Chapter 1

Empath's personal journal, March 28.
It is that time of year again, an annual ritual of the Smurfs that is about as grueling to endure as Unhappiness Day. It is called Redemption Day, the day appropriately named since it takes place only a week after the spring equinox, for it is the day when every Smurf must be called to prove their innocence as a Smurf. Every year, each Smurf must write in a scroll all the faults he or she committed in the past year. After they are written and recited to the others, he or she must wade through a mystical well of pure cleansing water called the Great Pool Of Souls, and their innocence is proven whether he or she survives the swim or drowns. Those that survive the swim are deemed innocent, and thus are allowed to throw their scrolls into the fire set at sundown, as proof that their innocence shall be guarded for the course of one more year.
So far, to every Smurf's memory, not one single Smurf has ever drowned in the Great Pool of Souls, and it has been that way for centuries. However, this smurf seems to have personal doubts that it would ever stay that way...especially since not one single Smurf has yet known what this smurf did in Psychelia in the last year this smurf had spent there.

That morning Papa Smurf had put Empath in charge of overseeing the preparations for the forthcoming Redemption Day. Hefty and Tuffy carried out the heavy stone brazier into which sacred wood and incense would be burned all day, setting it up in the village square where the first part of the ritual would take place. Printer was churning out empty scrolls made from the pulp of the same tree the sacred wood for the brazier was taken from, using purified water from the Great Pool of Souls to mix the pulp into paper. Tailor was in his workshop sewing up white gowns with gold Smurf symbols embroidered on them, which he and Papa Smurf had called baptismal gowns. Greedy was busy baking pure white bread, which would be eaten by the end of the day as a reminder that the Smurfs have accepted the spirits of their great ancestors within themselves and would follow in their ways for the rest of their days. And Vino was making sure that there was enough smurfberry wine to go with the pure white bread, as a reminder that the guarding of their innocence wouldn't be without a covenant that was sealed with the shedding of blood from the Great Ancestors. However, this day preceding it was to be observed as a fasting day, where no Smurf was to ever eat or drink anything until the following day when their innocence was proven. As much as it pained certain Smurfs who wanted to eat or drink something so badly, Empath compassionately made sure his fellow Smurfs had remained steadfast to this part of the custom so that the spirits of the great ancestors would not be offended.
For the most part, though, every Smurf in the village was too focused on thinking what they had done in the past year that they could write in their scrolls that would be considered a fault. Papa Smurf was helping Baby Smurf write in his scroll, though the most he could get was just a bunch of childlike scribbles since Baby Smurf was too interested in drawing and wasn't yet able to write. Papa Smurf simply laughed, knowing that Baby Smurf was still too young to understand everything about right and wrong and that the Pool of Souls would still consider Baby Smurf innocent until he had reached an age of awareness where he would know right from wrong. For the Smurflings, though, Brainy was busy helping them write down their faults since they were in great disagreement over what each of them thought was a fault worthy of being judged, though Brainy did seem to be bragging to them a bit about his own "goodness" compared to every other Smurf except for Papa Smurf, Baby Smurf, and Empath.
Seeing that there wasn't anything else that required his personal intervention, Empath walked over to Tapper's tavern, which he knew was closed for business until the day following Redemption Day. But Empath wasn't interested in having any sarsaparilla ale right now – he just needed a particular fellow Smurf to talk to. On his way there, he met with his friend Duncan McSmurf, who was so busy writing down all his faults on his scroll that he didn't see where he was going until he walked straight into Empath.
"Hey, watch where you're smurfing there, laddie," Duncan said angrily before he realized who it was he walked into. "Oh, it's you, Empath. Sorry for smurfing at you like you were one of the young pups around the village."
"There's no need to apologize, Duncan, for this smurf senses your true intentions," Empath said as he helped Duncan pick up the scroll and quill that he dropped on the ground. "This smurf can sense that you have a lot of things that you need to confess about yourself for this year's Redemption Day."
"I can't say that I'm entirely proud for being the kind of Smurf that I am," Duncan said. "Living among the other laddies in the village without you being here to smurf the peace certainly has made me a little ornery, if you know what I mean."
"This smurf doesn't always enjoy the role of being the peacekeeper, Duncan, but this smurf would rather not see the village be in such a chaotic state that it would only prove the Psyche Master right about what he thinks of the Smurfs," Empath said.
"At least you don't have to smurf back to that place anymore, laddie, which is something I'd celebrate with you if it weren't for that the tavern is closed and I can't smurf with you one of my bottles of sarsaparilla ale," Duncan said.
"Perhaps some other time we may do that, if the Great Ancestors are willing," Empath said. "This smurf will see you later." He watched Duncan walk off and continue writing his faults down before he entered the tavern.
Inside, he saw Tapper hard at work writing down all the faults he had committed in the past year in his scroll. Empath also saw that Tapper was reading a book with leather binding and a gold cross embossed on it. It was a book that Empath only saw Tapper and no other Smurf in the village carrying, the only book that Empath couldn't read by simply touching it and using his minds-eye to absorb its information. Tapper called it The Holy Book, since he claimed it was given to him by an angel who saw in him such a spirit-minded Smurf seeking for answers beyond the earthly realm.
