And so Empath, Tapper, and Duncan started back out into the forest with Nicholas following behind them. They were heading back to the same place where they found the boy in the hopes of accomplishing something that only Empath knew how to do.
"Why are we heading back out into the forest if we don't know how to head back to the village I came from?" Nicholas asked.
"I only wish that I knew firsthand, my young Nicholas," Tapper said.
"Aye, I agree with you there, laddie," Duncan said. "I have no idea what our purpose is for smurfing this way, unless Empath knows something we don't."
They soon reached the spot, and the four of them stopped as Empath touched the ground and scanned it with his telepathic abilities. The three of them waited for what seemed like minutes. And then finally Empath said, "This smurf now knows the path we must take to reach Nicholas' village, my fellow Smurfs."
"You do?" Duncan asked. "Then you should lead the way for us."
"Indeed you shall, my friend," Tapper said. "Hopefully we may reach where we would need to go to smurf the boy home."
They soon treaded on through the snow for what seemed like miles. And then they came across a stranger that was walking towards them. "Nicholas! At last I have found you!" the sranger said.
"You found me?" Nicholas asked, sounding curious. "But I don't know who you are!"
"I have been sent by your father to look through the forest to find you," the stranger said. "You must come with me if you want to live."
"He's not smurfing anywhere without us, to make sure you're smurfing the truth," Duncan said.
"Indeed he is not," Tapper said. "I sense in my spirit that you're not who you claim to be."
"Just who are you exactly?" Empath asked the stranger.
The stranger laughed as he revealed himself. "I am Belial, a servant of the noble lord Lucifer, who has been sent to gather the young boy to my master."
"Belial?" Tapper said. "So it is you that I have been sensing in my spirit that was smurfing after the boy."
"But what do you want with me?" Nicholas asked, sounding fearful. "I'm just a young boy from the village in the north, born the son of a toymaker."
"There's nothing ordinary about you, boy," Belial said. "You will grow up someday to become the greatest toymaker and deliverer of toys to make the children of the world happy around this time of year. You will interfere with my master's plans to ruin the lives of many children and make them miserable."
"Well, you numpty stranger, I sure hope that he smurfs up to smurf just that," Duncan said.
"Nicholas is going home, and you're not going to stop us," Empath said.
"No...he is coming with me, and not any of you are able to stop me," Belial said. And as soon as he spoke, a ring of fire surrounded the five of them as Belial raised his hands and began to summon a portal to the nether region of Tartarus.
"Michty me, laddies, how are we going to stop Belial now?" Duncan asked.
"Do not fear, my friends, for our help smurfs from the One who has smurfed over us during our journey here," Tapper said.
And as soon as Tapper spoke, a whirlwind began to surround the five of them and cause the ring of fire to dissipate. Then as they continued to look, the whirlwind itself dissipated, and they were now surrounded by an army of angels on horseback, each pointing their gleaming swords at Belial.
"Belial, servant of the evil master Lucifer, the Most High bids you to depart and leave this young boy alone, for he is under our protection," one of the angels said in a commanding tone.
Belial looked at the army of angels that surrounded him and began to feel fearful of their presence. "Very well, then...let the Most High have him. But don't think that you have seen the last of me before the Day of Judgment." And with that, Belial wrapped himself inside his cloak and then disappeared.
"Thank you, angels, for protecting us," Tapper said, sounding grateful.
"Thank the Lord Most High, for He is the One who deserves all glory and honor and praise from His creation," one of the angels said.
"We will continue to watch over you during your journey and throughout the rest of your life on this earth, Tapper," another angel said, before the army disappeared from sight.
"Incredible," Nicholas said, sounding awestruck. "Were we actually being protected by angels out here in the forest?"
"That was what you have seen, my young friend," Tapper said. "As long as they continue to watch over us, we will not be alone."
"Whatever they were, we surely won't smurf anymore problems from anyone," Duncan said.
"This smurf suggests we should continue before the day turns into night," Empath said, and so the four of them continued.
By the time nightfall came, after hours of treading through the snowy forest, the four travelers could see something up ahead. "Lights," Empath said.
"Could this be the village where the young lad smurfed from?" Duncan asked.
"I think we should smurf on forward to find out," Tapper said.
And so they walked on closer and closer to the light. And then they came to a clearing where they saw houses that were bigger than Smurf houses. Nicholas saw where he was and recognized it. "You did it, Smurfs! We are home in my village!"
"Aye, those houses surely smurf bigger and stranger than our own houses," Duncan said.
"We should find which one the boy smurfs in soon enough," Tapper said.
The three Smurfs followed Nicholas as he raced through the streets and headed straight for the house which had the shingle of a toymaker hanging over its door. Nicholas pounded on the door furiously. "Mom! Dad! It's me, Nicholas!" he cried out.
The door opened, and his parents greeted the boy at the door. "Nicholas, you're home safe and sound," the father said, giving the boy a hug.
"You had us worried when you were gone in the forest and we couldn't find you," the mother said. "What happened to you?"
"I was found by these little elves in the forest that are called Smurfs," Nicholas answered. And then he looked around and saw that they were gone. "My goodness, I thought they were here beside me."
