Meanwhile, outside the swampy area, the four Smurfs were still conversing with the Pussywillow Pixies, trying to figure out what to do.
"Well, we can't just smurf here on our smurfs and wait for the Wartmongers to come to us," Tuffy said. "We've got to find out for ourselves where they may have taken Empath."
"And risk being smurfed captive ourselves?" Hefty said. "No offense, Tuffy, but that idea just sounds rather stupid."
"So you're just going to let Empath smurf there wherever he is and rot?" Tuffy said. "Look, maybe he's not your friend and all, Hefty, but at least finding out is better than smurfing here doing nothing."
"If Empath's really this great, he'd be able to smurf out for himself without needing any of our help," Hefty said. "Besides, he'd smurfed enough of his time apart from us with those pale-smurfed freaks in Psychelia."
"What does that have anything to smurf with not helping Empath now, laddie?" Duncan said. "Sure those pale-smurfs may be strange, but that's no reason for us to just smurf Empath out in the cold."
"If you want to risk your smurfs going after Empath, that's your decision, Gutsy, and you can smurf Tuffy with you if he wants to smurf that badly," Hefty said.
"That's Duncan to you, laddie," Duncan said.
"So how about it, Papa Smurf?" Tuffy asked. "Should we smurf in and find out what the Wartmongers are even smurfing to Empath or not?"
"I would have to agree with Hefty that the idea is dangerous, Tuffy, but then I don't like the idea of just smurfing out here, having no idea of where Empath might be right about now," Papa Smurf said.
"The only problem we have is not being able to smurf among the Wartmongers without automatically being spotted, Papa Smurf," Duncan said.
"Maybe there is a way, my young friends," Elderberry said. "Holly, Bramble, bring me the robes we have collected from the Wartmongers. The Smurfs could wear them so they wouldn't be easy to be recognized."
"But what about their blue skin, Mother Elderberry?" Holly asked.
"Maybe they can use some of the green berry dye we have collected," Bramble suggested.
"That's not going to stay on their skin for very long, Bramble," Holly said.
"It's better than them just going in there and telling the Wartmongers that they're really Smurfs, Holly," Bramble retorted.
"Holly, Bramble, bring the robes and the green dye at once if that's going to help our friends," Elderberry ordered.
"Yes, Mother Elderberry," Holly and Bramble both said as they flew off to get the items.
"Hefty, you're going to have to smurf into the swamp with Tuffy and Duncan while I stay here with the Pussywillow Pixies," Papa Smurf said.
"I don't see why you need me to smurf with those two just to find Empath, Papa Smurf," Hefty said.
"Because Tuffy and Duncan are your friends, Hefty, even if Empath isn't," Papa Smurf said. "Look, I understand that Empath's abilities make you jealous for the attention he's smurfing, and I don't blame you for that. But this is one of the times where you'll have to smurf aside your pride and smurf things for your fellow Smurfs that you wouldn't otherwise think of smurfing simply because it is the right thing to do as a Smurf."
"I know, Papa Smurf, I know," Hefty said. "I just wish that I was your favorite son instead of Empath."
"You'll always be a very special Smurf in your own way, Hefty," Papa Smurf said. "Don't let whatever it is you feel for Empath smurf in the way of knowing your own worth as a Smurf in this world, because there can only be one Smurf who can truly be Hefty Smurf, and that Smurf is you."
Empath went into a hut where he and Chamelianne met another female Wartmonger, this one a bit more physically closer to Chamelianne in appearance, though with dark green skin.
"What do we have here...another male customer for our services?" the female Wartmonger asked with suspicion in her voice. "We do have brothels in other parts of the Warrens for that sort of activity."
"This here is Empath, Salamandra," Chamelianne introduced. "He was taken by King Bullrush from wherever he came from and is now looking to find a way to get back to that world."
Salamandra came up to Empath and got a good look at him. "This wouldn't happen to be one of those Smurfs that the king says are our enemies, would he?" she asked.
"That's what this smurf is, Salamandra," Empath said. "You're not offended by the sight of a Smurf wandering around in the Warrens, are you?"
"You're too smooth-skinned for me to take a likening towards you, Empath," Salamandra said. "Besides, I've got more important business to take care of, like making sure that the women here get their proper medical care, and also getting a revolution ready."
"So you must be a nurse or a doctor," Empath guessed.
"I'm hardly qualified to be either," Salamandra said. "But the women do come here for whatever services I can provide for healing, which aren't much. Mostly food poisoning from the bad crops of slime that we get around here."
"But this smurf doesn't see how you can be both a healer and a revolutionary, Salamandra," Empath said.
