Empath again saw in his minds-eye Papa Smurf and the four other Smurfs as they were dumped into the dark bowels of the castle. Then the vision disappeared. Fortunately, it has led him to the castle that he saw on the ground in the center of the Crossroads Of The World, a place that he remembered Grandpa Smurf talk about constantly that led him to various places in the world.
Empath saw Grandpa Smurf's magic balloon still tethered to the spire of the highest tower and realized that Grandpa Smurf must also be there, so now he had to rescue Grandpa Smurf in addition to Papa Smurf and the four other Smurfs -- not that Grandpa Smurf needed to be constantly rescued. Even without a minds-eye, the elderly Smurf still managed to get out of some tough scrapes with only his wits, which always impressed Empath when he heard Grandpa's tales.
Empath flew down low and tried to enter the castle through the gate. This time, however, one of the stone hands that had captured the two travelers earlier on and tossed them inside the castle had now closed its fist hard around Empath, trying to stop him from entering.
"What do we have here?" the voice of the castle spoke. "An intruder? Someone who actually has power to try freeing my captives? No matter...you will not be entering my gate anytime soon...and you will not take whatever belongs to me out of it!"
With that, the closed stone hand fist now opened, and the other stone hand emerged to flick Empath away with such force that he ended up in the forest surrounding the Crossroads.
Empath decided he will try to race his way into the castle with such speed that it won't be able to stop him. He used his minds-eye to boost his naturally fast running speed up to levels far beyond a normal Smurf, such as during the time when he was racing with the Hyperions around the world. However, even at that speed, as Empath approached the gate, the castle ejected him with such force that it flung him back into the forest.
Empath tried to fly high above the castle to find any way in, but the castle seemed to be expecting every move he would make and was using its gargoyles to shoot powerful repellent beams to knock him back onto the ground and back outside the castle.
Empath sighed as he stood outside the castle gate, watching the castle laugh at his failed efforts. It seemed to enjoy keeping him at bay while keeping whatever was trapped within its walls inside.
"Empath, I never thought that I would smurf you here," another voice joined in.
Empath turned and saw Snappy approaching. "Snappy, how long have you been waiting around?"
"Long enough that I got tired of smurfing in Wild's treehouse and smurfed down to see if I can help," Snappy answered. "It doesn't seem to like you trying to smurf in there to smurf anything."
"Apparently not, Snappy," Empath replied. "This castle seems to have an intelligence and a power capable of animating anything within its vicinity for its own purposes. We're going to need to know more about what we're dealing with in order to rescue our fellow Smurfs."
"Fat chance," Snappy huffed. "The only one who possibly smurfs more about this place is already in there in deeper smurf than I want to get mysmurf into."
"Maybe not," Empath mused. "Editor is always looking through the mirror net for something he can report on. Perhaps he can find something mentioned by some wizard that has come across something like this. It's worth having him look into it."
Back in the village, Editor is busy at his desk writing what he has seen with the strange-colored sky on his magic typewriter when Empath communicated to him through his thoughts. Salutations, fellow Editor. This smurf will have need of your skills on the mirror net.
I'm rather busy smurfing on an article for tomorrow's paper, Editor replied. Is this really important?
We have six Smurfs who are trapped in this castle that appeared in the Crossroads Of The World that Grandpa Smurf talks about, and the only one who knows about it is trapped inside, Empath responded. It is imperative that we find out something about that castle. Do a search on the Crossroads Of The World.
Hold on, Empath, I'm smurfing it up right now. Editor then typed it into his magical typewriter and waited for the response. He found something mentioned about the Crossroads Of The World that he found interesting.
Empath, that place used to be the spot of a castle situated within easy access to all known areas of the world, Editor commented. It used to belong to an evil powerful wizard named Capturion who smurfed his magic to make the castle smurf his evil bidding. It captured whatever entered its gates and smurfed them into more of his evil minions. One day somebody had smurfed into his castle and caused it to vanish so that Capturion wouldn't use it to smurf anymore visitors. However, legend smurfs it that Capturion's spirit still smurfs inside its walls and became one with the castle itsmurf.
Empath began to wonder. If Capturion's spirit is still alive and animating the entire castle, then it would stop at nothing to continue capturing victims and keeping them trapped forever. Could there be a way to distract the spirit of the castle so that he could get all the Smurfs trapped in there out?
Snappy looked at Empath as he pondered the situation. "Do we have a way that we can rescue the other Smurfs if we can't smurf in there to do it?" he asked.
"There might be a way, Snappy, but there's no certainty of knowing of whether it will work or not," Empath answered.
Cadence, Nimble, Prince Paisley, and Baron Wattnot were busy doing some mopping inside a room in the lowest parts of the dungeon. "I tell you, Nimble, that this is where we're going to be if we don't find a way to escape this castle," Cadence said.
"But how can we escape, when none of us in this castle were able to?" Nimble asked. "And even if we're able to escape, how much of the world will change between now and then? Will the prince and the baron still have a kingdom to claim once they leave here?"
"It doesn't matter to me if there is a kingdom left for me to claim, as long as escaping this dreadful place is all that matters to me," Prince Paisley said.
Soon the four humans saw that the door opened, and the two Smurfs had entered the room they were working in. Cadence and Nimble were startled to see the door just open at first, and then see the two Smurfs entering.
"Don't be afraid, my friends," Prince Paisley said. "It's only our dear friend Nanny Smurf."
"And this must be her friend Grandpa Smurf, whom we have heard so much about," Baron Wattnot said as he got a closer look at Nanny's companion.
"Yeah, well, she's a great storyteller, I can smurf you," Grandpa Smurf said.
