Part 4

Empath, Brainy, and Duncan flew together on Feathers toward Hogatha's castle, eager to find out what the evil witch is up to now that she is using a magic spell on Smurfette to make herself beautiful. They arrived and landed on a high window where they saw her make final preparations for her evening out of the castle, and they couldn't believe who it was they were seeing in Hogatha's castle.
"Michty me, laddies...that can't be Hogatha the witch in that beautiful dress," Duncan said.
"If you ask me, Duncan, she doesn't look quite as beautiful as some of our human female friends," Brainy said.
"This smurf seems admittedly surprised by how this Hogatha looks now, even if it's at the expense of Smurfette's life," Empath said.
"So how are we going to get that hag to change Smurfette back?" Duncan asked.
"It would be best for us to find out where she intends to go with her new appearance, Duncan, and then follow her around until we can seek an opportunity for us to get Hogatha to remove the spell," Empath said.
"I just hope that it isn't going to be far," Brainy said with some foreboding. "Even now I'm beginning to think that we're not going to succeed with this plan."
"If I knew you were going to be so pessimistic, Brainy, we should have smurfed you at home and brought Grouchy with us instead," Duncan said. "Besides, you're the smart Smurf...you're supposed to be the one who can come up with a plan."
"Well, the only smart plan I can think of right now is to follow Empath's lead and see where Hogatha will smurf us, Duncan," Brainy said.
"Please keep the conversation down, or else we'll never find out what Hogatha is even planning at this moment," Empath warned the other two Smurfs.
As the three Smurfs became silent, they listened to Hogatha speaking. "Oh, tonight, Harlequin, you sorcerous studmuffin, tonight you're going to meet the enchantress of your dreams. We'll have a dance or two at the Wizard's Ball, where everyone who is a famous wizard or witch is likely to show up. We'll talk about all the little things that make up our lives, and then later on we'll retire to my lair where we will spend a quiet evening together, making magic under the moon and the stars. And even if all we have is just one evening of pleasure between ourselves...well, it will certainly be more than what those other hags have had in a lifetime."
Harold squawked what sounded like an "oh boy" as if he heard all this before from his mistress.
Soon the grandfather clock chimed the current hour. "Oh, dearest me, the ball is just starting to get underway," Hogatha said to herself. "Well, enough preparations...I am sure that Harlequin will truly like what he sees, and it's all thanks to a little blue beauty in the forest who's going to wish for the days of her youth to return again." She stuck two fingers in her mouth and whistled, summoning her flying tapestry to appear before she stepped on board. "Keep watch over the roost while I'm gone, Harold. I should be back home before midnight."
The three Smurfs watched as Hogatha flew off on her flying tapestry through an open window. "So this witch has a date with a suitor at this Wizard's Ball," Duncan said. "What a fine way to smurf her evening with Smurfette's beauty."
"This smurf is curious to find out about this Harlequin that she's meeting with, Duncan," Empath said.
"Well, didn't Smurfette say that Hogatha met him a few years ago and promised to smurf Gargamel her magic whistle if she did meet him?" Brainy asked.
"Smurfs how much you know, Brainy," Duncan said. "Gargamel was the one who smurfed up at her door dressed up as that dream wizard and smurfed the magic whistle from her, only that it smurfs out to be her bird call."
"We can discuss about what happened in the past later," Empath said. "For now, let's follow Hogatha to the Wizard's Ball and see for ourselves the mysterious suitor she's encountering."
"Ready whenever you are, Empath," Duncan said, as the three climbed on board Feathers and took off to follow Hogatha.