"Living in the Warrens doesn't give any of us much options on what we want to be, Empath," Salamandra said. "It's like the men don't want us around for anything except for giving them pleasure, however they want it. And if they don't think we're useful, well...that's our tough luck, ain't it. So that leaves me with this question: what are you doing with that princess posing as a refugee?"
"He's here to see whether or not he would wish to join our fight, Salamandra," Chamelianne answered.
"'Join our fight'?" Salamandra said in a voice of disbelief. "Since when were you really part of the fight for us, Chamelianne? You spend a whole lot more time cozying up to that swollen slimebag of a king, people down here start to really wonder about you and what you're after."
"We're in this thing together, Salamandra," Chamelianne said. "As long as there's one female Wartmonger who's oppressed, none of us will truly be free around here."
"And you think this Smurf is going to help free us?" Salamandra asked, looking at Empath. "He doesn't look like he can take on the greatest and strongest of the Wartmongers by himself."
"I have seen what he is capable of, and I know that he can become a powerful ally for us, if you'd just give him a chance," Chamelianne said.
Just then, a young female Wartmonger came running into Salamandra's hut, looking rather fearful. "Salamandra, the king's guards are in the Warrens! They're looking for a blue refugee and they're going to hurt the others if we don't surrender him!" she cried out.
Salamandra looked rather incensed. "It's time we face the guards and tell them that this is not the place they can go and look for him." She picked up a pitchfork and headed for the door. "If I were you, Empath, I would hide myself until the guards leave the Warrens."
"This smurf doesn't feel comfortable leaving contending with the guards entirely in your hands, Salamandra," Empath said.
"Please, Empath, do what she says," Chamelianne said. "We're not going to just hand you over to the goons."
"Come, Chamelianne, let's see who's side you're really on," Salamandra said as they both left the hut with the young female Wartmonger that came in, leaving Empath to hide himself so that the guards wouldn't find him.
"All right, ladies, we're going to make this nice and easy...surrender the blue refugee unto us and nobody in the Warrens gets hurt," one of the guards said as Chamelianne and Salamandra joined the other female Wartmongers outside the hut.
"Why should the great King Bullrush care about a blue refugee who may or may not have come into this place?" Salamandra asked boldly.
"What he wants with the refugee is his own personal business," another guard said. "We're only here to enforce the law, and the law is that all prisoners that escape Toad Castle must be brought back no matter what it takes."
"If you want to arrest all of us just on your suspicions, you can have the whole lot of us," Amphibia said.
"Don't say that you weren't warned," the first guard said. "Men, search the entire Warrens and find that refugee."
"I have a better idea," a third guard said. "Why don't we take this little Wartmonger and use her for our own pleasure? I'm sure that the refugee wouldn't mind it if he cares more about his freedom than this little girl's maidenhood." With that, the guards grabbed the young female Wartmonger, who struggled to get herself free of the grips of her captors.
"You filthy piece of slime!" Salamandra shouted. "She is just a child!"
"She won't be a child anymore once we have our way with her," the second guard said as they laughed.
At that point, the female Wartmongers revolted, hitting the guards with everything they have on hand as a weapon. But the guards proved themselves to be rather formidable, as most of the females went down in the ensuing violence.
Empath could hear the struggle going on outside his hiding place, and he knew that he couldn't just sit there and let the female Wartmongers be the victims. He quickly left the hut and joined in the fray, hoping that he would fell some guards before he too fell.
"Well, what do you know? The prisoner was hiding with the female Wartmongers," the first guard said as soon as he saw Empath. "Take him and the child back to King Bullrush. We will make an example out of her for her complicity."
"No," Chamelianne shouted. "I will go with the prisoner to King Bullrush, but please spare the child."
"And why should I listen to a low-life like you?" the first guard asked.
"Because I am the princess, and if you value your job, you will do as I say," Chamelianne answered.
The first guard was taken aback by that statement. "Princess? Well, I mean...of course, you can take the child's place. I'm sure that you can discuss the whole matter with the king when he asks what you're doing with these females."
Empath was quickly captured by the guards, with his hands bound in ropes that he struggled to break free from. He looked at Chamelianne as she was also taken by the guards.
"Now you see for yourself what we deal with on a daily basis, Empath," Chamelianne said. "You must choose for yourself who you will stand by in this constant struggle."
"What good will we do now if we're going to be taken back to King Bullrush, Chamelianne?" Empath asked.
"You will find out when we get to Toad Castle, trust me," Chamelianne said.
"Leave the rest of these worthless females alone," the first guard said to the others. "We have what we have come for...they can continue to live their own miserable lives without this rabble-rouser."
