Chapter 3

Minutes later Papa Smurf was in the forest gathering whatever ingredients he needed for the experiments he was working on: spores, moss, fungus, roots, herbs, seeds, and other assorted things. In years past Papa Smurf could spend hours in the forest looking for his ingredients without fear of anything happening except a natural catastrophe or a mere change in the weather. But the past five years haven't been kind to the Smurfs as far as safety went. Even a wise leader like him could be a victim in this forest, no matter how careful he can be.
But what's happened around here hasn't been much recently, Papa Smurf was thinking. Strangely, he hasn't seen Gargamel for about a year. Could he have disappeared? Could he have turned a new leaf -- however unlikely that possibility could be true -- and done something else with his life other than going after the Smurfs? Could he be just biding his time? Or...
The sudden snap of a twig made Papa Smurf look around his immediate surroundings, fearing it could be Gargamel or somebody in the forest. But all he could see was just the trees, rocks, and shrubs. Then a flock of birds suddenly fluttered their way past him directly overhead, startling him again. Papa Smurf sighed in relief. Just some animals, he thought. He went back to his gathering.
Then Papa Smurf saw a shadow eclipsing him in darkness. He had a feeling he knew what it was, but before he could turn around and see it for himself, a bony hand grabbed him and brought him face to face with a hideous-looking bald person that Papa Smurf knew all too well.
"Gargamel!" Papa Smurf exclaimed.
"Well, well, well," Gargamel announced with a devilish cackle. "I always knew I could catch you somewhere in this despicable forest of yours. Now at last I can get from you and your little Smurfs the very thing you've always denied me -- my revenge!"

"This is your house, Empath?" Sassette asked as she and the other Smurflings dropped in while Empath was busy playing with Baby Smurf.
"This smurf doesn't really have much in here to provide comfort to anyone except this smurf," Empath answered. "This smurf doesn't usually entertain guests in here!"
"Wow!" Snappy shouted, pointing to the wraparound mural. "Papa Smurf doesn't want us to paint on our walls, and you have a whole painting of the forest on yours!"
"My animal friends might like it in here!" Natural Smurf added.
"And all this work is yours?" Slouchy asked.
"That and a whole lot more came from this smurf's hands," Empath replied. "Painter taught me the basics of painting art, and this smurf just took it from there. Of course, that's not all of what this smurf can do when it comes to..."
Suddenly Empath stopped, for in his mind's eye he could see, as clearly as he had been there, Papa Smurf being carried away by a giant being. Empath could feel that Papa Smurf was in danger. As the vision faded, Empath realized that he had to do something.
"Uh, Smurflings, as much as this smurf would like you to stay, this smurf needs you to take Baby Smurf back outside immediately. This smurf has an emergency to take care of." With that announcement, Empath headed for his door without looking back.
"Where are you smurfing, Empath?" Snappy asked as he looked out the door. He barely caught a glimpse of him as he was already well out of sight.
Smurfette had just reached Empath's house as the Smurflings left it, with Sassette carrying Baby Smurf. "Don't tell me I just missed Empath," she spouted.
"Okay, then...we just missed him," Slouchy replied.
"Oooh..." Smurfette stamped off in a huff.
"Uh, maybe we shouldn't have told her," he later said.