At the Grand Hall Of Sorcerers, there was a lot of commotion going on as the Wizard's Ball was taking place on its hallowed grounds. Wizards and witches mingled with each other and danced to tunes that were provided by magical minstrels who were just as talented at music as they were at magic. Everyone seemed to have a fun time...that is, everyone but a bearded man who just looked out of a window at the night sky looking rather lonely.
"Quite a little soiree we've got going here, haven't we, Harlequin?" the host of the ball asked to draw the man's attention away from the window.
The bearded man named Harlequin sighed. "I must hand it to you, Mezmaron, that this event will certainly be the talk of the year."
"You're still waiting for that enchantress you invited through Magebook to arrive, aren't you...the woman who claims to be a ravishing beauty beyond compare and yet you know so little about her," Mezmaron said, sounding concerned. "Why not dance with any of the eligible young maidens and keep them company instead of waiting for this fantasy woman who may not even show up?"
"There's something about her that's just different from all the other sorceresses, Mezmaron, I can feel it," Harlequin said. "I don't know what it is about her that makes her so captivating, but it's something that I'm not likely to find in any of those young women who would want so much to spend the night with me."
"Well, if your fantasy woman doesn't arrive, I wouldn't want you to waste your entire evening just looking out the window and feeling sorry for yourself," Mezmaron said before he walked off.
Harlequin sighed. He knew Mezmaron meant well, but he wanted so much to meet this Hogatha that he had only met through the social network and felt that he would be greatly disappointed if she didn't arrive or something terrible happened to her.
He looked up at the night sky and saw a woman flying across the moon on what appeared to be a magic carpet. His heart leaped when he saw the figure of the woman and wondered if this could be Hogatha arriving at the ball like she promised.
He turned away from the window to walk toward the entrance of the grand hall, and appearing there was a young beautiful woman with orange flowing hair. "Hogatha?" Harlequin asked.
"So you must be Harlequin the Great," Hogatha said, sounding rather nervous in his presence.
"I didn't think that you would show up, but I must admit that you look just as beautiful as I have imagined," Harlequin said.
Hogatha smiled. "Oh, it's nothing, really. Just one of the burdens of being who I am, as I'm sure it must be one of yours to be so handsome."
"How about a little refreshment before we share a dance together?" Harlequin asked, taking her hand.
Hogatha nodded, but didn't say anything. Her eyes were captivated by Harlequin's staring into hers as they walked into the grand hall together and joined the others at the refreshment table.

Empath, Brainy, and Duncan arrived at the grand hall soon after, with Feathers landing on the roof and Empath lowering them onto a high enough window so that they could enter and observe the activities of the ball without being seen.
"Smurf at all those people who are attending this party," Brainy said. "We'd be lucky if we can smurf out Hogatha and her dream date from among the crowd."
"It's a good thing that we can't be seen from here, Brainy, since we're only three apples tall," Empath said.
"Aye, but what I wouldn't give to smurf as big as them giants one of these days," Duncan said. "Trying to smurf among them in their world at our size certainly isn't a picnic."
"If Mother Nature intended for Smurfs to be as big as humans, Duncan, she wouldn't have created us so that we'd have to smurf our days in a mushroom village away from humans," Brainy said. "Besides, as Papa Smurf always says,..."
"Look, Brainy, we didn't smurf all the way out here just to listen to you smurfing on about what Papa Smurf says," Duncan said, sounding rather impatient. "We're not idiots or children who always need to be reminded of..."
"There she is," Empath pointed out, interrupting the two Smurfs. Brainy and Duncan looked in the direction that Empath was pointing in, and sure enough they saw Hogatha dancing with a bearded man who looked a little like Gargamel.
"Michty me, I don't believe it!" Duncan exclaimed, surprised by who he was seeing with Hogatha.
"That man is Harlequin?" Brainy said, also sounding surprised.
"It would appear so, my fellow Smurfs," Empath said. "Despite any similarities he may have with Gargamel, this smurf believes it would be best for us to observe what those two will be doing together and then plan our next move from there."
"I'd rather that witch would start to feel uncomfortable with us smurfing around like this, as a reminder of whose beauty she's smurfing as her own," Duncan said.
"I couldn't agree with you more on that sentiment, Duncan," Brainy said. "After all, true beauty smurfs more than just skin deep, and true beauty smurfs much from the mind as it smurfs from the eye, and wisdom is the abstract of the past but beauty is the..."
Duncan discreetly knocked Brainy off the windowsill, causing him to land in a bush outside the grand hall. Empath looked back toward Duncan to see where Brainy was, and Duncan simply answered with a shrug.
"Some Smurfs just don't appreciate the meaning of true beauty," Brainy groaned as he pulled himself out of the bush and tried to climb back up to the windowsill.

