Chapter 7

On top of a nearby mountain, a small castle tower overlooked the forest below. Inside, Smurfette looked out of a window at the full moon that shone down on everything. She felt as if the moon and the night gave her the very essence of life itself, as the sun and the day once did before she had met Vladimir. Now everything had changed, and Smurfette no longer felt as if her heart belonged in that life she lived in the village with her fellow Smurfs -- including the one Smurf she felt she had truly waited for her entire life, though she didn't feel truly ready to give her heart completely to him yet.
But Vladimir had shown her that he would be beside her for all eternity, and his love for her would never die. He had shown her that the world of night is nothing for her to fear in all of its beauty and passion. For that, Smurfette felt she would now give herself to whatever Vladimir wanted from her. She would become his immortal beloved.
"Behold, the ancient kingdom of Smurvanya," Vladimir whispered as he appeared behind Smurfette. "This was the world we had once ruled over when Smurfs were kings of the forest, and it will be that way again after tonight. Soon, my dear Elismurfetta, we will consmurfate our love for each other, and you will rule this land beside me as my royal bride. The children of the night we will smurf shall take back the forest from those who live for the daytime, even those who will seek to destroy us. And the riches of the forest will be ours for the smurfing."
Smurfette swooned to the thought of ruling the forest beside her beloved. "Vladimir, my darling, I will smurf anything in the world for you to prove my love for you!"
"But you seem to hold back," Vladimir noted. "This mortal you call Empath who has no soul for the creation of music still stirs within your heart, does he not?"
Smurfette felt embarrassed that Vladimir could sense that brief feeling she had.
"No, of course not, my beloved," she quickly answered. "It's just that…he will stop at nothing to smurf me away from you, the one I have always waited for all my life."
Vladimir chuckled gently. "You will not need to worry about his fate any longer, my beautiful blue blossom. This place is heavily guarded with creatures that are loyal only to my very whim, Elismurfetta. He will not easily best them to get anywhere near you."
As he spoke, Smurfette saw a dozen or more vampire rats, all with razor-sharp teeth and bloodthirsty eyes, roaming around the lower floors of the castle. They were very ugly creatures, to say the least, but as long as they protected the castle from any intruders, she would feel very safe here.
Even from the one Smurf that she now feared would come to take her away.

Empath had finally reached the base of the mountain where Vladimir's royal castle was located a good few hours before midnight. He somehow sensed that Vladimir had put some kind of magic spell on his castle so Empath wouldn't be able to use his minds-eye abilities in any fashion. Even though he had some knowledge of the castle's layout from the books he studied in the Smurf archives house, he still wouldn't be able to tell which room Smurfette would be in at this moment. For the most part, Empath was going in blind and nearly powerless except for what he was armed with for fighting vampires.
Attaching a rope to a thick sturdy tree, Empath descended down a hole that led into a secret room, where he felt his minds-eye powers already starting to ebb and fade. So far he had not made a single noise on his way inside, but from what his ears could tell him, he would expect some company of the worst kind to greet him soon.
Empath quickly and quietly sneaked into the cavernous passageway that forked into two different directions, taking the route that would least likely have any unexpected run-ins. He could hear the squeaking and hissing of some vicious animals approaching from another direction, sounding as if they could smell Empath's blood from miles away.
Fortunately, Papa Smurf prepared some other things for Empath to use, including one that would lure the creatures away from him.