Amphibia and Salamandra just looked at Chamelianne as if neither of them could trust her as she and Empath were then taken away by the guards.
Back in Toad Castle, Empath and Chamelianne stood before the throne of King Bullrush. "So you have tried to escape, and it seems that my niece is conspiring with the lowly females of the Warrens," he said as soon as he saw the both of them. "Well, if that's where you wish to be, I can grant you that wish and let you enjoy the rest of your life in that festering cesspool."
"I want Empath to prove himself to be worthy of being your champion hunter, my king," Princess Chamelianne said. "Let him fight the strongest Wartmonger in the wrestling ring and see if he is capable of defeating him."
"This Smurf, capable of defeating the strongest Wartmonger?" King Bullrush scoffed. "So far he hasn't proved himself capable of fighting off my guards, and now you want me to let him fight a Wartmonger who's stronger than him?"
"He will prove himself in the ring to be everything you want in a hunter, trust me," Princess Chamelianne said persuasively.
King Bullrush laughed, as did the guards who were also in the room with him. "Well, far be it from me to grant you that kind of request, Princess, however foolish it may be. I will make it an order that the match will commence as soon as possible, and that every Wartmonger will be in attendance to see how this Smurf fares against the strongest Wartmonger of all."
"This smurf will still not be a hunter, King Bullrush," Empath said defiantly.
"Take that Smurf away and prepare him for the wrestling match," King Bullrush told his guards. "If he does manage to overcome and defeat the strongest Wartmonger, then he shall have his place as my chief hunter of the Pussywillow Pixies."
"Thank you, my king...I know that he will," Princess Chamelianne said as the guards took Empath away from the throne room.
Meanwhile, Hefty, Tuffy, and Duncan have made it to the area of the Royal Circle, a suburb surrounding Toad Castle where most of the male Wartmongers live. While they were wearing robes and having green dye applied to their skin as part of their disguise, the three Smurfs weren't noticed by any of the Wartmongers that they passed by.
"Well, that certainly smurfed out well," Hefty said after a while of moving around. "Either they're buying into the disguises we're smurfing or they got other things on their mind to worry about."
"But where are we going to go to smurf out any information on Empath?" Tuffy asked.
Duncan looked around and saw a place where most of the Wartmongers were gathering around. "I smurf you anything that that place is the closest thing the Wartmongers have to a tavern, laddies," Duncan said, pointing in that particular direction.
"The Wartmongers having a tavern in this Smurf-awful part of the hollow?" Hefty said.
"I'm not sure I want to find out what they smurf as far as drinks," Tuffy said.
"It's as good a place as any for us to start smurfing answers, so we might as well smurf there," Duncan said.
The three Smurfs entered the building, which did indeed turn out to be a tavern, with Wartmongers enjoying themselves with mugs of frothy green liquid as well as various forms of entertainment.
The bartender looked at the three Smurfs as they sat themselves down at the counter. "I don't remember seeing you around the swamp, gentlemen," he said. "What brings you here to my tavern?"
"We're here to find a Wartmonger with blue skin that has been smurfed...I mean, croaked by King Bullrush's men, laddie," Duncan said. "You wouldn't happen to have seen such a Wartmonger around here, have you?"
"A Wartmonger with blue skin?" the bartender said as he stroked his chin in thought. "Ain't hardly one that I have seen like that, but I do hear that there's a Smurf that escaped from Toad Castle."
"That's who we are looking for," Hefty said. "He's actually a Wartmonger that has been turned into a Smurf."
"So any idea where that Smurf may be?" Tuffy asked.
"The last place he may be is the place called the Warrens, which is where the female Wartmongers are," the bartender said. "You'd only go there if you're down on your luck or looking for someone to stroke your horns."
"Stroking my horns?" Tuffy asked, unsure of what that meant.
"You don't know anything about having your horns stroked?" Hefty said, trying to play along.
"Well, of course I do, Hefty," Tuffy said, picking up on Hefty's cue. "I just haven't thought about croaking down to the Warrens in a good while."
"Anyway, whatever he's doing down in that place, it's the first place that we can go looking for him," Duncan said.
"Why don't you stay for a while and enjoy some fresh slime brew before you go searching for your friend?" the bartender said as he produced a mug of the frothy green liquid.
Duncan took a smell of the liquid and tried to disguise his displeasure as much as he could. "I think one of my friends could use it more than I would," he said as he passed the mug over to Tuffy.
"Here, Hefty, you can croak this down," Tuffy said after he smelled the brew and then passed it over to Hefty.
Hefty didn't like the smell of the brew himself, but he realized that he had to make it look like he would be eager to drink it. He took one gulp of the brew and found himself surprised at how much it tasted like spinach juice. He drank the whole glass down and then wiped his mouth. "Aaaaaah...that was the best brew that I have croaked."
