Chapter 15

As the Smurfs reached the base of the mountain range which Mt. Vesmurfius was a part of, a few leagues away from their village, Papa Smurf told Brainy about the relationship between himself, Brainy, and Empath. Brainy was almost in shock.
"You mean to tell me I'm not your real son, and that Empath is?" he whined. "Why didn't you smurf any of this to me before, Papa Smurf? All these years, I wondered why you smurfed me as your apprentice and why you treated me special -- besides Empath, I mean?"
"I wanted to tell you and Empath together when you were old enough to undersmurf, Brainy," Papa Smurf explained. "However, Empath had a terrible nightmare about his past he couldn't figure out, so I had to tell him first!"
"So me and Empath had the same Mama Smurf, then?" asked Brainy.
"Exactly, Brainy," Papa Smurf answered. "But even if I was your real father, I still would've smurfed you as my apprentice, because you and Empath are all I have left of your mother."
"Empath and Brainy as brothers!" Jokey snickered, quietly to himself. "Is that too weird or what?"
They found a cave tunnel at the base of Mt. Vesmurfius that led straight to its fiery chasm. Puppy couldn't enter the tunnel because it was too small for him, so the Smurflings dismounted him and told him to stay put outside and wait for them to return. He laid down on the ground, faithfully watching them as all of them entered.
"This mountain's the same one that smurfed the village with lava five years ago," Tracker pointed out, "and it gave you a real bad allergy, too, Papa Smurf."
"Yes, I know," Papa Smurf responded. He sniffed the air in the tunnel, and felt relieved that whatever in the volcano made him sneeze back then wasn't present. "Must have been the ashes!"
Halfway in the tunnel, they heard a cry that turned into a scream that echoed through the mountain and inside the tunnel. Papa Smurf first thought it was Empath, but then he remembered it was the here and now, so he figured out he was hearing Baby Smurf screaming for help.
Brainy and the others watched Papa Smurf bolt ahead toward the orange glow at the other end of the tunnel, which looked like the gateway into the afterlife realm of the condemned. Some of the Smurfs including Brainy ran after Papa Smurf, also wanting to know and fearing what they would find ahead of them.
The tunnel ended with a ledge barely wide enough for even a dozen Smurfs to stand on, yet sturdy enough to hold the many that could. Beyond that was a chasm that reached high to the top of the mountain, its walls illuminated by the yellow-orange lake of molten lava many feet below them. Even where they were standing, the Smurfs could feel the heat of the lava rising from below.
It didn't take long before Papa Smurf saw what he expected to see -- Empath and Baby Smurf. Both of them were floating high above the magma lake in the middle of the chasm, far beyond Papa Smurf's reach. Empath was wearing only a loincloth and a blindfold around his eyes, and was holding Baby Smurf in front of him as if he was ready to let go of him at any moment to fall to his doom.
"Empath!" Papa Smurf cried out, scared by what he saw. "Don't smurf this to us!"
"This smurf told you to go on with your lives, Papa Smurf!" Empath shouted back over Baby's crying, turning so that he was facing Papa Smurf. "You and your savage tribe were foolish to ignore that advice, so now all of you can have the pleasure of seeing what kind of a Smurf you've brought into your village!"
"Look, I know you're angry, and you have every reason to be, Empath," Papa Smurf said, "but I know you're too much of a Smurf to take your own life and Baby Smurf's. I also know you want us to listen to you, so here we are...ready to listen to you!"
"Don't you dare say that you know everything about me, Papa Smurf," Empath shouted. "You don't know what it's like to live with the Psyches most of your life -- not being able to talk to anyone or share your feelings, always having to do what somebody tells you to do, and not being able to leave Psychelia whenever you want to. You also don't know that I have taken a life from a Psyche when I was with them -- all because I had no choice but to do so!"
"You're right; I don't know what it's like being with the Psyches," Papa Smurf replied, "but I do know what it's like to be forever seperated from the ones you loved. Even your fellow Smurfs know what it's like."
"All any of you really know," Empath shot back, "was how happy your lives have been, and how much the same you all are, and how childish and uncaring you all really are. You don't want me as I am, you just want me for what you want me to be!"
