The next thing Empath knew when he woke up, he was inside a prison -- a dark, dank prison where the air reeked of mildew and fungus. He felt like every part of him was hurting, and even worse, he couldn't sense anything with his telepathy, much less use his telekinesis to get himself out. It was like being trapped in a whole other world with strange creatures being a part of it. He knew that there had to be some way to escape, but right now he just couldn't think of where he would be able to go if he could.
As his eyes got adjusted to the dark, he saw a shadowy figure in a hood approaching him from within his cell. "Who are you? And what do you want?" he asked.
"Shhhh, be quiet," the figure said in a whispery voice. "I am only here to help you."
Empath had a feeling that the owner of the voice was a female. "Smurfette, is that you?" he asked as he tried to get a better look at who he was talking to.
"I am not her," the figure answered. "My name is Chamelianne, and I am part of a small resistance group of Wartmongers that live within the swamp."
"You mean that there are other Wartmongers that live in the swamp besides King Bullrush and his people in the palace?" Empath asked, sounding curious.
"There are others, but our people live so segregated from one another for many years, with the males having more privilege in our society than the females," Chamelianne replied.
"That doesn't sound like an ideal kind of society, but what do you want me to do?" Empath asked.
"First of all, we need to escape," Chamelianne said. "Then you can see for yourself what kind of lives the female Wartmongers live apart from the males."
"How does this smurf know that this isn't some sort of a trap?" Empath asked, sounding a bit reluctant.
"You can either take your chance and escape with me, or you can face living in this dungeon for however long King Bullrush will permit you to live," Chamelianne answered. "The choice is yours."
Empath pondered the choice for a moment, and then decided, "If you're the only one who knows how to escape this dungeon, then this one will cast my fate with you."
Chamelianne smiled. "There's a secret passage that we can use that's hidden under the floor. I will show you where it is."
With that, Chamelianne reached down into the murky floor and pulled a chain that was attached to a plug. Empath could then see a hole in the floor when the plug was pulled.
"It smells like this leads down into a tunnel for channeling sewage," Empath said as he peeked down the hole and noticed the rank odor that came from within.
"It's our only way of escape from this cell," Chamelianne said. "It's not going to be pretty, but it will save our lives. Are you ready to join me?"
"This smurf doesn't seem to have a better choice at hand, Chamelianne," Empath said. He allowed his female companion to descend into the hole first before he also went down.
The tunnel seemed darker than the dungeon that he was in, and smelled a lot worse the further he went. He tried to keep himself from vomiting as he continued to follow Chamelianne to wherever it is she was leading him.
"This tunnel seems to go on forever, Chamelianne," Empath said after a while. "Are we getting close to the exit?"
"It's not far now, my friend," Chamelianne answered. Then finally they reached what appeared to be a gate. "This is it. I just need to open the sluice gate and we'll finally be free."
She pulled on a chain to open the gate, and soon Empath could see light coming from the other side. He could also see that there was a large pool of what appeared to be excrement below him, and the smell of it was so potent that it was making him feel dizzy.
"We'll have to use the ledges if we want to make it to the other side of this cesspool," Chamelianne warned. "It will be difficult, but it will not be impossible."
Empath followed Chamelianne as they carefully inched their way across the ledge that circled around the cesspool, trying to keep himself from falling off at any given moment. It was difficult for him to maintain balance, as he didn't have the same kind of feet as a Wartmonger, but he did the best that he could.
Soon they came to where they could safely jump down onto solid ground. "Use this robe to disguise yourself," Chamelianne said, producing a robe after they had jumped down from the ledge. "That will keep you from being instantly recognized around here."
"Is there any place that we can go to to hide ourselves should King Bullrush send his guards to come looking for us?" Empath asked.
"There is a place in the Warrens we can go to, which is where my old nanny Amphibia lives," Chamelianne answered. "She's a tough old sort who has no love for the king."
Empath tried to follow Chamelianne, but he started feeling so dizzy that he collapsed on the ground. Chamelianne picked him up and carried him to wherever it was she was taking him.
King Bullrush was resting in his sleeping quarters when the guards came into the room to awaken him. "Your Majesty, the Smurf that we have captured has escaped from the dungeon."
King Bullrush seem irritated by the news. "Escaped? How did that happen?"
"We don't know who's responsible, but it's likely that he left through the sewer tunnels that run underneath the dungeons," the guard answered.
King Bullrush had a feeling he knew who was responsible, but said nothing about that. Instead, he told the guard, "Go out and take as any men as possible to find Empath and whoever else is responsible for his escape. I want him to be taken alive and brought back to the castle as soon as possible. Do you understand?"
"Yes, your Highness, we will bring back your prisoner," the guard said before he left the sleeping quarters.
Papa Smurf, Hefty, Tuffy, and Duncan had entered Pussywillow Hollow and were now making their way through the giant flora in order to find their friends, the Pussywillow Pixies.
"I don't get what's so important about that star-smurfed showoff that the Wartmongers want to have anything to smurf with him," Hefty said.
"That's what we're here to find out, laddie," Duncan said.
