The morning of Redemption Day came. Papa Smurf had Harmony give a summons signal for all the Smurfs to gather together after they had all dressed up in their baptismal gowns. They gathered at the platform where the brazier was placed, already burning with the sacred wood and the incense. Papa Smurf was standing on the platform, also dressed in a white baptismal gown, but in addition to that wearing a red scarf in the manner of a priest.
In a rather spiritual sense, it seemed fitting to Empath that Papa Smurf as the high priest of this particular ceremony wore red, since according to what his friend Tapper had told him about high priests, they were usually responsible for the role of appeasing the gods – or in the case of Tapper’s holy book, the Almighty – with the blood offered from a suitably pure animal to make atonement for the sins of the people so that they would be made pure. In the same sense, Empath could also understand why most of his fellow Smurfs would wear white, since they were the ones being made pure by the high priest’s offering.
“My dear little Smurfs,” Papa Smurf began, “this day is the day that we honor the Great Ancestors who have smurfed before us, whose lives were smurfed from this life so that we as their descendants would smurf from their example and smurf lives that are truly befitting what we believe in as Smurfs – that all life is precious in our sight, and that we are all accountable for what we smurf in this life as Smurfs. We smurf upon their spirits now to smurf witness to our actions as Smurfs, and pray that whatever we have smurfed wrong, that our misdeeds will be smurfed away in the Great Pool of Souls where their spirits reside. Each of us will smurf up to the platform to smurf from our own scroll the misdeeds that each of us have smurfed in the past year, no matter how painful that misdeed may be, so that none of us will smurf of ourselves as better than one another, for all of us will be judged for our own actions when the time smurfs for each of us to smurf away from this life.”
Papa Smurf began by opening up his scroll and reading from it the list of his own misdeeds over the past year that he committed. Every Smurf listened rather uneasily as Papa Smurf went through the list, trying hard to keep their judgments to themselves, yet also opening their hearts to sympathize with the village leader’s weaknesses. There was some quavering in Papa Smurf’s voice and a few audible gulps when he mentioned some of the faults that he would rather not share in public as he did on Redemption Day. They even heard him start to break in tears as he finished the list and made his way off the platform for the next Smurf to read from his or her own scroll.
As Empath listened to each Smurf bravely state their list of faults for every Smurf to hear, he could see just how uncomfortable each of them were in making a public confession of things that on other days would have been better left unsaid. Brainy confessed to the many times his trying to share his wisdom and intelligence with others had annoyed others to being totally exasperated with him. Greedy confessed to the many times that his appetite got the better of his making sure every Smurf had enough food to eat every day.
Hefty confessed to the many times his voiced opinions of other Smurfs not matching up to him being a “true Smurf” had offended others. Handy confessed to the many times that he lost his temper whenever a machine broke down or some Smurf had broken one of his machines. Vanity confessed to the many times that he let his self-love get in the way of loving his fellow Smurfs. Grouchy confessed to the many times that he was totally insincere about letting his fellow Smurfs know what he truly hated.
Painter confessed to the many times he allowed himself to get offended by someone who didn’t like his masteurpiesas. Jokey confessed to the many times that he allowed his pranks to get out of control and even hurt other Smurfs. Tapper confessed to the many times he allowed things to happen in his tavern that he would normally have stopped. Duncan confessed to the many times that he let his anger do most of the talking with his fellow Smurfs, even to the point of potential violence. And Smurfette confessed to the many times she let her temper get out of control whenever some male Smurf made a rude comment about her.
It wasn’t anything Empath hadn’t heard before from all his fellow Smurfs, except for Smurfette and the Smurflings, but each one of them felt a sense of relief when they had finished reading from their lists.
When it came Empath’s turn to read from the scroll the faults he had committed over the past year – in his case, over the past ten years, since he wasn’t part of the Smurfs during the last nine years of his being away in Psychelia – he didn’t open up his scroll. Instead, he chose to declare his particular fault in public, which to him this year was going to be the most difficult thing for him to confess. But Empath knew that confession was good for the soul, and regardless of how the Smurfs would accept what he had to confess, he knew it was time to bring it out to the open.
“My fellow Smurfs,” Empath began with a quiver in his voice, “during the past nine years that this smurf has been away in Psychelia, this smurf has dutifully upheld all the ideals of the Smurf without fault. Unfortunately, shortly before this smurf’s final return from Psychelia, this smurf has broken a promise that this smurf made to Papa Smurf during one of this smurf’s visits to the Smurf Village. It was not this smurf’s intention to actually break the promise, but this smurf was involved in a situation that required a painful decision that this smurf had to make – a decision that has now this smurf’s innocence of being a Smurf in jeopardy.”