"That's not true at all!" Papa Smurf insisted. "What I did to you was my smurfing, but taking Baby Smurf like this is no better than the Psyche Master taking you away from me!"
"He didn't take me away from did!" Empath roared. "And now I'm giving you a chance to prove how sorry you really are for taking everything of my life away from me. If you're not willing to take that chance...well, smurfa la vista, Baby!"
This made every Smurf gasp in horror, except for Papa Smurf.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked.
"It's very simple," Empath answered. "Just walk off this ledge toward me to rescue Baby Smurf. But you must do this blindsmurfed, and you must not use your magic or any of your little Smurfs to help you. The instant you do, you will fall into the fire and so will Baby and myself."
"Don't do this, Papa Smurf," Tuffy whispered to him. "He might be tricking you!"
"I have no choice," Papa Smurf answered back. "We have to trust's the only way to save Empath and Baby!"
With Smurfette's help, Papa Smurf had a blindfold put over his eyes, covering them up completely so that he was unable to see anything but darkness. Then the other Smurfs spun him around a few times to disorient him. Empath wasn't leaving anything to chance, so they weren't going to pull anything on him either.
Papa Smurf momentarily lost his bearings until he heard Baby's crying directly ahead of him. As the other Smurfs stood back, Papa Smurf slowly headed in the direction of the crying.
Everyone held their breath as they saw Papa Smurf stepping one foot off the ledge, barely getting solid footing on empty air. When he was sure that he wouldn't fall, he lifted his other foot off the ledge. He wobbled in midair on one foot, his arms flailing wildly and uselessly for a handhold, and then the other foot found the next safe solid step forward.
It was like a tightrope act without either a net or a rope, as the blindfolded Papa Smurf made slow and uneasy progress toward Empath and Baby Smurf. Nothing he did in his years had ever felt as dangerous and daring as doing this, and yet somehow he felt that Empath was playing fair with him, making this challenging but not impossible.
Then his hands found Baby right in front of him, and he grabbed hold of the infant as Empath released his hold. Everyone cheered, and Papa Smurf let out a sigh, relieved and triumphant.
"Now you must turn around and let go of Baby Smurf," Empath instructed.
Everyone groaned, and Papa Smurf felt a tinge of fear up his spine. Was Empath still intending on wanting to destroy Baby Smurf, and perhaps even Papa Smurf as well, making his own father walk across a chasm of fire with no sight to guide him, only to make him risk destroying Baby Smurf by letting go of him? There were things nobody in the village knew about Empath's life living among the Psyches. Could this be one of them?
Papa Smurf still had no choice, and was in no position to demand anything of Empath right now. He ended up swallowing his pride and did what Empath asked of him. He turned around and let go of Baby Smurf.
Everyone gasped by what they saw next. For contrary to what they expected to see, Baby Smurf didn't fall to his death when he was released from Papa Smurf's arms. Instead, he was floating on air, carried by an invisible force across the chasm back to the ledge, where Smurfette eagerly embraced and comforted Baby Smurf. Everyone cheered again.
Papa Smurf, realizing now that Baby Smurf was out of danger, decided it was time to resolve this matter once and for all. "What more do you want from me to prove to you how sorry I am for what I smurfed to you?" he asked indignantly as he pulled the blindfold up away from his eyes.
"I want my life back, Papa Smurf!" Empath shouted, still blindfolded and blinded by his own jealousy and rage. "That life you took from me when you left me in Psychelia years ago. I also want the freedom to smurf my life how I choose to without any Smurf trying to smurf me how I should live it. And I want to be treated like any other Smurf in the village -- not above anyone and definitely not below. If you can't respect me enough to smurf me what I want, then I want out of your village forever so that I don't have to smurf up with the never-ending misery of living with you or anyone else!"
"Empath," Papa Smurf shouted back, his voice choked with emotion, "if I had the power to smurf back time so you could have stayed in the village instead of being smurfed with the Psyches, I would have smurfed it to you already without regrets or hesitation. But that is beyond what I can smurf, even as a sorceror. As for wanting to be treated and respected as one of your fellow Smurfs, that I can make smurf that you're given as long as you can accept me for who and what I am. I am not a perfect Smurf...I'm just your father...a humble Papa Smurf with my share of faults...and my smurfcomings!"