"Somebody among the Wartmongers must know about Empath well enough to be able to smurf something like this, Hefty," Papa Smurf said. "If they are able to smurf him into somebody they can use to capture the Pussywillow Pixies, who's to say that he will stop at smurfing them?"
"I don't smurf what's so important about what the Wartmongers want with the Pussywillow Pixies anyhow," Tuffy said.
"The Wartmongers and the Pussywillow Pixies have been constant enemies ever since the hollow smurfed into being, Tuffy," Papa Smurf said. "If there's anything that the Wartmongers don't like, it's anything that smurfs in the hollow that they can't control."
"I sure don't blame the pixies for not wanting the Wartmongers to smurf control over them, Papa," Duncan said.
"Well, why don't the pixies just simply leave the hollow, Papa Smurf?" Hefty asked.
"This hollow has been their home, Hefty, and besides that, it's also part of a whole other world that they can never permanently leave, much like the Wartmongers are also part of it," Papa Smurf said.
"That's terrible that the pixies can't leave this world, Papa Smurf," Tuffy said.
"Aye, I sure don't want to be always smurfing on the run from those Wartmongers if I were them," Duncan said in agreement with Tuffy.
"Here we are, my little Smurfs," Papa Smurf said, as he saw the Pussywillow Pixies in their part of the hollow, tending to their normal everyday business.
"Mother Elderberry, look...it's the Smurfs," Holly said as she and her fellow pixies saw the four Smurfs approaching.
"For hollow's sake, Papa Smurf, what brings you here to visit us?" Elderberry asked.
"We are looking for one of my little Smurfs who may have been smurfed into the hollow by the Wartmongers, possibly one who knows magic," Papa Smurf explained.
"A Wartmonger that knows magic?" Lilac said, sounding like she couldn't believe what she was hearing.
"We do hear rumors that there's a Wartmonger who works in Toad Castle as a magician, but why would he go out of his way to use magic to capture one of your Smurfs?" Pansy asked.
"Yeah, and what's so special about that Smurf that they need to capture him?" Bramble added.
"Well, there's a surprise...none of the Pussywillow Pixies have ever smurfed of Empath before," Hefty said.
"You see, Empath is a very special Smurf because he was smurfed with telepathic and telekinetic abilities," Papa Smurf explained. "He had smurfed most of his years in Psychelia so he could smurf control over those abilities."
"Gosh, and now you think that the Wartmongers may have captured him?" Acorn said. "What would they want to do with Empath?"
"Don't you know anything, honey child?" Lilac said. "The Wartmongers want to capture us, and they'll probably use him to do that."
"That's what we're here for, lassies...to keep Empath from smurfing that to you and to unsmurf whatever they may be smurfing to him to smurf that," Duncan said.
"We were hoping that it would never have to smurf to that, my friends, but as long as you're in danger from the Wartmongers, we can't smurf any chances that they may be using Empath for that purpose," Papa Smurf said.
"I understand, Papa Smurf," Elderberry said. "We want to be able to help you in any way possible to get Empath back from the Wartmongers and undo whatever magic they may be using on him."
"But Mother Elderberry, what if we can't undo the magic that is used on Empath?" Holly asked. "What then?"
"We're going to stop Empath one way or another, pixies, whatever it smurfs," Hefty said as he rubbed his fists together, preparing himself for a fight.
"I kinda like Empath myself, but I don't want to see any of you get smurfed by him," Tuffy said.
"We will smurf our best to keep Empath from being a danger, even if I don't fully approve of how we may have to smurf it, Elderberry," Papa Smurf said with a heavy sigh.
Back in the village, Smurfette paid Tapper a visit in his tavern. "Greetings, my dear Smurfette," he said in a cordial manner as he saw her enter. "What smurfs to be on your mind lately?"
"I hear that Empath has been magically smurfnapped, and that he may be in the smurfs of those awful Wartmongers," Smurfette said. "I can only wonder what they want to smurf with him."
"Your guess is as smurf as mine, Smurfette, though from what I hear of the Wartmongers, they're not exactly friends with either the Smurfs or the Pussywillow Pixies they are constantly after," Tapper said.
"I don't understand why the Wartmongers hate the Pussywillow Pixies so much just because of how they want to smurf, Tapper," Smurfette said.
"I'm afraid that is one question that I cannot smurf a good answer for, my dear Smurfette," Tapper said. "As long as there are different smurfs of people in this world, there will always be those who hate people that are not like them in some way. Diversity is something that not many people can handle, including us Smurfs at times. It smurfs a different set of eyes to see others not just by how different they are from ourselves, but also how similar they are to ourselves, and that all they want is to smurf their lives in peace as long as they are not smurfing harm upon others."
"It just makes me angry that the Wartmongers don't want to let the Pussywillow Pixies smurf in peace, and even more so knowing that there's nothing I can smurf about it," Smurfette said.
