L’Ergot Bleu, Part II.

Story Martin Marks     Illustration Jim Gaylord

Read Part I

THE HARVEST FEAST was a grand celebration of everything Smurf. The villagers, forgetting the aches and pains of the past weeks spent in the fields, frenziedly prepared for the evening. Vanity scrubbed himself and liberally applied a lapis makeup all over his body, while Poet and Harmony coordinated their efforts in composing a special song for the occasion. For several days, Cook had been preparing acorn stew, rye bread, and boiled radishes. Wild Smurf had even come from the forest staggering under the weight of three baby Cornish Game hens, enough to feed the entire village several times over. Even though the village commonly believed that Greedy was malingering, Cook had Papa Smurf put two guards outside of Greedy’s toadstool just to make sure he didn’t consume all of the acorn stew by himself.

The tables were set up in a U-shape in the village square, covered in white sheets and decorated with giant tallow candles. The villagers strung the toadstools with captured fireflies, and the entire village glowed as if the morning dew had continued into nightfall. After Papa said the nightly Smurf benediction the villagers tucked into the feast, slurping at their soup, gobbling down the rye bread, and tearing at the three giant hens with their little blue hands. In between gulps of elderberry juice, singing and dancing started at the center of the tables. The villagers swayed back and forth to songs of working the fields and farming the harvest, and in the great joyous commotion, nobody except Brainy Smurf seemed to notice the two empty places at the center table.

Brainy had spent many hours arranging and bartering for the seat next to Smurfette. He eyed the bare wooden chair while Vanity continued on about how good he looked. “Does the bread taste funny to anyone?” Vanity asked when he was done bestowing compliments upon himself.

“It does taste a little yeasty,” Painter said. They all turned to Lazy, asleep at the side table. “I guess Lazy’s not been doing such a good job of stirring the grain after all.”

“I should go investigate,” Brainy said as he got up from the table. Perfect, Brainy thought. A quick stop at the grain toadstool, and then onto Smurfette’s. Skipping in time to the music, Brainy vanished into the darkness. By the time he reached the grain toadstool, the music had gone quiet. Brainy climbed the ladder outside the grain elevator and squinted, looking down up on the entire village. Lifting the lid of the toadstool, Brainy wondered with a heavy heart if Smurfette would ever return his affections.

It was then that the smell overwhelmed him. The rye, usually filling the air with a tangy, crisp smell, let out the scent of dirt and mold. Brainy tried to see the bottom of the grain toadstool, but the moonless night revealed none of the contents. He started to climb down the inside. The smell only grew stronger. He felt the floor of the grain toadstool for the kernels of wheat and rye, lifting one up with both of his hands and grasping it at either end. But the grain felt rippled and broken, puffy and damp. He held it up to his nose. The grain had the same smell as his white cap did after a day working in the fields. “I must show this to Papa Smurf!” Brainy exclaimed.

As Brainy ran, he hardly noticed the chilling silence that had descended upon the town. At the village square, the tables and chairs were empty. Everybody had disappeared. He yelled at the top of his lungs, “Papa Smurf! Papa Smurf!” He searched around frantically to see where the village had gone. Then, all of a sudden, they were back again, all sitting where they had been sitting when Brainy left. They looked at him, their eyes widened and severe.

Smurfette was standing next to Papa, but it wasn’t the same Smurfette the village had known. She was draped in a bed sheet with nothing underneath. Her beautiful golden hair was teased into horrible little knots, with pieces of straw sticking out.

“Smurfette—,” Brainy said. He dropped the grain he had been carrying and went up to her.

“Get him away! Get him away!” Smurfette screamed. She hid behind Papa Smurf.

“Brainy,” Papa Smurf said. “Smurfette has made some rather serious allegations against you.”

“What sort of allegations?” Brainy didn’t understand.

“He gave me some sort of potion this afternoon,” Smurfette managed. She then went on to detail the charges against Brainy, that he had gathered with the rest of the Smurfs to conspire against her and had slipped her a potion that had caused the ravens to be attracted to her hair.

“My hair! My beautiful hair!” she shrieked, tearing at it wildly. Papa Smurf held her down while the rest of the Smurfs looked on in horror.

“What is to be done?” Papa Smurf muttered to himself.

“Perhaps she’s been possessed,” Hefty said. The rest of the villagers descended into mutters and whispers.

“She couldn’t be,” Brainy said. “I couldn’t have possessed her. When she was possessed last time, her hair turned black.” He pointed at her hair, still golden under the flickering candles on the banquet table.

“Quite right,” Papa said.