Empath told the Smurfs of that day, being very fresh and vivid in his mind, when he had broken this promise. It was a day nearly a week before Empath’s 150th birthday when Empath and all the other Psyches who were his contemporaries were called to a special training fight by their instructors. This training fight, said the instructors, would be one in which half the student Psyches would and must sacrifice their lives for their fellow Psyches, in order to test their willingness to kill if they must do so in hand-to-hand combat. Empath watched along with his fellow Psyches, including Polaris, as two Psyches entered the ring, which was shielded by a projected energy field that not only prevented the use of one’s mind powers, but also prevented either of them from escaping the fight at any time before its conclusion. The two Psyches fought long and hard, using their skills as fighters to inflict as much damage as they could to each other, until one of them ended up lying dead on the floor, bruised, battered, and bleeding. The Psyche students removed the dead Psyche from the ring while the living Psyche was taken to the infirmary to be treated before being restored to active duty.
Empath felt disgusted, having to be among his fellow Psyches who were forced to not only watch one gruesome fight after another with the same kind of outcome, but also having to participate in the fight themselves. Even his best friend Polaris had to enter the ring and do his best to defeat his fellow Psyche in such combat. Fortunately for Empath and Polaris, his friend won the match, though Empath had a sense that Polaris could feel a twinge of remorse for having won the victory in such a way that would make even a tough Smurf like Hefty lose his lunch.
Now it was Empath’s turn in the ring. He was paired off with a Psyche named Polluxis, whom Empath knew was able to match Empath’s own skill in fighting. Despite what the training fight was supposed to be about, Empath remembered his promise to Papa Smurf and resolved that no matter what happens, he would not take a Psyche’s life.
Empath and Polluxis fought long and hard in the ring, both of them able to inflict as much damage as they could to each other with powerful blows and kicks, while also defending themselves with incredible moves of agility. But Empath prevailed against Polluxis, knocking him down to the ground, exhausted to the point of defeat. However, Empath made no move to kill Polluxis.
The instructors sensed this thought in Empath. “Complete your training exercise, Psyche Student 1137-K” one of them shouted.
“No,” Empath replied. “This one’s opponent is defeated. He will not present a threat to this one.”
“You are not to question your instructors, Empath,” one of them rebuked sternly. “You will complete this training exercise to the letter, and we will make sure that you will do so, even if it requires your life to be forfeited.”
Then Empath noticed that Polluxis had risen from the ring floor, bruised and bleeding, but somehow reinvigorated and ready to resume the fight. Empath had a feeling that this was one fight that wasn’t going to end well.
Empath defended himself against Polluxis, who then fought with such strength that made Empath fear for his life. Every blow Empath took was powerful, feeling like he was being used as a punching bag. However, Empath again managed to defeat Polluxis, and again he refused to take Polluxis’ life in victory. Unfortunately, his refusal to do so only brought Polluxis back onto his feet, ready to continue the battle until someone fell. This repeated itself several more times, though through each round, Empath felt himself getting increasingly weaker and more bruised, his bones snapping like twigs. By the seventh round, Polluxis had weakened Empath enough to knock him hard to the ground, where Polluxis was sure to gain the victory over him.
Empath felt like every bone in his body was broken, and very close to death. In the next few moments, Polluxis will take his life and every Smurf will grieve because their wayward Smurf will be forever lost to them.
It was in these moments, when Empath felt ready to give his life for the greater good of Psychelia and the greater good of his fellow Smurfs, when he heard another voice calling out to him, spurring him on to continue the fight for his own life.
That voice, strangely enough, sounded like Papa Smurf's.
You must smurf whatever it takes to win, Empath, the voice told him, whatever it would cost you. The Psyches do not care about life like we do. They only care about following whatever the Psyche Master would smurf them to do. You must not let the Psyche win. Your survival is at stake here.
But what about my innocence as a Smurf, Empath asked the voice.
Only the Pool of Souls can judge you, Empath, the voice answered. For now, you must do whatever it takes to win, because your survival is your victory against the Psyche Master. OUR victory!