"You can tell all about that wonderful tale when you sit down for a nice hot meal, Nicholas," the mother said.
"Whoever it was that helped you get home, we are still grateful," the father said as he closed the door behind him.
Empath, Tapper, and Duncan treaded back through the path that they took to the human village to head back to their own village. "I have a feeling that we may have saved a young boy's future," Tapper said.
"Aye, though I wish I could have smurfed something more to have fought off that evil Belial," Duncan said.
"That was a battle that earthly weapons cannot fight, my friend," Tapper said. "Paul the apostle said that we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, rulers of darkness in this world, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realms."
"Well, you seem more capable of smurfing that kind of battle than I am," Duncan said.
"It was something supernatural that was beyond our comprehension to witness, Duncan," Empath said. "This smurf would be interested in knowing more about this faith that Tapper professes to have in this Almighty."
"I would be glad to smurf my knowledge of the Almighty with you, my good Empath," Tapper said.
And so by morning, as the Smurfs got up to prepare themselves for the day's breakfast, they soon saw the three Smurfs entering the village.
"Hey, it's Empath, Tapper, and Duncan!" one of the Smurfs exclaimed.
"They made it back home," another Smurf said.
"I hate not making it back home," Grouchy said.
And as the Smurfs gathered around the three Smurfs that came home, Papa Smurf also came and approached them. "So what happened to Nicholas, my little Smurfs?" he asked.
"We brought him safely home, Papa Smurf, and that mysterious stranger who was after him had disappeared," Empath answered.
"You should have been there, laddies," Duncan said. "We were trapped by a ring of fire smurfed by this evil Belial, and then this army of angels smurfed from heaven and rescued us."
"ANGELS FROM HEAVEN?!?" the Smurfs said in unison.
"Oh, that's just ridiculous!" Brainy said. "They were stranded out in the forest for hours, I'm sure they must have been smurfing a hallucination."
"Uh, I'm not sure that was actually a hallucination, Brainy," Clumsy said.
"And what makes you smurf that, Clumsy?" Brainy asked.
"Uh, because I smurf one of those angels smurfing right outside our village, and smurfing on horseback," Clumsy said.
The Smurfs then heard the brief sound of a horse neighing, and then they turned and saw a mysterious being dressed in white, wearing wings and a halo and riding on a horse. It remained in sight for less than a minute, and then it was gone.
Papa Smurf snorted at the sight. "Well, whatever it was, my little Smurfs, we should be grateful that all is well and that Empath, Tapper, and Duncan have smurfed home safe and sound in time for our holiday celebration."
"YES, PAPA SMURF!!!" all the Smurfs said in unison.
"Well, I don't know about you, but all that smurfing in the forest is making me a little smurfish," Duncan said. "So let's smurf together with our brethren for some breakfast."
"This smurf will be honored to accompany you, Duncan," Empath said. "This smurf is sure that Tapper will also join us at the table for our meal."
"Indeed I will, my friends," Tapper said. "I'm still just marveling at the wonders that the Almighty has smurfed for us tonight on our journey through the forest."
"And I would think that with you miracles like that would be a commonsmurf thing in your life, laddie," Duncan said.
"I'm not saying that they shouldn't be, Duncan," Tapper said. "But to be able to witness that firsthand even for a believer is still enough to smurf my breath away at times."
"Anyway, this smurf wonders if it may be the time in which we should change our celebration of the Winter Solstice to that of Christmas," Empath said.
"All in smurf time, Empath," Tapper said. "I can only pray that we will smurf more of these miracles for our fellow Smurfs to see that this is the season for honoring the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords."
"I'm in no rush to change our holidays anytime soon, laddies, so let's just enjoy what we smurf right here and now," Duncan said.
"This smurf would wholeheartedly agree with you, Duncan," Empath said.
"And so that was how the Smurfs first met Nicholas, with some details that were added by Narrator of things this smurf did not personally witness," Empath said to Polaris.
"This one appreciates your telling of the account, Empath," Polaris said. "It is certainly an interesting encounter that this one wishes to have personally witnessed."
"This smurf knows the sentiment, Polaris," Empath said. "It has certainly helped change how the Smurfs celebrate the holiday season in the Smurf Village."
Soon the orchestral concert had ended, and every Smurf got up and headed back for their homes to rest. But among them Empath and Polaris still did not see Papa Smurf.
"It would seem that this Papa Smurf may be spending his personal time in the Imaginarium doing things that we are not aware of," Polaris said.
"That would be this smurf's guess as well, Polaris," Empath said. "But unless there's a danger in the Smurf Village, this smurf would suggest leaving him alone until he feels ready to rejoin us."
"This one feels like this one has missed out on the privilege of having Papa Smurf being present among us during the celebration of a holiday like this, Empath," Polaris said.
"This smurf apologizes if that's how you feel, Polaris, but at the very least we still have each other as well as the Smurfs who are here with us in the village this season," Empath said.
"For that, at least, this one feels grateful and honored to have been here to celebrate it with you in person," Polaris said.
"It is this smurf's pleasure, Polaris," Empath said, as they looked up together at the starry sky that glittered with stars above them.