While Empath and Papa Smurf were busy talking with each other, Brainy was already wondering how Papa Smurf was able to make it across the chasm to Empath. Maybe his minds-eye can allow me, his own brother, to smurf across as well, just to prove how important I am to all the other Smurfs who ever thought the worst about me, Brainy thought.
So without another word, he started out toward the edge.
"Brainy, what are you smurfing?" Smurfette asked, fearful of what she was seeing Brainy attempting to do.
The other Smurfs saw it as well. "Brainy, you dope, don't smurf off the ledge!" one of them called out. So did the others.
But Brainy ignored the warnings and stepped off the ledge. The first step was solid, but as he pulled his other leg forward, Brainy felt as if the invisible tightrope was giving way. He cried out to Empath as he flailed his arms wildly and then fell forward down into the abyss.
Empath suddenly saw Brainy falling with his minds-eye, but the instant he did, he lost all control over his levitation, and soon he and Papa Smurf joined Brainy in a fast free fall toward the magma pool.
"Empath!" Smurfette screamed.
There was nothing anyone on the ledge could do except watch the three Smurfs die.

As the bright glow of the fiery lake loomed closer and brighter, Papa Smurf saw his own life flashing before his eyes. It was like leaving Empath in Psychelia all over again, except that he and Brainy would now join Empath in a death from which none of them would ever return from. Also, just when he barely managed to bring his real son and his stepson together again, he would now lose them as well.
Papa Smurf regretted all of this. He also regretted not being able to see his other little Smurfs live on without him. Smurfette, Baby Smurf, the Smurflings...he would not live to see them grow, fall in love, raise a family, and be happy as well. And all because he had foolishly left Empath in Psychelia.
I can't let that happen, his mind cried out furiously. I can't let Empath die!
From his own lips, Papa Smurf chanted out an incantation he had learned years ago as a student of he hoped he would never use, but one that now he needed more than anything to save the people that meant everything in his own life.
As he repeated the incantation, his hands began to glow with pure mystical energy, until a tendril shot forth from each hand, expanding in length. The tendrils found their targets and enclosed them in a bright glow that slowed their falling. Then the tendrils shrank unto themselves, and Empath and Brainy instantly were encased in transparent bubbles floating high above the magma, out of danger.
Papa Smurf's hands continued to glow, and then his whole body began to glow as well, turning him completely white. But it was too late for him. He was swallowed up into the lava and was gone without a trace.

Empath, who was so disoriented by the unexpecting falling that he was screaming for his life, saw and felt something similar and and yet different behind the blindfold at this point.
He was back in the Psyche Master's temple as an infant.
Papa Smurf, again younger, was looking down on his son, ready to say goodbye to him.
"I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive an old fool like me," he said gently and sadly. "Until we are together again, I will always cherish you."
Papa Smurf again put his son down.
Empath again saw his father leave, and he couldn't hold back the tears.
Papa, please, don't leave me here, he tried to call out.
Again it came out as a baby cry.
Again he felt the pain as the Psyche Master entered his mind and erased everything he remembered about himself and Papa Smurf, except for that moment.
Again he screamed.
And as he screamed, Empath heard the faint thunderous pounding of the door as Papa Smurf vainly tried to reenter the temple in an effort to save him.
Finally, again, everything faded to black.
And Empath had died.

"Empathy…are you awake?" a familiar voice called out to him.
Empath didn't expect to hear any voice calling out to him in the darkness. Nor did he expect to feel the hands of something or somebody bigger than himself carrying him away. He was supposed to be dead, wasn't he?
He opened his eyes and saw the brown-bearded face of his father. It was Culliford -- Papa Smurf. He squealed in joy.
"Empathy!" Culliford exclaimed, also surprised to see his own son awaken. "Oh, I thought you would be smurfed from me forever. I'm sorry I ever smurfed it in my head to take you to such a place like Psychelia, but I promise you from now on that I will never leave you like that ever again!"
