Sometime in the middle of the day, Empath was helping Hefty, Tuffy, Duncan McSmurf, and Sloppy split up logs they had gathered in a woodshed for all the Smurfs to use in their hearths and fireplaces. Like Empath, Hefty, Tuffy, and Duncan believed in keeping themselves physically active during even the toughest days of winter. However, even Hefty couldn't stand to see Empath still going at it, splitting log after log without stop, while he started feeling his arms getting tired and his lungs short of breath. And more amazing than that was just Empath whistling out the "smurfsong" like he had been doing it for ages while working effortlessly.
"You know, Empath, for a Smurf like you, I would expect you to smurf up all these logs with that fancy third eye of yours and not just wasting your time smurfing them up by hand," Hefty commented with a hint of jealousy.
"This smurf does not consider splitting logs by hand to be any waste of time, Hefty," Empath responded. "Rather, it is yet another exercise in keeping this smurf physically in shape and mentally alert. The Psyche Master has taught this smurf to make full use of this smurf's potential, for there may come a time when this smurf may not have the active use of a third eye for anything."
"Yeah, well, it's pretty hard to exersmurf in Hefty's gym anyway because it's so smurfing cold down there half the time!" Tuffy whined. "Doing this task is already smurfing me out!"
"You think that's hard, try smurfing out the outhouses and smurfing up all the garbage from the kitchen sometime!" Sloppy countered. "Smurfing all that in the cold is worse because half the time all that smurf gets frozen."
"I wouldn't even want to smurf the outhouse in these temperatures, let alone try cleaning them out," Tuffy said as he split through another log, panting afterward and remembering all those times he got that "cold seat" feeling.
"Well, look on the bright side," Hefty contributed. "At least springtime is only about four smurfs away. Then you can smurf up all the sunshine you want and feel warm smurfing your exercises outside in the fresh air."
"That is a very helpful suggestion, Hefty," Empath replied.
"Smurfing of days like this, I'd like to imagine myself on the hills of the Scottish Highlands where my ancestral tribe smurfed from, where it would be just me and the lassie Smurfette sitting by the shore of the lochs, enjoying a warm spring day," Duncan said.
"You and Smurfette together," Hefty snorted. "It will be a cold day in smurf before you even get that lucky with her now that she's got the star-faced showoff in her life, Gutsy."
"That's Duncan to you, laddie, and I don't see how Empath would have much of a problem with Smurfette if she decides to smurf her time with me alone," Duncan said.
"Well, this smurf is not keeping Smurfette from seeing any other Smurf if that's what she wants, Duncan," Empath said. "If spending time with you or anyone else is what makes her happy, this smurf would want to see that she is happy."
"I would want to enjoy a private date with Smurfette, if it wasn't for my B.O. problem and smurfonal hygiene," Sloppy said.
Then the five Smurfs saw Handy and Miner entering the village, bringing in what appeared to be another long pink crystal and carrying it into the meeting house, which had been sealed off with a work fence so that nobody else could see what was going on in there.
"There they smurf again with another crystal they smurfed out of the mines," Hefty commented. "What do you suppose they're going to smurf with those in there?"
"This smurf honestly doesn't know, Hefty," Empath answered. "The crystals don't look like anything this smurf is used to seeing in any part of this forest."
"Maybe they're just using them to smurf up the place so we won't have to smurf on extra layers when Papa Smurf calls us for meetings," Tuffy guessed.
"Then what's with all those fences around the meeting house?" Sloppy wondered.
"Beats the smurf out of me, laddie," Duncan said.
"Whatever is smurfing on in there, it's keeping them and Papa Smurf way too busy to smurf with us!" Hefty answered. "Come on, let's get these logs smurfed away so we can rest up a bit!"
"And maybe even smurf a bath," Tuffy mumbled, "if it doesn't get too cold for one!"
"I need to smurf with my guitar a bit," Sloppy said. "Just can't seem to smurf the right notes with this weather numbing my fingers."
"This calls for a good cup of brew over at Tapper's, laddies," Duncan said as he picked up the chopped wood and carried it over to a stacked pile. "You're gonna join me there, Empath?"
"This smurf will come later on, Duncan," Empath replied, also carrying some chopped wood with him. "This smurf needs to get started on a project for Smurfette."