In that moment, Empath felt charged. He ignored all the pain in his body, all the doubts in his mind, all the fear over his own innocence. He no longer felt fear. He now felt focused and furious.
The moments passed. Polluxis sliced his forearm down toward Empath's head, ready to snap his neck, when Empath quickly rolled out of the way, missing his opponent's hand by mere digits.
The students and the instructors gasped as they saw Empath arise, bleeding, bruised, and with broken bones, but back on his feet and ready to continue the fight. What made them gasp was the expression on Empath's face. It was less like that of a Psyche and more like an emotionally tortured soul that wasn't going to put up with any more torture.
Polluxis began to feel the fear he saw from Empath's expression of anger. He tried his best to put Empath down on the ground once more, but Empath's blows came at Polluxis with more speed and intensity than Polluxis was used to experiencing. He was barely able to defend himself when Empath delivered a roundhouse kick that sent him to the ground.
Empath dove onto his opponent and grabbed him by the neck with both hands. He squeezed hard, and watched Polluxis struggling uselessly to regain control of himself, his eyes looking up at Empath almost like he was pleading for mercy, his tongue hanging out of his mouth, until he heard a snap and felt the life of his opponent drain from his hands.
Empath let go of Polluxis, then pulled himself up and looked down at his fallen opponent, and then at his own gloved hands. He ripped the gloves off to see the bruises and blood on his own skin. In that moment, his anger had changed to fear over what he had done. He felt his body getting weak, giving in to the damage it had been given.
While his fellow Psyches and the instructors tended to the body of Polluxis, Empath put all of his rage into a single outburst. "When the smurf is this smurf going to leave this smurfing place behind, Papa Smurf?" he shouted to the sky.
Then Empath collapsed, too weak to do anything else.
"This smurf spent a whole week recovering in the infirmary," Empath said as he reached the end of his story, "and when this smurf finally was physically healed, it was already my 150th birthday. The Psyche Master couldn't do anything to keep this smurf there, which part of me was hoping for since this smurf would be spared the wrath of the Pool of Souls."
As Empath finished telling his fellow Smurfs of when and how he broke that promise, he noticed that every Smurf was now looking at him in total disbelief. He was beginning to feel like a stranger among his own kind.
"This smurf did everything to try preventing this catastrophe from happening," Empath tried to convince the others, basically pleading for their sympathy, "but in the end, this smurf gave in and a fellow Psyche had lost his life to me. All this smurf is asking of you is for you to understand why this smurf had to do it."
"I can understand to a point why you had to do it, Empath," Papa Smurf started to say, "but even so, you've still committed the greatest fault a Smurf could ever commit. I just don't understand why it had to be you!"
"Well, it just goes to smurf that it was very unsmurf to bring a Smurf like Empath back to the Smurf Village in the first place, Papa Smurf," Hefty protested.
"Empath was never really one of us anyway," another Smurf joined in.
Papa Smurf found himself flooded with so many complaints by his little Smurfs, all basically sharing the same ill feeling toward Empath.
"Please, my little Smurfs," he interrupted. "We all know Empath committed the greatest fault of Smurf history, but we can't be the judge and jury of his actions. Only the Great Pool of Souls can prove Empath's innocence now."
"Empath's no innocent," Vanity shouted. "Look what he smurfed to me! I hope he gets what he desmurfed for this and a whole lot more."
"Well, I believe that Empath is innocent," Smurfette responded in his defense, "and until the Pool of Souls judges him otherwise, I'm smurfing him that presumption."
"Aye, and let that be the same for me, my fellow Smurfs," Tapper contributed.
"And me also, laddie," Duncan added.
“It’s time for us to let the Pool of Souls prove Empath’s innocence in the matter of smurfing a life, my little Smurfs,” Papa Smurf said, looking like he was going to dread going through with the ceremony with this revelation. “Whatever happens to him, we will know for smurftain and accept the judgment, no matter how much it will hurt us to know.” He led them all to a tunnel that led down to the underground pool, with Empath dragging behind and Smurfette walking alongside him.
The Pool of Souls was a good distance to swim, even in a crystalline cave such as where it was located. Empath could feel the souls in the water just waiting to feast on his soul like piranhas. He trembled.
"How does Baby Smurf swim across this pool, Smurfette?" he asked. "He doesn't seem to be like he's old enough to know how to swim."
"It's the magic of the pool, Empath," Smurfette answered. "When you're innocent, it doesn't matter if you can swim or not, for you can simply smurf right across the bottom and still survive."