"Papa!" Empathy finally spoke.
Culliford looked at his son, again surprised but still happy. "Empathy…you just smurfed your first word!" He hugged his son close to him as the infant closed his eyes again. "That's right, my little Empathy, that's who I am -- who I will always be. I am your Papa Smurf."

"Papa Smurf?" Empath asked, as the image of him carrying him away from the Psyche Master's temple had faded back into blackness.
But now he found that the voice that was his own is his current voice.
And something was lifting and carrying him away. But it wasn't the hands of Papa Smurf. It was something else, gentle and yet lighter than hands.
He removed the blindfold from his face and found out that he was now in a magic bubble, invisibly floating high up the chasm, away from the lava pool. He couldn't sense anything beyond the bubble, which must mean only one thing.
"Papa Smurf," he said to himself as a revelation, "he created this magic bubble to save me. And Brainy as well." He watched as another bubble floated past him, containing Brainy, who looked almost as surprised as Empath was over being rescued this way.
"But why did I see Papa Smurf rescue me from the Psyche Master, when I knew all along that years ago he couldn't?" Empath asked himself.
Then he knew the reason why. Though Papa Smurf couldn't save Empath many years ago from being taken by the Psyche Master, he truly did whatever he could to prevent the inevitable from happening, even as he left afterward thinking his own son was dead. And now, when Empath and Brainy had nearly fallen into the fiery pit of the volcano all because of Empath's own anger toward Papa Smurf, he had done the very thing that he had meant to do back then -- protect his own son from the jaws of death. That made Empath realize another thing.
"Papa Smurf is truly my own father!" he exclaimed. "He sacrificed his own life to save mine -- and now I have shamed him with my own anger."
That realization made Empath feel sad and guilty, wishing he could have a second chance to tell Papa Smurf how sorry he was.

The other Smurfs were more than relieved to see the two bubbles carrying Empath and Brainy rise from the abyss to the ledge, where they landed and disappeared, leaving only their passengers.
Smurfette was the first to greet Empath. "Thank Smurfness you're still alive, Empath," she cried out as she embraced him.
"This smurf is also happy to continue functioning," Empath managed to say.
Then Empath saw Brainy standing beside him, and at that moment he felt like he should have been angry with him for what he did, which cost them both their father's life. But instead, his minds-eye saw something in Brainy's mind, and then he realized something.
"You knew," Empath said. "Papa Smurf told you the truth about you and me."
Brainy didn't know how to answer that. He was so overcome with emotion -- from what he had learned and what he had lost -- that he couldn't find a single thing to say that was appropriate. The only thing he could do was embrace Empath.
"It is true, and I still can't believe it, Empath," he managed to say through his tears. "We're brothers!"
"Where's Papa Smurf?" Smurfette asked, interrupting the happy moment.
Empath took a few seconds to search out the entire chasm with his mind for Papa Smurf's presence. But there was nothing he could find -- nobody he could sense except for his fellow Smurfs.
"He's gone from us," he answered, sounding sad.
"Oh, no, it's all my fault, Empath," Brainy whined. "I should've smurfed my mind and stayed on the ledge like you smurfed me to, but no, I had to go and prove mysmurf that I could smurf the same thing as you could just because we are related! Papa Smurf died because of my foolishness and my arrogance."
"You are not to blame, Brainy," Empath said consolingly, though he was also mourning his loss. "You gave him a chance to prove who he was to the both of us. It's this smurf's fault to have led you all into this."
"So what do we do now without Papa Smurf?" another Smurf asked.
"We must honor him the best way we know how," Empath answered. "We must carry on with our own lives, to protect ourselves and the village, to work and live together the way Papa Smurf would have wanted us to do."
"I hate smurfing without Papa Smurf," Grouchy muttered.
Suddenly the entire chasm began to rumble violently enough to startle the Smurfs on the ledge. "What's smurfening?" Scaredy asked.
"Smurfs like this whole place is about to blow," Tracker guessed.