"A project for Smurfette, eh?" Duncan said. "Well, whatever smurfs the heart of the lassie for you, I'll be waiting in the tavern with my brew."
"And I'll be there to challenge you to an arm-wrestling match, Gutsy," Hefty said.
"The name is Duncan, laddie," Duncan said a bit sternly.
Empath could sense that his fellow Smurfs were really feeling less than their old smurfy selves with the endless cold winter days and this mystery about what is going on in the village's meeting house. What is it that Papa Smurf wouldn't entrust to even his faithful assistant counselor, his only real son?
He wished he could find the answer to both his fellow Smurfs' problems soon.
It was near the end of the day, when most of the Smurfs had gathered inside Tapper's tavern, trying to keep warm with his special cinnamon treebark brew spiced up with a bit of sarsaparilla in it. They were also trying to occupy their time playing cards or board games, throwing darts, shooting pool, trying out Handy's "pinball game" invention with the Smurflings watching on, or working on craft projects. Besides that, there was still very little talking among the fellow Smurfs, and this was especially unnerving for Tapper, who lived for talking with his customers while preparing their drinks. Right now, Brainy, Duncan, and Grouchy were keeping him company, with Grouchy doing most of the listening while the other three did the talking.
"I don't get it, Tapper," Brainy whined. "Why doesn't Papa Smurf trust me enough to smurf me what his secret project is inside the meeting house? I don't even know what he wants to smurf with those crystals Handy and Miner smurfed up."
"Ah, your guess is as good as mine, my dear Brainy," Tapper answered jovially. "But I do think there are times he would smurf things secret from all of us for a very good reason. Right now, it's the only thing that's giving any Smurf something to talk about, even if it is in the smurf of winter."
"This is surely a time that I wasn't expecting my brother Miner to be so tight-smurfed about anything, including this secret project," Duncan said.
"So he won't even tell you, Tapper, one of the only few Smurfs who actually listens to every Smurf?" Brainy asked.
"Nay, but by the same token, I don't bother him for any information about his project that he doesn't want to smurf out yet," Tapper pointed out. "When you listen to other Smurf's problems, you should know which questions to smurf and which ones not to smurf."
"I'm surprised Papa Smurf never smurfed of you being his assistant counselor while Empath was away in Psychelia, Tapper!" Brainy griped.
"I'd rather have Tapper be the assistant counselor than you be the assistant anything in this village, Brainy," Duncan said.
"I can still smurf advice to my fellow Smurfs, Brainy," Tapper explained. "But I tell you, this tavern is where I feel I am the leader, not beside Papa Smurf all day. If Papa Smurf chose either you or Empath to lead the village when his time is smurfed, then so be it. I will still smurf the drinks around here and still smurf you the same advice you ask for."
"I hate the thought of Papa Smurf not smurfing with us someday," Grouchy calmly said.
"Aye, I agree with you right there, Grouchy," Duncan said.
At that time, Empath came over to the counter with some fabric and a sewing kit. He had been watching Smurfette playing the "pinball game" and racking up an unusually high score that made her fellow male Smurfs drop their jaws. Nobody thought that a female Smurf could ever be so talented at that game, and even the Smurflings were awestruck by her performance. She laughed as she ended her game and watched another Smurf try his hand at beating her.
"Great Smurfiny Crickets, my fellow Empath, what daft thing are you smurfing up this time?" Tapper asked.
"It's a new snowsuit for Smurfette, Tapper, similar to the one this smurf is wearing," Empath answered, showing his work in progress.
"Smurfette wearing those skivvies from Psychelia?" Duncan said. "Now there's something that would surely make me feel hot and smurfy just thinking about it."
Tapper felt the fabric Empath was working with and was surprised by how thin it was. It was even thinner than the fabric used for making Smurf clothing. "You sure Smurfette won't smurf a death of cold faster smurfing something like that? I could only wonder how you can smurf something like that yoursmurf!"
"This smurf never had a problem wearing this suit ever since this smurf's day of emergence in Psychelia, Tapper," Empath stated. "It feels as comfortable as underpants and yet not so cumbersome to wear in the winter."
"Aye, if you smurf so, Empath," Tapper sighed. "I could sure use a good pair of those longsmurfs myself to smurf me warm on these cold winter nights, not to mention a hot toddy."
"I hate cold winter nights," Grouchy spat.