Prince Paisley was in tears when he saw Nanny. "Thank goodness that you're all right," he said, extending a hand out to her. "I thought we'd never see each other again."
"It'll take more than what this castle can smurf at me to keep me from smurfing my friends in here," Nanny said.
"We'd better hurry," Baron Wattnot said as he noticed that the walls of the castle were starting to become translucent. "The castle walls are starting to disappear." At the same time, the chains on the walls started to come alive, as if they were ready to latch onto anything that came close to them.
"You'll never escape Castle Captor," the castle said as the four humans backed away from the walls in fear. "When I disappear from this world, you will also disappear as well, and here you will always remain."
"The rest of you go ahead," Nanny said as the four humans started to leave the room. "I'm not leaving here until I find my special friend."
"We'll see you when we get outside, Nanny," Prince Paisley said as he was the last one to leave.
Grandpa Smurf found himself fighting against the chains that were attacking him, using his walking stick as a sword to knock back the cuffs. "You go ahead too, Grampers," Nanny said as she was waiting by the door for him.
"No way, Nanny," Grandpa Smurf said as he continued to fight back against the chains. "I'm not going to let you out of my sight. The last time we got separated, you took a 500-year powder on me."
"Well, let's stop playing around and let's get smurfing, then," Nanny said, and so Grandpa Smurf followed right behind her as they both left the room.
In a darkened room somewhere in the castle, Brainy looked around and saw that there was one more pair of eyes looking around. "Papa Smurf, how did the six of us ever smurf into this mess?" he asked.
"Six?" Papa Smurf responded. "But there was only five of us that smurfed into the castle to find Grandpa Smurf."
"So where did the sixth one smurf from, Pappy Smurf?" Sassette asked.
Hefty opened the shutters of a window so they could have some light to see. As soon as Brainy's eyes got adjusted to the light again, he saw that there were indeed five Smurfs...and a small pink creature that almost resembled a rabbit.
Brainy became instantly frightened for a moment. "Help, Papa Smurf," he yelped, hiding behind Papa Smurf. "I don't know what that thing is, but it certainly looks dangerous."
"Smoogle smoogle smoogle," the creature cried out.
"Oh, Brainy, don't be such a scaredy-smurf," Sassette said as she got closer to the creature. "It's just a harmless pink whatever-this-thing-is with long ears, that's all."
"I'll try to communicate with it, so he knows that we're not a threat," Wild said, and so in his normal animal chatter, Wild spoke unto the creature, who then spoke back in the same kind of language. "It says that his name of Smoogle, and he's been in this place for a long time," he told the other Smurfs.
"A long time?" Brainy said, still sounding fearful. "It's still a long time for him to become dangerous."
"Calm down, Brainy," Papa Smurf said soothingly. "Maybe he could help us escape from this castle."
"There's no escape from Castle Captor, my friends," the castle said as the door opened and one of the armored guards entered the room. "It's time for you all to earn your keep."
"What do we do now, Pappy Smurf?" Sassette asked as Smoogle hid behind her. "Empath isn't even here to help us escape."
Smoogle decided to act. He stepped out from behind Sassette and made a sound like that of a creaking door, which made the armored guard turn his head to see where it was coming from. With the guard distracted, Smoogle then curled himself up into a ball and rolled straight into the guard, knocking him down.
"Amazing," Papa Smurf said as he watched what Smoogle did. "He just imitated the sound of a door smurfing shut. Perhaps he can be useful in helping us smurf our way out of here."
Suddenly the five Smurfs could feel the entire castle rumble underneath their feet, and as they tried to keep their balance, Hefty noticed something. "Either my eyes need a rest or things in this castle are starting to fade away, including us."
"Oh, don't you worry about your eyes," the castle spoke. "Here in Castle Captor, you'll get plenty of rest as in a matter of minutes, you'll get to join me in a nice 500-year vacation."
Brainy gasped as he and the Smurfs continued to watch the castle fade in and out. "500 years? But the Smurf Village will never last that long without my wit and wisdom!"
"Pappy, look outside," Sassette cried out as she watched through the fading walls. "It's Empath and Snappy!"
"Great Smurfness!" Papa Smurf exclaimed. "If there was only something he could do to help us escape..."
Smoogle stood at the open doorway and chirped out something that made the Smurfs direct their attention towards him. "He must have found a way out for us," Papa Smurf said. "Hurry, my little Smurfs, let's follow that Smoogle."
The five Smurfs followed right behind Smoogle as he led them down a corridor away from the room they were in.
Empath and Snappy were outside the castle when they saw it starting to fade in and out. "Great Smurfness, what's happening, Empath?" Snappy asked.
"The castle seems to be losing its physical permanence in this realm, Snappy," Empath said. "It may be a matter of time before the castle itself disappears along with whoever is still inside it."
"There's got to be a way to keep this castle from smurfing all those Smurfs who are trapped inside it, isn't there?" Snappy asked.
"This smurf senses that they're not the only ones inside the castle," Empath said. "There are also four humans who are trying to make their escape, but the castle seems to be doing everything to keep them from reaching the exit."
"So who are we going to help rescue...the Smurfs or the humans?" Snappy asked.
"This smurf would want to help everyone who is inside the castle, Snappy, but if we're going to engage in a mindlink, it would only last long enough to help a few people escape," Empath said. "And right now it seems that those humans would need the help more than the Smurfs do."
Snappy heaved a heavy sigh. "I don't want to lose Papa Smurf or the others, Empath."
"This smurf understands how you feel, Snappy," Empath said consolingly. "If there's any way that we can also help the other Smurfs escape, we will try to find a way to accomplish that goal as well."