"Well, I didn't know that you like croaking that kind of drink, laddie," Duncan said in amusement.
"You should try it, Gutsy," Hefty said.
Just then, three Wartmongers came into the tavern, sounding very excited about something. "Hey, did you hear that there's going to be a wrestling match in the royal ring with Horrible Hunk Hopper against some blue little puke that they found in the Warrens?" one of the Wartmongers said.
"Truth to tell, you're the first one who's even mentioned that today," the bartender said.
"The whole kingdom's invited to watch the match, and I sure want to be there to see Hunk Hopper give that blue guy a serious beatdown," another Wartmonger said.
"I wonder what he was even doing in the Warrens anyway," a third Wartmonger said.
"What does anyone do in the Warrens, besides look for a female that they want to get all nice and squirmy with?" the second Wartmonger said.
"Hey, those guys are sitting in our seats," the first Wartmonger said, pointing to the three robed Smurfs at the counter.
"Yeah, let's show them where they should be sitting," the third Wartmonger said, sounding eager for a fight.
The three Wartmongers came over to the counter to speak with the three Smurfs. "I don't know who you think you are, stranger, but those seats belong to us," the first Wartmonger said, speaking to Duncan. "So unless you want to get a few new warts the hard way, I'd suggest that you and your pals move it over to the tables."
Duncan looked at the Wartmonger who was speaking with him. "Well, if you want the seats so badly, laddie, why don't you ask us politely to go croak somewhere else if you don't like where it is we're croaking?"
"I don't have to ask anyone politely to do anything," the first Wartmonger said. "You can either do this the easy way or the hard way, but I'm hoping you'd be stupid enough to want to do it the hard way."
"We were here first, so why don't you go and croak somewhere else, you smurf-ugly toads?" Hefty said.
"I'm not some wimpy Wartmonger that needs to hide myself with a robe, coward," the first Wartmonger said.
"Yeah, why don't you show yourselves what kind of Wartmongers you are, if you're not afraid?" the second Wartmonger said.
"I bet you anything they don't have the warts of a true Wartmonger," the third Wartmonger said, before the three of them laughed.
"They're making us smurf like total wimps, Dunk," Tuffy said rather quietly. "What are we going to smurf?"
"Thanks to their blabbering, we now know where to find Empath, so we might as well let the boys smurf what they came for," Duncan responded in kind. He then turned to the first Wartmonger and said, "We were pretty much done enjoying ourselves here, so you can croak our seats while we take our leave."
The three Smurfs got up from their seats and headed for the door, but just as their backs were turned, the first Wartmonger struck Duncan from behind, felling him to the floor as he laughed.
"Okay, this has croaked far enough," Tuffy said as he turned around and belted one of the Wartmongers in the mouth.
"Great, here smurfs the part that I get to enjoy," Hefty said, also turning around and giving a fist to a Wartmonger.
Soon the three Smurfs were fighting with the three Wartmongers as the bartender just stood behind the counter and watched, doing absolutely nothing. After about a minute, the Wartmongers were then tossed over the counter and laid on the floor unconscious while the three Smurfs dusted off their hands.
"Sorry about the mess," Duncan said to the bartender before he, Hefty, and Tuffy left the tavern.
Soon the three Smurfs found the auditorium where the Wartmongers were all gathering in to see the wrestling match. "Well, boys, this is where we're going to find Empath, so we might as well smurf in with the crowd," Duncan said.
"It's too bad that you never got a chance to smurf into the wrestling ring with that Wartmonger, Hefty," Tuffy said.
"Yeah, well, he would have been no match for me, anyway," Hefty said. "Empath against a Wartmonger...well, let's see which one of the two smurfs out of that match."
"You don't think that Empath can smurf the distance against those slugs?" Duncan said.
"Not unless he gets smurfed into a Wartmonger himself, Gutsy," Hefty said.
They found seats that were close enough for them to watch the action. The crowd seemed very anxious as they anticipated the moment when a Smurf was going to face off against their champion. Meanwhile, King Bullrush was sitting in a balcony seat with his niece Princess Chamelianne, also anticipating when the action was going to start.
Then the announcer came into the ring. "Fellow Wartmongers, the king bids you welcome to our latest royal rumble, in which our reigning champion will compete with an outsider that has been brought into our kingdom for our entertainment. Here in one corner, weighing in at 16 ounces, is the Wartmonger that we all know and love...the fearsome, the awesome Horrible Hunk Hopper!"