"And how is it that Smurfette can be so good at smurfing that pinball game?" Brainy asked, watching another Smurf madly playing it. "If you ask me, that isn't even as mentally challenging as a good game of chess!"
"Every Smurf here has something that they are good at besting others with, Brainy," Tapper answered. "You have your smarts, Hefty has his brawn, Smurfette has her hands, and Empath…well, he's just got a little too much of everything!"
"Well, Hefty still can't beat me when it comes to the caber-smurfing contest," Duncan said proudly. "You've got to be a real McSmurf in order to smurf that."
"This smurf will not take that comment personally, Tapper," Empath reminded him. "Though it does fascinate me to see Smurfette playing exceptionally well on a game that other fellow Smurfs might consider to be 'only a male Smurf's game'. This smurf could only wonder how she would handle a Psychelian puzzle game, something that took this smurf twice as long as a fellow Psyche to figure out."
"There's only one way to find that out, Empath," Tapper replied. "All I know is that before the Smurflings came along, the only thing Smurfette was interested in were dresses, flowers, and smurfing Mr. Right from this crowd of Smurfs. She's smurftainly grown from a frail flower to a hardy blossom in that time, I can smurf you."
Just then, Papa Smurf had entered the tavern, looking a bit exhausted from whatever it was he was doing. "I would like three smurfing mugs of your treebark brew, Tapper," he politely said.
"Aye, coming right up, Papa Smurf," Tapper nodded, grabbing three tall pewter mugs with wooden handle grips and pouring the black liquid into it. "You wouldn't by any chance want to let me know how you're smurfing on that secret project of yours, now, would you?"
"Well, we're almost finished with it, Tapper," Papa Smurf answered, taking a sip from his mug after Tapper handed him his brews. "Handy, Miner, and myself will be up all night testing it out."
"Smurfing another all-nighter, eh?" Tapper noted. "I hope this brew will smurf the lads awake long enough to get the job smurfed on your project. Why, this brew is smurfed so strong, it can even put smurf on your chest, I tell you!"
Papa Smurf chuckled at that description while Empath just rolled his eyes. "I'm sure it could, Tapper...I'm sure it could," he said.
"I don't need to have smurf on my chest to be a real McSmurf," Duncan said as he flexed his arm. "I've got enough smurf on my face to give me the smurf that I need."
"This smurf can never understand the need of males to have hair on their bodies to express themselves as being masculine, Tapper," Empath said.
"It's just part of what being a Smurf is, my friend, even when you've become an adult Smurf who's trying to make his smurf in the world," Tapper said. "Not that I fully agree on the idea that being hairy is part of being masculine, you know."
"Aye, but if you're a McSmurf, it surely doesn't hurt a bit," Duncan said.
Papa Smurf looked around and noticed all his little Smurfs were busy trying to entertain themselves as best as they could. Hopefully by tomorrow, he would have his secret project ready to be unveiled.
"Okay, my little Smurfs…it's time for bed," Papa Smurf called out into the room as Tapper rang the last call bell, signaling the closing of his tavern.
Every Smurf groaned as they grabbed their scarves, mittens, earmuffs, and coats before heading out the door -- even the Smurf who was now trying to beat Smurfette's score on the "pinball game". He just knew that someday he was going to reign supreme as the so-called "pinball wizard", even if he wound up being deaf, dumb, and blind. He quietly slunk his way out of the tavern without so much as saying a word to anyone.
Soon there was just Papa Smurf, Empath, Tapper, and Duncan left. "This smurf knows it's your right not to answer my question on this, Papa Smurf," Empath inquired, "and you know that what you tell me will not be spread around to anyone else, but isn't there anything you can tell this smurf about your project?"
Papa Smurf smiled as he shook his head. "Not that I wish to smurf you forever in the dark, Empath, but that's something you'll have to find out along with the other Smurfs when we're good and ready to smurf you." He looked at what Empath was working on. "I can see you're smurfing on something similar to what you're wearing."
"It's a snowsuit for Smurfette, Papa Smurf, similar to this smurf's own bodysuit from Psychelia. In any case, this smurf understands," Empath responded. "This smurf will see you in the morning, hopefully." He nodded to Papa Smurf and said goodnight to Tapper and Duncan before he headed home to continue work on his own thing for Smurfette.
He felt that whatever project Papa Smurf was working on in the meeting house, he would put it out of his mind until it was ready to be revealed.