The whispers of the villagers began to take on a single word. “Poison,” they said to each other. “He poisoned her with his potion.”

Papa Smurf was at a loss. He searched his little head for questions to ask, for some way to arrive at the truth. “Who else has he given a potion to?”

“Greedy!” the villagers cried. “He gave Greedy Smurf a potion! To Greedy’s! Let’s go to Greedy’s!”

There was a crush to the edge of Smurf Village, where the Sentry Smurfs stood outside of Greedy’s toadstool. Papa Smurf raised his hands over the crowd. “We shouldn’t rush to any judgments.”

But the crowd would hear none of it. They pushed Papa Smurf past the sentries and through Greedy’s front door. The Smurf himself lay on the bed, quaking and shivering.

“How are you feeling?” Papa Smurf said.

“It burns! Oh how it burns!” Greedy said, rocking back and forth. Papa Smurf felt Greedy’s head, and then his belly. A fever had taken hold of his small blue body, sweat pouring from his forehead and onto the pillow. The crowd, in the meantime, had started to pour into Greedy’s toadstool.

“Oh my Smurf!” one of the villagers said, “Look at his feet!”

Two of the villagers held Greedy’s feet down for Papa Smurf to examine them. They were nearly twice their original size, and the toes, once the gleaming blue of every Smurf born and true, had little brown and black spots at the tips. Papa Smurf touched the spots, and Greedy let out a cry the likes of which had never been heard in the village before.

Between his shrieks and cries, the tears streaming down his face from the pulsating agony rising from his feet, the villagers yelled out their questions. “Did Brainy give you a potion? Answer us! Did Brainy give you a potion?”

They pulled and tugged at his blanket, jostled his legs, pointed at his puffy feet until he yelled out an answer. “Yes!” Greedy screamed as he panted for air. “Yes! Brainy did give me a potion.” He then vomited and passed out.

Smurfette pushed herself through the crowd. “I saw it, Papa Smurf! I saw him do it! I saw Brainy with the potion!”

“Greedy Smurf, how could you?” Papa asked.

“The wheat! There’s something wrong with the wheat!” Brainy tried to explain. But there was little point.

“Lock him in his toadstool!” the mob yelled over Brainy’s answers. “Lock him up! For the good of the village!”

Despite Brainy being sealed in his toadstool, the coming days brought worse tidings to the Smurf village.  Smurfette had lost all reason and had to be tied down to her bed. She yelled obscenities at the top of her lungs, saying that Brainy had caused the ravens to appear, Brainy had caused the snakes to writhe across her naked flesh. Papa Smurf had two of the stronger Sentry Smurfs douse her in freezing water twice a day, which seemed to temporarily alleviate the symptoms.

But other Smurfs had started to act curiously. At morningmeal, Vanity crashed his mirror into the table and started cutting himself with the shards of glass, complaining how he’d never be beautiful enough to fend off the evil spirits. Dreamy Smurf started to have daytime hallucinations, fixating on the idea that he was some sort of king from a faraway land. Clumsy Smurf had started apologizing to the furniture he tripped over, and Painter Smurf painted ghastly creatures on the sides of the houses. Many of the villagers had started to assault one another, throwing dirt, tearing at each other’s clothes. The only one who seemed unaffected was Cook Smurf and Papa Smurf, who stood looking at each other with terrified glances at the entire spectacle. Nothing like this had every happened to the village before.

And poor Greedy Smurf. Nobody spoke about what happened to Greedy Smurf. The swelling in his feet and the brown spots on his toes spread upward. His feet became riddled with dark pustules, and then turned black altogether. The flesh on his legs looked like the bark on a tree, his toe nails rotted completely and fallen off.

“Cut them off!” Greedy yelled and screamed. “I can’t stand it any longer! Cut them off!” But Papa Smurf was quite confident he could find a cure. For several days, Papa Smurf whistled while he worked, trying incantations, spells, poultices, unctions, potions. But nothing seemed to help. In the end, the black crept up his legs, and then spread to his thighs. He slipped in and out of consciousness, his pulse weakening, lacking the energy to yell anymore, until, finally, he slipped away.

In the meantime, Brainy sat in his toadstool awaiting his fate. His hands pulsed in fear as he remembered what the villagers had done before to Harelip Smurf, the forgotten Smurf, his lip split down the middle, his speech forever affected. He couldn’t even pronounce the word “Smurf”, for Smurf’s sake.  For years, he had been the subject of gossip and rumors. Then, on a moonless night filled with too much elderberry juice, several of the Smurfs decided to tie him up and throw him down the Smurf well. Brainy shuddered at the memory, at the way that Papa Smurf had simply told the villagers that there had never been a Harelip Smurf. And he was never mentioned again.

