Chapter 8

Back in the village around midnight, the last night of Smurfstock was coming to a close. The Village Smurphony Orchestra had finished with a brilliant masterpiece performed by whatever musicians were left in the orchestra with Brainy as its conductor. It wasn't anything that the Smurfs haven't heard before in the Smurfstock festivals of previous years, and Brainy's style of conducting just wasn't the same as Papa Smurf's when he used to conduct the orchestra. Still, the Smurfs who were still awake listening to the musical masterpiece cheered for Brainy as soon as it ended.
As Brainy had finished accepting the applause and the curtains closed while he approached the front of the stage, he made his final announcement. "Fellow Smurfs, I know that you may not like changes in the program anymore than I do for the sake of smurfing things running in order, but before we smurf an end to this wonderful three-day festival of music, I would like to present to you one final persmurfance by one already talented musician...and here he is, your village leader and my smurfonal friend and mentor, the one and only Papa Smurf!"
Every Smurf awakened at that point to cheer as Papa Smurf himself took the stage with a guitar. However, he didn't appear on the stage alone. The Smurflings, who already had performed "Smurfbop" sometime earlier that evening, appeared with Papa Smurf as his backup musicians. Brainy was rather surprised that Papa Smurf would even go so far as to have the Smurflings — the very Smurfs who dared to change the style of music that Smurfs would want to listen to — be part of his own performance.
"Ready, my little Smurflings?" Papa Smurf asked as he looked to his eager little musicians, who nodded back to him that they were ready. "And one...and two...and three...!"
Instantly the Smurflings followed along with Papa Smurf on his guitar. Snappy was on the drums, Slouchy was on his homemade horn, Nat was on the strings, Sassette was on the tambourine, and Baby Smurf followed along on a kazoo. The Smurfs who were in the audience were surprised that Papa Smurf was performing a song that sounded more like a Smurfling type of song. They were also clapping along as the village leader began to sing.
"I was born in a smurf town, and I live in a smurf town; oh, I could die in a smurf town, oh, this Smurf community,...!"
Even Sloppy was amazed by this unexpected piece of music coming from an unexpected source. "This is a song that really rocks harder than Azrael Rocks," he commented as he and his bandmates danced along to the rhythm.
Meanwhile, in the emptiness of Tapper's Tavern, the village bartender was alone spending an entire night in prayer. "O Lord Almighty, the Father of all creation, the Maker of heaven and earth, and the Source of all good things, give Empath and Smurfette safe passage from Vladimir Smurfula's castle and protect them from the evil one as he seeks to smurf their souls from this mortal realm. Let their hearts be comforted in the fact that You are there with them and that You have given Your only begotten Son as a ransom for their sins, that they may both smurf a hold of You in this desperate hour of need. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen."

The cavernous passageways underneath the castle were long and winding. Empath had a feeling they were going to get lost inside the caves and not even make it back out. Fortunately, Papa Smurf had given Empath a spell he could recite to alter the effects of time inside the castle so that the sun would come up much sooner, which Empath had recited at that moment. Now they just needed to survive long enough.
A swarm of bats suddenly flew down toward Empath and Smurfette, causing them to recoil in fright. Fortunately, Empath's cape and his garlic buds provided some protection from the bats, but they knew Vladimir could transform himself into one and attack them that way. As soon as the swarm flew away, Empath and Smurfette continued onward.
A narrow natural bridge that crossed over a high underground chasm was up ahead. They could feel a strong gust blowing from either direction, threatening to knock them both over to fall into the chasm.
"It's much too high, Empath," Smurfette said as she looked down. "I'm scared!"
"Just hold on to this smurf's hand and don't look down," Empath told her.
Empath led the way across the natural bridge, with Smurfette holding firmly onto Empath's hand as she followed behind. She could feel herself teetering this way and that as they slowly made their way over the chasm, making her even more afraid.
They were almost near the other side when a huge gust of wind suddenly knocked Smurfette off the bridge, ripping her from Empath's grasp.
"Empath…help me!" Smurfette screamed.
"Smurfette!" Empath cried out as he watched her fall into the abyss, carried off by the wind in the direction it was blowing in. He didn't come this far just to lose her like that.
Empath unhooked his cape and held onto its ends with both hands as he jumped off the natural bridge in the direction that Smurfette was falling in. The wind filled his cape and turned it into a parachute that allowed him to drift downward at an angle.
He saw Smurfette just up ahead, still falling. Using the wind patterns to his advantage, Empath quickly glided toward her. She saw Empath coming toward her and just grabbed onto him as they drifted away from the sharp spiked rocks below.
The wind lifted them up for a bit, and Empath saw a ledge where they could safely land up ahead. After they had landed, Empath reattached his cape.
"Thanks, Empath," Smurfette finally said when her heart was no longer racing. "I would have been a goner by now if it weren't for you."
Empath felt his chest hurting again. "If we don't find someplace to hide, Smurfette, this smurf is more likely to be 'a goner' sooner than this smurf would wish!" He then saw another passageway just up above where they landed and suggested they climb up to it
From a distance, in his bat form, Vladimir watched Empath and Smurfette nearly survive the fall from the natural bridge in delight. He was hoping that the fall would kill them both, but seeing how resourceful Empath was in rescuing Smurfette made him even more delighted. As long as she continued to live, Smurfette could be swayed back into believing she was his beloved Elismurfetta.
He would make very certain of that, and then he could kill Empath himself.
Or have Smurfette kill her friend when he would make her his immortal beloved.

