. Together, there was nothing any of you couldn't do, because in that unity you gained strength from each other. Now, Papa Smurf wants us to work together once more, to put aside our petty differences and unite ourselves against the one common enemy we have -- the human wizard Gargamel -- because he is counting on us to rescue him, Smurfette, Baby Smurf, the Smurflings, and all our captive brothers. And most of all, I am counting on all of you Smurfs to help me make this possible, because now, more than ever, I do want to help you be rid of Gargamel and his shadow of evil once and for all!"
None of the other Smurfs knew what to say, but they knew from what Empath had said that he was willing to put himself on the line for them as well as with them, to risk everything they have to do the impossible. There was only thing left for Empath to say.
"Are you Smurfs ready to fight?" he asked with some enthusiasm.
Only a few of them said, "Yeah!"
"I said are you ready to fight?" he asked a bit louder.
More Smurfs now said, "Yeah!" a bit louder.
"Are you all ready to fight?"
This time the entire remaining Smurfs said their answer really loud. The enthusiasm was building as the chanting grew louder.
It was then the Smurfs knew they were declaring war against Gargamel.
And this was a war they intended to win.

The next few hours in the village was spent by the surviving Smurfs preparing for a battle against Gargamel. Handy went to work making some necessary adjustments to his smurfplane, which miraculously survived being blown to bits by Gargamel's energy gauntlets. Brainy went to work researching the very weapon itself and learning about the Gauntlets of Gantharros from Papa Smurf's books, discovering its weaknesses. Tracker had mapped out the layout of Gargamel's hovel and found out how they could sneak inside and around without detection by him or Azrael. Every Smurf was hard at work finding and cobbling together various forms of weapons they could use. Even Puppy, whom Brainy had restored to his normal size using one of Papa Smurf's spells, was given some training exercises for the battle ahead.
Empath, in the meantime, had fashioned himself a cape along with a breastplate that went over his shirt -- a breastplate that had a round head that looked very much like a Smurf hat, with a star at the point where the hat flopped forward. He put on the cape and breastplate and then looked at himself in the mirror. It looked very close to how he wanted it to look. But there was something missing.
Then he realized that what was missing was the star-patterned suit. He found it intact in the rubble of Tailor's shop and changed into it.

Everyone was all ready and waiting by the north end of the village when Empath finally joined them and took his place at the front. With his star-patterned suit, the cape, and the breastplace, Empath had the look of a hero and a leader of an army, with a face of grim determination that said it all.
"Okay, Smurfs," he said, "let's party!"

Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Baby Smurf, Sassette, and nearly 50 other Smurfs watched as Scruple prepared the formula for turning them into gold, following Gargamel's written instructions to the letter. They were held inside a cage that was sealed with a magic spell cast upon it so that neither Empath could break into it nor any other Smurf could break out of it. Its magic, Papa Smurf found out, could only be deactivated with the Gauntlets of Gantharros. They all had the feeling that this may be the last time they would see themselves alive, and if any of the Smurfs tried to rescue them, his fate would be the same as theirs.
Meanwhile, Gargamel's mind was on other things. He seemed to be looking at the whole world and worlds beyond his own through a magic portal he created with the use of his gauntlets, contemplating a much grander scheme than just merely capturing Smurfs and making gold out of them. It was a victory that he would remember for the rest of his days, Gargamel knew that, but now there was an irresistible hunger for more that he felt needed to be satisfied -- control and possession over everything and everyone in the forest, in the kingdoms surrounding the forest, in all the lands far and beyond, the entire world, maybe even the entire universe itself.
"I wonder if Empath is going to smurf up anytime soon to save us," Smurfette asked.
"It would be very smurficidal for Empath if he even tried, Smurfette," Papa Smurf answered grimly. "His own powers can be weakened by magic, as I had smurfed out years ago, and from what Empath smurfed me a few days ago, human minds are just too different for him to try entering."
"Pappy, I feel so ashamed of ever smurfing that Pappy Gargamel would ever change," Sassette sobbed.
"There now, Sassette," Papa Smurf consoled. "You're not at fault for believing that Gargamel's goodness, however little goodness he smurfed, could lead him away from smurfing up this disaster. His own anger and hate against us has smurfed the better of him and apparently made him cold and bitter to this unsmurfy extreme. I can only hope someone can stop Gargamel before he smurfs his selfish desires onto things beyond this forest after he smurfs his way with us. But remember that even though he can destroy us in body, he can never smurf the same to us in spirit."
"Quiet, you miserable losers!" Gargamel barked. "I can't even think with you having your last conversations with each other."
Scruple was about to add another ingredient to the formula when he started dancing out of control. Gargamel looked at his apprentice with disgust as the vial slipped out of his hand and broke against the wall, and Scruple just shrugged. "I couldn't help it, Master Gargamel...I just heard some music from outside and it made me want to dance to it!"
"Hmmm...must be that dreaded magic flute of theirs!" Gargamel guessed. "That shouldn't be a problem...Azrael will take care of those annoying little musicians!"
Outside Gargamel's castle, Azrael gave chase to the Smurfs playing the magic flute, only to find himself chased by Puppy. Squealing in fear, Azrael ran for safety into the bushes and right into a cage, which the Smurfs had sealed shut and locked tight to prevent Azrael from escaping.
Back inside the castle, Gargamel and Scruple relaxed again as they resumed their preparations and musings, happy that the music of the magic flute had ended. But soon they heard a sound like it was a bomb dropping.
They watched as a volley of cloth balloons filled with water broke through the thatched roof and exploded, leaving gaping holes. Gargamel had a feeling the Smurfs were trying to break through into his castle and projected a destructive magical burst upward toward the sky, creating an even bigger hole.
Then, all at once, the Smurfs came pouring in, surrounding and attacking Gargamel and Scruple, just as they did before when he had kidnapped a single Smurf years ago. But now he felt as if he was prepared to deal with them.
"Let's see you Smurfs try to deal with this," he sneered as he cast a spell that made everything in his castle come alive as mere machinations for destroying Smurfs. As if that wasn't enough, the Smurfs saw hideous things pouring out of the vortex Gargamel had opened up -- things that resembled images from their worst nightmares: a dragon spewing flame, a slobbering amphibious being, a giant Smurf-eating spider, a large bird with ravenous eyes, a voracious plant with tendrils that wrapped around its victims. They were so taken by these living nightmares that they nearly panicked and reacted in fear.
Gargamel is using the Gauntlets of Gantharros to create convincing magical projections in order to overwhelm and paralyze us with fear, my fellow Smurfs, Empath spoke to them through their thoughts, his voice calm and soothing. See those things for what they really are and they will dissolve.
One by one, the Smurfs saw through these hideous forms and fought against them. And soon, they had disappeared as though they never had existed.
Just then, a sack of flour was dumped on Gargamel's head, blinding his eyes, making it hard for him to see. He realized that no matter what he did with his gauntlets, the Smurfs had easily countered them and pressed on with their attack, even destroying the things in his castle that he brought to life through the gauntlets' dark magic. They all reacted as if they were of one mind.
Gargamel furiously pummeled the Smurfs with bursts of magical energy powerful enough to destroy a large boulder, but no matter where he hit, the Smurfs kept avoiding him completely, and his castle bore the brunt of the explosions. One of those bursts struck the cage that contained the captured Smurfs, removing the protection spell and making the cage vanish altogether.
"We're free again!" one of the formerly-captured Smurfs shouted in glee.
Focus all your thoughts onto this smurf, Empath commanded, instantly speaking to every Smurf through telepathy. It is time to defeat Gargamel's gauntlets.
At that moment, every Smurf including Smurfette realized what they needed to do. They concentrated all their thoughts toward Empath, allowing him to use their mental energies to combine and increase his own. Empath's body glowed as he felt every Smurf joining their thoughts together and giving him their power.
Gargamel now saw Empath glowing and projected a burst of magical energy toward him, hoping to destroy Empath on the spot. He watched in surprise and fear as the burst struck the outer edge of the aura and dissipated, not having any effect on Empath.
Now it was Empath's turn. He cocked his head so that his star mark was aimed at Gargamel's head and projected such a powerful burst of mental energy that penetrated Gargamel's brain and made him reel in anguish. In that instant, he felt as if every Smurf was now his size and tearing him to shreds, making him feel the same torment that he gave them for five whole years.
The attack lasted for less than a minute, and after it was over, Gargamel saw that the gauntlets that gave him the power he needed to destroy the Smurfs were rusted to the point that they fell off like brittle wood. Even the armor that the gauntlets had created for him fell off like it was paper mache.
Empath and Papa Smurf knew at that point Gargamel would resort to using mere physical force, and that was something Empath could handle by himself. But that meant Empath had to take Gargamel down before he had the chance to fully recover.
"Papa Smurf, get the other Smurfs out of here right now," Empath ordered. "This smurf will make sure Gargamel doesn't get his hands on them!"
Papa Smurf didn't even question Empath at that point. He merely called out to all his other Smurfs, telling them to leave Gargamel's hovel and wait out in the forest. But even as the last Smurf made his way out, Papa Smurf stayed behind. Though it wasn't befitting of his nature of not harming any living creature, he wanted to see Gargamel get what he deserved all along.
The human wizard barely got back on his feet when Empath slammed straight into him, knocking him into a wall with such strength and force that it hurt his back. Gargamel never felt the fury that a single Smurf like Empath was unleashing on him, moving way too fast for him to react and striking him with blows that felt like Bigmouth the ogre had paid him a very unfriendly visit.
"You like to torture creatures that are smaller than yourself, Gargamel," Empath roared as he struck the human again and again with his telekinetically-enhanced punches, "but it smurfs that you can't take it when something smaller than you fights back. Well, we won't smurf your abuse anymore…so go smurf on somebody your own size!"
With that last comment, Empath delivered an uppercut that felled Gargamel to the floor. Outside his hovel, the other Smurfs cheered as they watched through the windows and wherever else they could see the fight unfold.
Gargamel felt so wounded and bruised that it took effort to even open his eyes and see Empath standing on the tip of his nose, looking very fierce and mean. Gargamel could actually feel the fear in Empath's unyielding stare.
"Now you will smurf as I say," Empath commanded. "You will smurf back your vow of vengeance upon my fellow Smurfs, you will smurf all your belongings as well as your apprentice and your cat, and you will leave this forest and not come back…ever! And if you ever return, by the name of my fellow Smurfs and their ancestors, I will…!"
"No, please don't hurt me anymore!" Gargamel yelped, not wishing to feel the wrath of this one Smurf that felled him. "I'll do whatever you and your fellow Smurfs want from me. I'll leave you and your forest alone!"
The other Smurfs cheered. Gargamel was now at their mercy.