"Not this year, Smurfette," Hefty commented. "I've been training Baby Smurf so that he can swim by himsmurf. Just watch the little tyke go and you'll smurf what I mean."
As both Empath and Smurfette watched, after all the other Smurfs started wading into the pool and swam onward, Papa Smurf brought Baby Smurf in with him, and then let him go and watched with pride and delight as Baby Smurf doggie-paddled his way on ahead of Papa Smurf. "You smurftainly trained him well, Hefty!" he called back.
"Thanks, Papa Smurf," Hefty answered, watching Papa Smurf swim off.
They now watched the Smurflings as they made their swim across the Pool of Souls into a race. "Last Smurfling across is a rotten pirate Smurf," Snappy challenged them. And they all followed, eager to show up Snappy and test their innocence at the same time.
"Well, smurf you at the other side, Smurfette," Hefty said as he dove in after all the other Smurfs had went in. Empath and Smurfette continue to stay and watch, with Empath feeling more reluctant and Smurfette being more concerned for him.
"Empath, we have to smurf this," Smurfette told him. "You have to prove what you are to the other Smurfs."
"This smurf is...afraid, Smurfette" Empath stammered, a tear forming in his eye. "This smurf doesn't want to die."
"Okay, then, we'll go in together," Smurfette suggested, taking Empath by the hand. "If you smurf to the bottom, then I will smurf with you!"
"No, this smurf cannot take you along with this smurf!" Empath refused, releasing Smurfette's hold. "You must live on for the sake of your fellow Smurfs. This smurf will follow right behind you."
"I won't leave you behind, Empath" Smurfette insisted. She waded into the water and waited for Empath to follow.
Empath took a deep breath for courage. "If this smurf is to be judged, let this smurf be judged as a Smurf," he announced as he jumped right in.
Smurfette started swimming with Empath close behind her. She looked back every now and then to see if Empath was still behind her. So far about halfway across, it didn't seem like Empath was going to be drowning anytime soon.
All the other Smurfs were waiting at the other side of the pool, their gowns and hats soaking wet, but nonetheless feeling cleaner and purer than before, when Smurfette finally reached the shore. "I remember the first time you smurfed across the pool, you were the last Smurf to want to smurf across," Brainy mentioned. "What made you want to be the last Smurf across now?"
"I wanted to see if Empath would smurf across with me," Smurfette answered, before she realized that she swam the rest of the distance without even looking back. She now looked back and couldn't see Empath anywhere.
"So where is Empath?" Papa Smurf asked.
As if on cue, Empath resurfaced in the middle of the pool, flailing wildly and fighting for breath, as if something had snagged onto him and was pulling him down. He looked very frightened by what was happening to him.
"No!" Smurfette screamed. "Empath's drowning! I have to go back and smurf him!"
"You can't do that, Smurfette!" Papa Smurf warned her. "Empath's being judged by the Pool of Souls. We cannot interfere in that judgment or else we would be judged as well!"
"I can't just let him drown!" Smurfette shot back, heading back toward the water. "He is my friend. I am going back in to try smurfing him!"
"Smurfette, please don't do it!" Hefty shouted concernedly, as he and Duncan grabbed Smurfette by the arm. "You can't risk yoursmurf just to save Empath from his own guilt!"
"Please, lassie, we don't want to smurf this," Duncan said, trying to calm Smurfette down.
"Then let me be guilty as well!" Smurfette fumed, breaking her way out of Hefty and Duncan's grips and diving back into the pool to swim out toward where Empath was drowning.
All the other Smurfs watched Smurfette in awe of her daring. "She is a brave little Smurf," Papa Smurf said. "I just hope she isn't proven guilty of her own desire to save Empath!"
Smurfette had finally reached where Empath was drowning, but it was too late. She watched as his body sank to the bottom of the pool without a trace, completely lifeless.
She swam back to the shore where all the other Smurfs were waiting for her, thankful that she ever survived that attempt. She felt limp and heartbroken as Hefty and Brainy pulled her up to the shore.
"I smurfed all that I could to save him," she whimpered, "and even that wasn't enough. I wanted Empath back for mysmurf, and now I feel guilty because of that!"
"You cared enough for Empath to prove that your intentions were innocent," Papa Smurf said consolingly. "It was unfortunate he didn't survive."
"Poor laddie," Duncan said as he shook his head in resignation. "Rest in peace...you deserved it."