Meanwhile, back in the Smurf Village, Tapper was entertaining Smurfette with the stories from his holy book about the humans Ruth and Esther, which Smurfette found both interesting and romantic, even though she admittedly wasn't very familiar with either of the main characters and their place among the other characters from the holy book.
Then Tapper noticed something about Smurfette that was drawing her attention away from listening. "My dear Smurfette, is there something on your mind that you're smurfing about right now?" he asked politely.
"I was just thinking of Hogatha being happy with herself with whatever she's smurfing tonight while I'm smurfing at home feeling sorry for myself and not wanting to smurf myself to any Smurf because of how I look now," Smurfette answered, her voice sounding much older than it was hours before.
"I feel a bit of sorrow for the old witch because of her situation, Smurfette, but that doesn't mean that I condone whatever it is she smurfed to you to make herself feel better," Tapper said.
"What is it that I have done that I deserve to smurf like this while she gets to smurf so beautiful, Tapper?" Smurfette asked. "And what's worse, smurfing my youth and beauty just so she could smurf that way herself. I wish that I could smurf up to her right now and make her smurf back what she smurfed from me."
"I understand that you're angry with Hogatha, and I don't blame you for it," Tapper said. "But do you really want her to feel just as bad as you do now in order to make yourself feel any better?"
"She doesn't care what any of us feels, Tapper," Smurfette said, finding herself breaking into tears. "If she wants to feel beautiful at our expense, what's to keep her from smurfing that besides Empath or Papa Smurf?"
Tapper sighed, feeling that he needed to soothe this situation without getting preachy. "All I can smurf right at this moment are two broken people...you and Hogatha. I honestly don't know what's happened to Hogatha that has led her into always smurfing after us for making herself beautiful, but somewhere along the line she must have felt as if life had smurfed her a terrible fate that she wishes she could undo. I wish that I could smurf Hogatha something in her life that would smurf her the peace that she desmurfs to have, but she must be willing to receive that gift herself. Nobody can force her to smurf anything that she doesn't want to smurf. And neither can I smurf the same to you."
Smurfette looked at her hands and then at Tapper. "I only wish that I could be as caring as you are, Tapper. I don't know how you are able to smurf things about people like Hogatha that the other Smurfs can't smurf."
"I care about them because the Almighty cares about me as well as He cares about them also," Tapper said. "And even if you don't consider me as the Smurf you would want to smurf your heart to for all time, I will always care for you the same way."
Smurfette smiled, feeling a little better about herself. "It's a good thing that you're here with me tonight, Tapper. I don't want you to feel that it's burden to smurf you away from the tavern just to smurf after me like this."
"Aye, it's not a burden that I'm not willing to carry, Smurfette," Tapper said. "Besides, my friend Slugger has proven himself to be good at smurfing the customers what they want, even if all he has to tell them are stories about his sports games."
"Slugger is running the tavern?" Smurfette said. "Oh, I wish that I could be there to smurf it for myself...if it weren't for how I'm smurfing tonight."
"It doesn't matter to me how beautiful you smurf on the outside, Smurfette," Tapper said. "All that I can smurf in you is the beautiful spirit that you have within, and I would never want to see that spirit smurf away from you."
"You think the other Smurfs would mind if I smurfed in for a bit just to see how things are smurfing?" Smurfette asked.
"I would gladly be your escort tonight, Smurfette, if that's what you desire," Tapper said, taking Smurfette's hand and helping her out of her chair to step out into the evening.

At the Wizard's Ball, Harlequin and Hogatha took a break from dancing and went outside the grand hall for a bit of fresh air and a private talk, neither of them noticing that Empath, Brainy, and Duncan were trailing them every step of the way.
"Now that we're alone, I would like to hear more about you, what you do all by yourself in that private chateau of yours," Harlequin said.
"Oh, me, I'm just a humble maker of cosmetic spells," Hogatha said. "You know, a witch has got to look her best if she wants to meet a warlock that she would want to marry someday."
"Whatever spells you've been using, you certainly have kept yourself looking so beautiful for a woman your age," Harlequin said. "I'm sure the world over would want to know your beauty secrets."
"Beauty secrets?" Hogatha said. "Oh, sure I do. I wouldn't want to keep the secret of my long-lasting beauty all to myself. Of course, if I gave away all my secrets, that would ruin the mystique, wouldn't it?"
"You have nothing to hide from me, my dear," Harlequin said. "Whatever it is that has made you this beautiful, I will make sure nobody else will hear about it."
Hogatha felt like she could tell Harlequin anything, but still she felt somewhat uncomfortable, and as she looked around briefly, she could see why. She spotted what appeared to be three Smurfs standing on the roof of the grand hall's porch, looking down upon her as if to remind her about what it is she has done.
"Oh, why should we waste this night on useless talk?" Hogatha said, sounding as if she was eager to get going somewhere. "Come, let us go somewhere that we don't have to waste our time with words or have other people look at us."
"You want to leave the party now?" Harlequin asked. "I'll be happy to escort you home, if only to see where it is that a maker of beauty spells even lives."
"I'd never thought you would be this chivalrous to me," Hogatha said. "Shall I fetch my ride, or shall we take yours?"
"Allow me to do the honors, my dear," Harlequin said. And with a wave of his hands, a magic carpet appeared from out of nowhere with sumptuous cushions for the both of them to sit on.
"Why, Harlequin, you really know how to treat a woman," Hogatha said as she and Harlequin got on board the magic carpet before it took off into the sky.
"It seems that Hogatha wants Harlequin to spend a night with her in her castle," Empath said to both Brainy and Duncan.
"That's certainly a picture that I don't want smurfing in my head, laddie," Duncan said.
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Brainy said, sounding insistent. "Let's smurf after them and see if we can't get Hogatha to reverse the spell."
"It will be risky, Brainy, but it doesn't seem like we have much of a choice now," Empath said as the three of them got back onto Feathers and flew off.