Though they were victorious, the Smurfs had the social grace to help Gargamel and Scruple pack their belongings onto a old cart for carrying hay. They couldn't bring the Great Book of Spells with them because the spirit of that book wished not to be moved from its spot. Instead, as soon as the last necessary item was taken from the castle, the Great Book of Spells cast a spell upon itself that made Gargamel's ranshack castle disappear from sight until there was nothing left but a barren field.
Empath, meanwhile, was busy giving directions to Gargamel for a nearby human village where he might find temporary work, and also described the area as a good geographical location for finding gold. The human wizard seemed to be on his best behavior as he listened to Empath's advice and as he and Scruple pulled the heavy cart into motion, heading off into the direction that Empath had sent him with the Smurfs cheering and saying goodbye.
No sooner than they were out of earshot and out of sight from every Smurf, though, did Gargamel's look of fear and friendliness turned again to anger. "I tell you, Scruple, that even though they may have succeeded in driving us away from this miserable forest, they still will never see the last of me," he cursed. "Someday, those Smurfs will find themselves without a forest or a village or even that monstrously strong and fast hero of theirs to protect them. And when that time comes, may the wrath of Gargamel haunt them for the rest of their days!"
Azrael just mewed like he had heard this all before, walking alongside his master.

As they saw the last of Gargamel, Azrael, and Scruple, Empath turned to Papa Smurf, who looked as if he was questioning the very thing he swore he would never allow happening to any living being, even the likes of Gargamel.
"I doubt that this will really be the last time we ever smurf Gargamel," Papa Smurf reminded Empath. "As long as he smurfs the desire to smurf his revenge on us, he may someday find a way to smurf the upper hand, and you may not be able to defeat him the same way."
"Then this smurf will watch the forest in case he or anyone else like him tries to 'smurf the upper hand' on us, Papa Smurf," Empath stated.
"And another thing, Empath," Papa Smurf continued. "I know that you smurf well, but we can't smurf the whole forest as if it belonged only to us and not any other living being that smurfs through or in it. We can't smurf it upon ourselves to smurf who should be in this forest and who shouldn't. If we smurfed that, we would be no better than the humans who smurf more than just their own lands and making unsmurfy judgements about others no matter how good or bad they are."
Empath understood what Papa Smurf was telling him. It was not a Smurf's place in this world to make such decisions that were better left to the higher powers that created everything in the forest and beyond.
"On the other hand, though," Papa Smurf added, his tone changing, "how you and the other Smurfs handled Gargamel today was appropriate for the smurfumstance. You will someday make a fine leader of other Smurfs with your bravery and ability to use the strengths and abilities of your fellow Smurfs."
Empath looked at Papa Smurf, confused. "You mean, you approve of what this smurf did to Gargamel today, Papa Smurf?" he asked.
Papa Smurf wasn't sure how to answer that. "Not as much as I approve of you being a true Smurf…and being my son!" he finally said, hugging Empath tightly.
The other Smurfs gathered around Empath, feeling more than grateful that not only did he defeat Gargamel, he also allowed them to help him defeat the human wizard. Empath found himself carried high over his fellow Smurfs' heads as they walked back to the village, singing a song of victory, the only real victory they had in a long time.
"I believe in me, and I believe in smurfthing more than you can undersmurf; yes, I believe in me!"