"Let's smurf out of here before we get smurfed to a crisp as well," Brainy cried out, prepared to leave.
"No...something else is happening, Brainy!" Empath countered, peering over the edge to see what could possibly be causing the shaking from below. Brainy, Smurfette, and the Smurflings also stood by the edge, looking fearfully, hoping that it isn't the volcano ready to erupt.
The lava lake stirred and bubbled like a heated pot of water boiling itself over. In the next moment, a small orange glob had burst upward from the surface, propelled at incredible speed. As it rose higher, the glob not only changed color but also its shape -- a humanoid shape that Empath and every other Smurf had now recognized as it got closer to the ledge.
It was that of Papa Smurf. He looked as if he were slightly sunburned, and his red suit was now a shade darker than before, but he was alive.
Every Smurf cheered for Papa Smurf as he gracefully landed back on the ledge in front of them. But Empath could see Papa Smurf was now staring daggers at him. It was a look that Empath couldn't stand to see on him. It made Empath feel ashamed of himself.
"Papa Smurf," he began to say, "this smurf is so sorry for what this smurf has done to you, to Baby Smurf, to everyone in the village. This smurf now realizes how wrong it is to question how much you care for any Smurf, even for this smurf."
Somehow it didn't seem like enough, for Papa Smurf's angry expression hadn't changed. Empath swallowed hard as he fell to his knees, feeling pathetic and humbled.
"This smurf is forever at your mercy, Papa Smurf," he added, his voice breaking, his eyes looking downward. "You may do what you will…for this smurf is not worthy enough to call himself a true Smurf…or even your son."
At that, Papa Smurf finally looked down at Empath and saw how low he had put himself in front of his own father. At that, Papa Smurf's expression of anger turned to sadness. At that, he realized that, as much as he wanted his own son to respect him even for the worst of what he did, he didn't want to treat Empath in the same way he saw the Psyche Master had treated him. He got down on his own knees and looked Empath in the eyes with those of concern and love.
"Empath, you have every right to question how much I care for you," Papa Smurf responded, taking Empath's hands in his own. "I know I was wrong for smurfing you in Psychelia, to even bring you there without ever asking you. Now I know how wrong I was in also leaving you there all those years. I was just too busy being a leader, wanting to be like the Psyche Master but in my own way. I should have known all the while that I was ignoring you, smurfing you for granted, when you were away from me. I should have smurfed my ground against the Psyche Master and kept you here in the Smurf Village when I found out you were alive."
"I know you should have done that," Empath muttered. "But now, all I want to know is if you do really care for me, even after what I smurfed to you and everyone here."
"Yes, Empath," Papa Smurf answered. "I still do care for you, and I always will, no matter what happens. I won't ever leave you like that anymore!"
Empath looked at his father and saw that he was telling the truth. As uncomfortable as it was now becoming, he couldn't hold back the need to embrace his father, to feel his arms around him as their warmth and strength soothed away the pain and isolation he had felt for a very long time.
Somehow the scene had affected all the other Smurfs who were watching. Some of them helped Empath to his feet, and one by one each of them told Empath how sorry they were, that all they wanted was to be his friend, that they would trade places with Empath in Psychelia if they had that choice thrusted upon them. It was a moment of such heartfelt honesty and sympathy that Empath felt he had been truly accepted not as an outsider who was now a member of the Smurf Village, but now as one of their own, a brother among many siblings, a part of one whole family. Even Hefty found it in his own heart to ask for Empath's forgiveness after the Smurflings had untied him. With each Smurf making their true feelings for him known, Empath found himself feeling better about himself enough to smile again.
"Here, Empath," Tailor presented as he handed Empath some clothes to change into. "I know it isn't your smurfday present, but after all we smurfed through…!"
It was an ordinary white hat and pants. But it was enough for Empath.
"Thank you, Tailor," Empath politely accepted as he changed into the white suit. "You are very thoughtful."
Finally, as the light of the new morning's sun started to shine down into the mouth of the volcano, the Smurfs left the chasm and headed back to the village, triumphant because they succeeded in bringing Empath from the depths of his despair and back into the family circle.
The long night was over.