Soon Hogatha and Harlequin had reached her castle, after which Hogatha had used her magic to seal up all the doors and windows.
"I don't understand why you've done that right now, Hogatha," Harlequin said. "Are you trying to keep me from leaving?"
"Of course not, silly," Hogatha said. "It's to keep anyone else from entering to see what we're doing...now that we're alone together."
"You are a forceful one indeed," Harlequin said. "I should have known that a woman like you would not so easily surrender what she has in her hands. You would surely make an excellent wife for a sorcerer who's just as direct and forward as you are."
"Are you proposing that we should be married?" Hogatha said. "Because I would say yes to you if that's what you're asking."
"I would not be so quick as to ask anyone that I have not had the chance to spend an evening with that sort of question yet, Hogatha," Harlequin said.
"Oh, I bet you say that to all the women you've met in your travels," Hogatha said as she pressed herself closer to Harlequin.
"Actually, you're the only woman that I ever had the pleasure of saying it to," Harlequin said, as he leaned his face toward hers and kissed her on the mouth.
Hogatha moaned in ecstasy at the pleasure of having her first kiss with Harlequin. "I would love for you to show me what else you can do to a woman this evening," she said after the kiss ended.
"I will show you everything that I have planned for you, my dear," Harlequin said as he drew her close to him again and kissed.

Empath, Brainy, and Duncan arrived at Hogatha's castle a little later than they expected, only to notice something wrong. "Michty me, laddies, look at what Hogatha's smurfed to her windows and doors," Duncan pointed out.
Empath saw for himself that the doors and windows of Hogatha's castle were sealed shut. "Great Ancestors! Hogatha must have known that we were coming for her."
"Now how are we going to get her to remove the spell from Smurfette?" Brainy asked.
"This smurf doesn't know, Brainy, but at least we could stop by and listen to whatever is going on in her castle to find out what's happening," Empath said.
Feathers landed on the windowsill, and the three Smurfs jumped off and put their ears near the shutters to listen to any noise or conversation going on inside the castle. Soon they could hear giggles and breathing noises that suggested something of an intimate nature taking place.
"Ah, it figures that we would have to smurf here in time just to listen to Hogatha smurfing under Harlequin's hat," Duncan said.
"Duncan McSmurf, you should know by now that humans aren't generally known for smurfing hats like we do," Brainy said.
"It's a smurfy figure of speech, you idiot," Duncan said. "You don't know how Smurfs do it by now, I'm not going to be the one who will educate you."
"This smurf seems to understand what you mean, Duncan," Empath said. "It is becoming apparent that our efforts to get Hogatha to remove the spell from Smurfette herself are becoming useless."
"Does this mean we're going to give up smurfing after Hogatha now, Empath?" Brainy asked.
"As much as this smurf would want to interrupt her intimate activity with Harlequin in order to get what we want, her magic is the only thing that's stopping us from achieving that goal," Empath said.
"The poor little lassie's not going to like smurfing the news that we failed to smurf back her youth and beauty from the witch," Duncan said with a heavy sigh.
"This smurf will handle delivering the news to Smurfette, Duncan," Empath said. "For now, let's return home and leave the two sorcerers to their personal affairs."
The three Smurfs got back onto Feathers and flew off toward the Smurf Village.