Vladimir and Smurfette were busy dancing on the balcony to the symphony being played, though there wasn't a single organ anywhere in the room or near it. As the chimes of the old clock now rang in the midnight hour, he once again drew Smurfette close to him while dancing in preparation to bite her neck for the third time. But then he turned his attention away from Smurfette when he heard the sound of his vampire rats devouring what would be her former friend from the Smurf Village.
"Ah, yes, the sweet sound of flesh smurfing flesh," he beamed, sounding very proud of his minions. "A pity your friend became a feast long before he had the chance to smurf you away from me in person."
"It was an empty feast this smurf had given your protectors, Vladimir!"
Vladimir and Smurfette turned to see Empath emerge from a window on the far wall opposite of the balcony. He propelled himself toward the chandelier, grabbed it, and swung around on it until he landed on the balcony itself, separating Vladimir from Smurfette.
"This smurf created a straw Smurf imitation of this smurf for them to chew on," he explained. "They will have nothing but fiber in their diets when they find out the truth."
"So the Smurf who has no song in his heart wishes to take the heart of Elismurfetta away from me," Vladimir sneered. "Well, let's see if a Smurf like you truly has a heart for me to tear out!"
Empath screamed in agony as he felt Vladimir's hand suddenly plunge right through his chest, as if Empath's body was made of pudding, and closed his hand around his adversary's heart, intent to squash it like an overripe tomato.
Empath never felt such pain like this before. He concentrated all his will to keep Vladimir's hand from crushing his heart long enough to pull out his Smurf symbol medallion.
Vladimir looked at Empath, smiling viciously. "The pain you're feeling inside will only get worse if you don't give in to the sweet slumber of death, my young mortal opponent!"
Empath's hand fumbled as he took hold of the Smurf medallion and slowly raised it to make contact with Vladimir's arm that was inside Empath's chest. The vampire Smurf screamed as the medallion burned through his clothes and touched his skin, leaving such a brand of a scar that made Vladimir pull his arm out and convulse in agony.
Empath fell to his knees, trying to catch his breath and make sure no permanent damage was done to him. Fortunately, he could see no sign of entry on his chest where Vladimir had thrusted his hand into.
"That was one mistake I do not intend for you to repeat," Vladimir growled as he recovered from the sudden burning pain and reached for Empath again.
Empath reacted by grabbing Tracker's water bladder and spraying some of the sacred water from the Pool of Souls in Vladimir's face. He screamed again and writhed himself away from both Empath and Smurfette as he felt the water burn through his skin.
Empath quickly grabbed Smurfette, pulling her toward him as he fully recovered from Vladimir's sudden hand plunge. "Let's get ourselves out of here, Smurfette," he directed.
Smurfette was resisting Empath's pull. "How dare you smurf me away from my sweet beloved Vladimir, you unsmurfy ingrate!" she shouted. "Let me go right now!"
Empath needed to break through Vladimir's control over Smurfette's mind. There was only one thing he could do. "Remember your true self as you once were," he told Smurfette as he pressed the silver Smurf symbol into the palm of her hand and held it there.
Smurfette screamed as she felt the burning sensation of the Smurf symbol on her hand. She wanted to let go of it, but Empath wouldn't let go of her hand. With the pain came the flash of memories -- Empath, Papa Smurf, Baby Smurf, the Smurflings, Puppy, every adult Smurf she came to know, the village, the good times she had, everything that meant something in her life as a Smurf.
The pain seemed to go on forever, and then it suddenly stopped, and Smurfette found herself feeling like she had awakened from a dream state that she was in. The first face she saw was Empath's, who then let go of her hand as she now held the Smurf symbol without feeling anymore pain.
"Empath?" she finally said. "What happened to me? Where am I? What's smurfing on?"
Empath only responded by pulling Smurfette close to him as he heard Vladimir try to grab Smurfette after he had recovered from being sprayed with sacred water.
"This smurf promises to let you know everything that happened as soon as we reach safety, Smurfette," Empath told her.
Smurfette nodded, feeling ever so fearful as she saw Vladimir's face, all twisted and scarred and full of fury, seeing his would-be eternal beloved run away from him. She followed Empath as they fled from the balcony and down into the bowels of the castle.
"Run all you want with the fair maiden, cursed mortal," Vladimir growled. "I will not let you smurf away my soon-to-be immortal beloved from me. My minions will make sure your fate will be the same as those who smurfed before to destroy me."

As Empath and Smurfette turned the next corner that would lead into the caves, they were confronted by a large rat with bloodthirsty eyes and razor-sharp fangs, ready to sink his teeth into either of them.
Smurfette screamed and ducked behind Empath, who pulled a wooden arrow from his quiver and fired it point-blank at the rat's heart in one swift motion with the bow. The rat screeched as his body suddenly burst into flames and then became a mere lifeless skeleton.
Smurfette still looked fearfully at what was once a terrifying living creature, and then at Empath in disbelief. "You killed that rat!" she exclaimed. "Smurfs aren't supposed to kill any living beings."
Empath shook his head. "That rat was already dead, Smurfette. Its skeleton appears far too old and decayed to have come from any recently living creature. Vladimir must have used his dark magic to bring this poor thing back to life as one of his machinations."
Smurfette looked at the skeleton briefly as Empath guided her past it. He stumbled briefly when he felt the pain in his chest, barely able to breathe.
"Empath, what's wrong?" Smurfette asked.
Empath felt the pain diminish a bit, though it was still present. "Vladimir's sudden assault nearly removed this smurf's heart out of this smurf's chest, Smurfette. Until we can leave this place, this smurf fears that this smurf will not live long enough to protect you."
Smurfette helped Empath to his feet. "Let's keep smurfing until we can find someplace where we can smurf you up, Empath."
Empath nodded. Though injured, he vowed to himself that he wouldn't succumb until they left Vladimir's castle together.