"I understand how you feel, Smurfette, and I don't blame you for that," Tapper said. "The frustration that I feel when Smurfs don't want to hear the gospel that could save them can be a very load to smurf at times, but I know that I'm not alone with feeling this frustration because the Almighty also feels it Himself. That's why He is so patient with us, because He doesn't wish for any of us to suffer eternal punishment for our sins, but rather that we would smurf to Him in repentance for salvation."
"I don't want Empath to suffer at the smurfs of the Wartmongers, and I don't want anyone else to suffer in their smurfs as well, Tapper," Smurfette said as a tear fell from her eye.
"Empath's fate is in the smurfs of the Almighty, Smurfette," Tapper said as he put his hand on her shoulder to comfort her. "I know that He will not let him perish before his time is smurfed."
The next thing Empath knew when he had awakened, he was in a hut made of earth and leaves, lying on a bed of soft moss and being cared for by a Wartmonger with grey skin and horns. "He's awake, Chamelianne," the Wartmonger said in a grating elderly female voice. "You'd better see to his needs."
Chamelianne appeared in the same room as the elder female Wartmonger, and Empath saw that she looked rather different from all the other Wartmongers, rather slender with a more curved figure. "Here, you should drink this for strength before you do anything else," Chamelianne said as she handed Empath a vial.
"Where are we now, Chamelianne?" Empath asked as he took the vial and drank its contents until it was empty.
"You're in one of the worst places in the swamp...the Warrens," Chamelianne answered. "It's the place where all the female Wartmongers have been forced to live while the males live in the best huts that are near Toad Palace."
"And you must be Amphibia, the 'nanny' that Chamelianne has mentioned," Empath said as he turned to look at the elder Wartmonger staring at him.
"You certainly don't look like a Wartmonger, stranger," Amphibia said. "You must be one of those Smurfs that King Bullrush always talks about. I'm not sure why he hates you and your kind so much, but if he finds out that you've been hiding out in the Warrens, he's going to send his goons right after you."
"We're not going to be staying here much longer, Amphibia," Chamelianne said. "I want Empath to see what kind of world we live in firsthand so he would know whether or not he wants to stand with us."
"And why should I believe you want to help us, Chamelianne, when you've been getting favors from the king himself?" Amphibia asked, sounding greatly displeased. "All those years that I have been your wetnurse, raising you to be what you are today, and what reward do I get for my troubles? As soon as you became princess, I got dumped back into this horrible place, and it's all because of Bullrush."
"I know exactly what I'm doing, Amphibia," Chamelianne said. "King Bullrush only has so long in his life to live, and someone will succeed him on the throne of Toad Castle. I personally intend to be taking over the kingdom when he is gone from the world."
"Men's hearts are the slowest things to change, my dear," Amphibia said. "They have been believing for so long that male Wartmongers are the only ones that are worth being anything important in Pussywillow Hollow, you wouldn't be able to change their minds overnight to make them think otherwise."
"A change in the hollow is going to happen, no matter how long it takes for it to happen," Chamelianne said. "And if it takes some drastic measures to bring about a change, then so be it. The only thing that matters is whether you're going to be on the side of change or not."
"Why would I be foolish enough to not want to see a change coming, dear?" Amphibia said. She then turned to Empath and said in a low voice, "You better be careful around Chamelianne. She isn't somebody that you can entirely trust with your life, if I were you."
"This smurf will take your word of caution to heart, Amphibia," Empath said, also speaking low. "This smurf thanks you for the hospitality you have shown toward this smurf."
After Empath donned his robe again, he stepped out of Amphibia's hut and joined Chamelianne as they traveled around the murky environment known as the Warrens. He looked around and saw the female Wartmongers trying to make a living in such a dismal-looking place, and though he couldn't sense what they were feeling, it seemed to him that they weren't all happy about it.
"How long have the female Wartmongers lived like this, Chamelianne?" Empath asked.
"It's been this way since the reign of the first king of the hollow, Empath," Chamelianne said. "The females of our kind are made to live separately from the males, who are given the best education and the best jobs and the best food, while we females get called on only for pleasure and for being wetnurses to the younglings. It's a terrible shame that we have to live with every moment of our lives in this wretched place."
"But Amphibia said that you are a princess," Empath said. "How did that came to be?"
"I am the niece of King Bullrush, and for some reason the king has taken a liking towards me that he has allowed Amphibia to raise me in Toad Castle until I was grown up," Chamelianne answered. "As much as I love my uncle and appreciate what he has done for me, he's still just as responsible for keeping the females from being recognized as equals among our kind as the other males."
"That doesn't seem right for the males to treat females as if they're second-class citizens, Chamelianne, but what are you hoping for this smurf to do about it?" Empath asked.
"You have a power that the king doesn't realize its full potential, Empath," Chamelianne said. "Together we can use that power to fight for the common good for all Wartmongers, that we can show that males and females do not have to live separately from one another and that females can be just as useful in the kingdom as the males."
Empath tried to say something else, but he felt something strange going on inside him. "That's really weird," Empath said. "It feels like this smurf's mind is being changed for some unknown reason."
"I'm certain that it's nothing you need to worry about, my friend," Chamelianne said. "Come, let us find someone else in the Warrens who can help you."