Empath and Smurfette rested for a bit in a darkened alcove they managed to find. She noticed that Empath looked feverish, as if he would eventually be weakened by Vladimir's physical attack on him. Fortunately, Empath realized that as well, for he had pulled out a small flask from a belt he was wearing and swallowed half its black liquid contents.
"What is that stuff you're smurfing?" Smurfette asked.
"It's a laurel extract that Papa Smurf made, Smurfette," Empath answered, wiping his brow after the swallow. "It's supposed to help those who have been attacked by vampires regain their physical strength, according to the legends." He handed Smurfette the rest of the flask's contents as he felt his vitality returning.
Smurfette took a swallow of the laurel extract and nearly coughed afterward. "Bleah, this stuff smurfs so horrible, Empath!" she frowned.
"This smurf knows it doesn't taste very good, Smurfette, but as long as it keeps us alive, its flavor will be the least of our worries."
"How are we going to smurf out of here, Empath, if you don't even have most of your minds-eye abilities smurfing?" Smurfette asked.
"These caves go down to a secret place that the royalty that lived in this castle have used for sneaking in and out," Empath described. "That is how this smurf entered this place, and if we can get back there, we may be able to leave through the same way."
"But we won't smurf past those rats, or even Vladimir, as long as they're out there, smurfing for us," Smurfette mentioned.
"This smurf knows," Empath replied, pulling some other things out from his belt. Smurfette could see that some of those things were garlic buds, and now Empath poured some of the sacred water from the bladder over the buds. The other things looked like pieces of flint, and Empath was now striking them together near the buds. A spark was ignited, causing the garlic buds to burst into flame and release a thick gray smoke.
"What are you smurfing with those garlic buds, Empath?" Smurfette asked, holding her nose to block the pungent smell.
"We need to create a thick cloud of smoke that neither Vladimir nor those rats can smell our scent through," Empath answered, putting the buds out into the passageway and then ducking back into the alcove. The both of them watched as the fumes from the burning garlic buds filled the passageways and made it hard for them to see through.
The garlic cloud of smoke had its effect. The rats sounded as if they had trouble breathing in this air, and Vladimir had to transform back into the form of a Smurf to avoid colliding out of control into a cave wall. He fell to the floor, coughing and cursing Empath's talents as a vampire hunter, feeling even more determined to destroy him and retake Smurfette as his immortal beloved.
Empath and Smurfette took advantage of the situation. With Smurfette holding his hand, Empath guided her through the thick fog and ran as fast as they could in the direction of the secret room. Some rats that were disoriented by the garlic gas still blocked their way, but Empath easily picked them off one by one, putting these miserable creatures back to rest.
But then they had another problem to deal with. Empath and Smurfette heard the slight rumbling of something emerging from the ground, and then they saw what must have been the skeletal remains of deceased Smurfs surrounding them.
"Vladimir must be getting very desperate in keeping us here, Smurfette," Empath commented as he avoided the swing of a sword by one of the Smurf skeletons.
"Empath, they're smurfing closer," Smurfette cried out.
Empath knew these creatures could not be felled the same way as the vampire rats, so he resorted to using his quarterstaff skills. He detached the string from Archer's bow and used it as a staff to break enough bones on the skeletons to permanently disable them, while also delivering some powerful punches and kicks. Smurfette, meanwhile, just ducked and dodged her way around the skeletons, allowing them just to destroy each other in the process. But one of them got a hold of her from behind.
"Heads up, Smurfette," Empath called out. She ducked as he threw the bow at the skeleton's head, shattering it with such force that it also broke the bow in half.
Smurfette shook off the remains of the skeleton that grabbed her, and then looked down at the littered broken bones before she finally saw Archer's bow in pieces.
"I hope he undersmurfs what happened to his best bow, Empath," she finally said.
Empath noticed something. "The fumes from the garlic clouds are now weakening, Smurfette. We had better get ourselves away from here quickly before Vladimir catches up to us."