After the death of Greedy, Papa and Cook locked themselves in Papa’s cabin, trying to figure out what to do. Brainy couldn’t have been responsible for what had happened. It was too widespread, beyond even his capability. Papa Smurf stroked his beard and sighed deeply.

“What is to be done?” Papa asked.

“Brainy was saying something about the wheat before we sealed him in his toadstool. Maybe he was right?”

When nightfall came, Papa Smurf and Cook went to investigate. Their firefly lamp shone down the walls of the grain toadstool, revealing the same thing that Brainy had discovered. The grain had turned black, leaving it dark and matted against the side of the shaft.

“Brainy was right!” Papa Smurf said. “I’ll have to warn the rest of the villagers.” Cook helped Papa Smurf up the inside ladder of the toadstool. As they turned to climb over the edge of the toadstool, Papa Smurf’s eyes widened.

The entire village was waiting for them down below, a mass of white hats teeming and wriggling up from the dirt. They all carried little firefly torches, flickering back and forth against the dirty, disheveled faces of each and every Smurf in the village.

Lazy Smurf stepped forward out of the group, huffing and puffing with a previously unknown energy. “Brainy poisoned the grains, Papa Smurf.”

“No he didn’t, Lazy. You were lazy and didn’t stir the grains. That’s why everybody’s sick” Papa Smurf said in the most masterful voice he could muster. But he was afraid. Very afraid.

“Lazy’s right,” Smurfette said, the glow of the flickering fireflies alternating on either side of her face. “Brainy did this. Brainy did it all.”

“Who untied her? Who let her loose? She’s not supposed to leave her bed,” Papa Smurf yelled over the village. But he saw that several of the villagers, with ravaged clothes and stains along their caps, had decrepit little maroon hearts lifting up out of their chests.

Sweat started up against Papa Smurf’s forehead. He looked at the villagers, their rounded eyes piercing through the darkness up at him. He had been in situations, terrible situations, before. But nothing had been quite like this. For the first time in his entire Smurf life, he feared for what they’d do.

“Now everybody calm down,” Papa Smurf said, holding his arms above his head. “I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for all of this.”

“Reasonable explanation!” Smurfette laughed. “I’m sure every Smurf will agree that we’re sick and tired with your reasonable explanations. We’re sick and tired with your logic and your harvests and your way of life.”

Smurfette started batting at her sides, whirling around and tearing at her hair. “What is it?” Papa Smurf asked. “What’s wrong Smurfette?”

“Ravens! The ravens! They’re eating at my face! Oh Smurf why won’t they go away?” she screamed, tearing at her hair. “Why won’t they leave me alone?”

Everybody looked at Smurfette in horror. Vanity was the only one who’d speak. “Papa Smurf,” he said, pointing up to the top of the toadstool. At first, the villagers didn’t know what to do. They looked at one another and waited for somebody to act. Then, Hefty Smurf ran up and hit the side of the toadstool with his shoulder. A massive shudder overtook the entire building. And then the rest of the Smurfs were at it.

“Get them down!” they yelled, pushing against the side of the grain toadstool. “They poisoned Greedy and put a curse on Smurfette! Get them down from there!”

The toadstool ripped from its supports and started to sway back and forth. “Stop this! Stop this right now!” Papa Smurf said, clutching the side of the toadstool. “Heave!” Hefty yelled. “Heave!”

Soon, the entire building tipped down to the ground. The villagers stood in a circle around the collapsed grain toadstool, the moldy wheat spilled out on either side. Cook’s body lay twisted and gnarled, one of his legs pinned under the cap of the grain toadstool and his head turned completely back to front. Papa Smurf was on the ground a little ways away, his right leg shattered into several different pieces.

With fury in his voice, Papa Smurf said, “Take me back to my toadstool so I can fix this! Sentry Smurfs! Get the Sentry Smurfs!”

Several of the Smurfs stepped forward, wanting to help their leader. But Smurfette stood to the front and all of a sudden turned towards Papa Smurf. “The Sentry Smurfs are under my command now.”

And indeed, when Papa Smurf looked over to his sentries, he saw that they were under Smurfette’s command, their hands clasped together, their eyes drooping, and little floating red hearts lifting up out of their chests as well.

“What are we going to do with them?” the villagers asked aloud. “What are we going to do?”

“There’s only one thing to do,” Smurfette said in a low, raspy voice as she stepped out from the mob, her eyes radiating in the glow of their firefly-torches. “Gargamel—,”

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