The forest was a green blur, but Empath moved through it incredibly fast without any problem. He was heading for where this giant called Gargamel was taking Papa Smurf. And less than half a mile away Empath found it -- a small rundown castle made of brick and thatching that was bigger than even the Psyche Master's temple, and more forbidding.
Empath saw a window he could look into to see what this Gargamel would do. He jumped, and with a thought his jump propelled him to the windowsill, which was a good three feet from the ground. He looked in through the smeary glass of the window and saw Papa Smurf bound in twine on a table, and there was not only one giant -- the one in his vision that was called Gargamel -- but a second smaller giant with strawberry blond hair and freckled skin who might just be a young boy, perhaps related to this Gargamel. Sleeping on a ragged pillow was a brown old cat with a chewed-on ear. Empath figured out this cat must be Azrael.
“Now pay attention, Scruple," Gargamel told the young boy as he put a black kettle on the stove to boil. "This formula for turning base metals into gold is very important for you to learn...unless you like spending your useless life out on your own, being the throwaway of every wizard who's ever taken you under his care. Its very important element is right here in this forest, and Papa Smurf is the key to getting that element!"
"But Gargamel, don't we need six of these creatures to make this formula work?" asked Scruple, reading from Gargamel's spell book. "How are we going to get more of these Smurfs if we only have one to work with?"
"Because, you simpleton, this Smurf is their leader," Gargamel explained. "Eventually they'll find that their beloved leader is missing, and when they do, more Smurfs will come into the forest to try finding him. When they do, we will get them and have more than enough to complete the formula. We will be rich, and those little blue lemmings will be no more!" He cackled at this thought. "Who would ever thought that I could destroy the Smurfs with the one thing I learned from them -- patience?"
Empath couldn't read the minds of Gargamel or Scruple, but he knew Papa Smurf was in a helpless situation. Either that, or he was bravely protecting the other Smurfs by letting himself be sacrificed rather than letting on anything about where the other Smurfs were. In any case, Empath wasn't going to let Papa Smurf die at the hands of these two humans. He needed to distract Gargamel and Scruple long enough to get Papa Smurf safely out of there.
So Empath reached out with his mind to the objects inside Gargamel's house and manipulated them around; moving a chair to trip the wizard, hitting him with things from shelves, and making the kettle on the stove boil over. Gargamel flashed an angry look at Scruple, who just stood there laughing at his mentor's mishaps, and accused his apprentice of playing pranks on him. Papa Smurf also laughed despite the fact that he was a captive.
Then Empath distracted both Gargamel and Scruple by causing the sleeping Azrael to float with his pillow in the air, leaving them to think the castle must be haunted by some evil spirit while Empath crept in and jumped over to the table where Papa Smurf was bound.
But Gargamel wasn't distracted for long.
"Well, what do we have here?" he announced when he saw Empath untying Papa Smurf. Azrael stopped floating in midair and was awakened by a sudden rough landing. "See, Scruple -- our waiting has given us at least one more Smurf to use for our gold-making formula. We should have at least six before the day is through."
"Gargamel, why does this Smurf have a yellow star on his head?" Scruple asked when he saw Empath. "Is he supposed to be a special kind of Smurf or something?"
Gargamel noticed it too. "Maybe it is a special kind of Smurf...the kind who's worth six times his weight in gold!" He tried to grab Empath from the table, but all he grabbed was empty air as Empath jumped so quickly out of the way Gargamel didn't notice until a moment later.
"Hold still, you little blue moneybag!" Gargamel hissed, reaching for Empath again and grabbing nothing. Empath flew around and led Gargamel on a wild-goose chase, leaving him frustrated.
Papa Smurf used the distraction to make a run for it. He made it to the floor when he saw Azrael coming straight for him. He picked up a handful of carpet dust and blew it into Azrael's face, leaving the cat blinded and sneezing. Papa Smurf ran for the door, but Scruple caught him and was bringing him back to the table to tie him up again.
Empath saw this and used his mind powers to pull a rug from under Scruple, knocking him on his back and releasing Papa Smurf from his grip. Empath caught Papa Smurf in midair before he landed in the fire on the stove.
"Maybe you should be closer to the village the next time you look for your ingredients," Empath commented as he flew Papa Smurf and himself safely out of Gargamel's castle.
"Well, I didn't smurf on this happening on your birthday, Empath," Papa Smurf retorted, "though I'm glad you came for me or else I would have missed the party!"
Soon Gargamel and Scruple came running out of the castle, cursing at each other as they headed straight for Empath and Papa Smurf, who landed a few yards away. Empath decided it was time to end this encounter with these two humans for the day and reached out again with his mind to trip Gargamel and Scruple over each other.
Gargamel and Scruple struggled to get off each other and back on their feet, but by the time they did, Empath and Papa Smurf were long gone.
Gargamel couldn't disguise the anger he felt when his latest and simplest plan for destroying the Smurfs had failed.
"You can run from me all you want, Smurfs," he shouted into the forest, "but you can never hide from me forever. One of these days, I will get you. I will get every single one of you if it's the last thing I ever do!"