The crowd cheered as the hulking Wartmonger came into the ring and raised up his arms to flex and show off his muscular frame.
"And here in the other corner, weighing in at only three ounces, is the outsider who will be the challenger...the blue bounder known only as Empath Smurf," the announcer continued.
The crowd booed as Empath stepped into the ring, wearing only his Smurf hat and a pair of white trunks. Empath didn't seem to care, though, as his main concern was surviving the match.
"You're going to be begging me for mercy, you little blue puke," Horrible Hunk Hopper sneered as he got a good look at his challenger.
Soon the bell rang, and the two wrestlers charged toward each other. Empath realized that he would be fighting in mud, as he suddenly found himself losing traction and sliding across the ring, barely avoiding being crushed by Hunk Hopper as he tried to flatten Empath with a belly flop.
"You're not going to escape me that easily," Hunk Hopper said as he got up and saw that his opponent had managed to slip by him.
The three Smurfs watched as Empath tried to use his wits more than his strength to defeat Horrible Hunk Hopper as he continued to avoid his opponent's attacks. "Oh, come on, laddie, what are you smurfing for?" Duncan said, sounding rather impatient.
"Oh, this is really great...Empath can't even defeat a very big Wartmonger like him," Hefty said sarcastically.
"There must be something wrong with Empath if he can't smurf that," Tuffy said.
"The only thing wrong with Empath is that he just isn't the Smurf that you all smurf him out to be," Hefty said.
"The boy must be up to something to smurf that big Goliath down, I can feel it," Duncan said.
Hunk Hopper finally grabbed Empath and slammed him into the mud so hard that it knocked the wind out of Empath. "You pathetic little pipsqueak," Hunk said with a sneer. "You don't have the strength to take down a warrior like me, do you?"
The Wartmongers cheered as Hunk continually pummeled Empath repeatedly, making his opponent feel a lot of crushing pain. King Bullrush just sat with his niece, looking at the event in such disappointment.
"This is truly the best you can offer me, Princess?" King Bullrush asked. "Where's the great hunter that you promised I would have? Well?!?"
But Princess Chamelianne didn't answer. Instead, she sat with her eyes closed and her mind focused on Empath, telepathically transmitting a message into his mind.
"You little blue slugs aren't even worth my time," Hunk said as he saw his opponent lying face down in the mud, not able to get up. "You're such an insult to my skill that I wouldn't wipe my feet on you."
Then Empath heard in his mind, Get up, Empath. I know that you are able to defeat Hunk Hopper. You are the most powerful Wartmonger there is in all the kingdom. You have greater strength than ever Hunk.
Hunk Hopper turned his back and raised his arms together in victory over his opponent, not seeing that Empath had not only risen up from the ground and is back on his feet, but he had also turned into a blue hulking Wartmonger.
Empath tapped Hunk on the shoulder to get his attention. "This smurf didn't hear the final bell ring yet, Hopper." Then suddenly Empath smashed Hunk in the face with his fist, causing him to reel.
The Wartmongers in the crowd sat there stunned as they watched Empath pummel Hunk with a lot of punches that made his opponent stagger. The three Smurfs were also just as perplexed as the Wartmongers were.
"Michty me, did you smurf that, laddies?" Duncan said. "Empath's just been smurfed into a Wartmonger."
"A Wartmonger, eh?" Hefty said. "Finally I get an opportunity to punch Empath right in the smurf."
"How did he even get smurfed into a Wartmonger in the first place, Dunk?" Tuffy asked.
"Smurfs me, Tuffy, but I have a feeling that whoever smurfed him here is responsible," Duncan said. "We've got to tell Papa Smurf and the pixies about this as smurf as possible."
"So much for this little excursion into Wartmonger land," Hefty said as he, Tuffy, and Duncan got up out of their seats and headed out of the auditorium.
Hunk Hopper tried to fight back, but it was clear that Empath in his new state as a Wartmonger was becoming more than a match for him. Empath grabbed Hunk and slammed him hard into the mud so hard that Hunk was now having trouble trying to get back up. A powerful fist to the head made him stay down for good.
The referee saw that Empath had soundly defeated his opponent and so rang the bell to signal the end of the match. "The winner and new champion of the wrestling world is none other than...Empath!" he announced.
The Wartmongers got up and cheered as Empath raised up his arms, feeling proud of his victory. King Bullrush just sat there, looking very surprised but also very pleased with the outcome.
"He...he did it, my princess," King Bullrush finally said. "You have succeeded in making him into a champion Wartmonger. Now we must train him for the job that I want him to be in charge of."
"I'm sure that he will be the best Pussywillow Pixie hunter you've ever had, my king," Princess Chamelianne said, smiling.