"Salutations, Tapper," Empath greeted. "This smurf hopes there was no disturbance from this smurf's presence being in here during your tavern's nonfunctioning hours."
Tapper turned to see Empath. "Smurf o' the morning to you, my good Empath. I'm just busy smurfing up all my faults for the past year, hoping that the blessed saints of the Great Pool of Souls would forgive me of all that I've smurfed wrong. Other than that, your smurfany is welcome."
"Somehow this smurf can't imagine anything you could've done wrong over the past year...or any other year for that matter...would be serious enough for you to be judged for," Empath remarked. "It seems as if every Smurf continues to be proven worthy of absolution in the sacred waters, since they have not committed faults that relate to complete immorality, such as taking the lives of others. By the way, what exactly are you reading from The Holy Book?"
"An interesting chapter that somehow smurfs related to the Great Pool of Souls, from the book of Genesis," Tapper answered. "A story about a human named Noah who was commanded by the Almighty to smurf up a giant ark and smurf on board every animal, a male and his mate, before He smurfed loose the heavy rains that flooded the entire world for forty days and forty nights. Every human smurfed outside the ark was drowned by the great flood, but Noah and his family survived along with the animals. When the rains had ended, Noah allowed a dove to fly off in order to smurf dry land, and eventually it never smurfed back, so he and his family smurfed loose all the animals and settled on the new lands near Mount Ararat. The Almighty promised that he would never flood the entire world again by smurfing a rainbow everytime the rains ended."
Empath pondered about this great flood and the giant ark that had carried every known animal for forty days and nights. He remembered hearing something similar that happened in the Smurf forest, where Gargamel had used some magic beans to create a giant flood that covered much of the surrounding area and would have covered the the entire world if it weren't for Smurfette's magical friend Blue Eyes, the orange flying horse that only she could see. Luckily, Psychelia was spared the fate of being flooded, though if Blue Eyes hadn't been successful in stopping the rain, the Psyche Master would've taken a personal hand at it himself had it reached that point.
"This smurf isn't sure how this 'great flood' back then in the early days of man has anything to do with Smurfs, Tapper," Empath responded, puzzled after he had read that story from the book of Genesis.
"Aye, much like the humans of those times, Empath, even Smurfs like us weren't as clean and pure as new-fallen snow," Tapper stated. "Only two of them, a male and a female Smurf, were the only ones who didn't smurf into wickedness, so along with all the animals that smurfed the ark, those two Smurfs joined them and Noah's family on smurf. The other Smurfs, like the other humans, were drowned by the great flood. Legend smurfs it...and this is just legend that smurfs it, mind you, not the actual truth...that the souls of those drowned Smurfs were smurfed into a great crystalline pool below where smurfed the Great Oak Tree, where they would forever smurf as its guardian spirits who test the innocence of every Smurf who smurf across its distance to the other shore. They also baptize baby Smurfs and young Smurflings so that they may receive their full blessings and guard their innocence until they smurf an age of reasoning."
Empath remembered the day when he was first baptized in the Great Pool of Souls, back when he first visited the Smurf Village at 70 years of age. Papa Smurf, being the leader of the village, was supposed to be the one who would baptize Empath in the spirits of the Great Ancestors when Tapper prevented Papa Smurf from doing so, saying that he somehow was given the divine privilege of baptizing Empath. Papa Smurf wondered how Tapper could have known about this, but just as the other Smurfs were questioning that statement, he went with his own instincts and simply allowed Tapper to perform the baptism. Empath stood bravely in the waters as Tapper took the sacred cup, scooped up some water from the Pool of Souls, and poured it onto Empath's forehead. "By the name of the Great Ancestors who have smurfed in this forest since time began, I hereby baptize you, Empath Smurf, so that you may be smurfed again in spirit as a true Smurf," Tapper announced as he completed the ceremony. "May they recognize you as one of them and watch over your innocence until the end of your days." And on that day, Empath felt as if he had been cleansed of a guilt he had unknowingly been carrying.
"Truth to tell, Empath, you smurftainly don't look like you've smurfed in here just to recall a story based on something from the Holy Book," Tapper commented, bringing Empath back into the here and now. "You look like a Smurf who's got a heavy stone smurfed around his neck. I'd wonder just what it is that would make such a Smurf like you feel like a heavy burden has been smurfed on your soul."
Empath realized that Tapper was seeing something about him that was making itself visible even to a Smurf that didn't share the same mental abilities. It was a guilt that he wasn't sure he could name its cause even to a fellow Smurf that he trusted with such secrets. "This smurf apologizes, but this smurf cannot tell you yet, Tapper," he replied.
"Aye, Empath, whatever it is that's weighing you down, just smurf it down into your scroll and let the spirits of the Pool of Souls know," Tapper suggested. "Whatever it is, I can smurf you that they will cleanse you of your guilt and make you a new Smurf with no more worries over faults you have smurfully confessed to. They will forgive you for whatever it is that you have smurfed wrong, even while you were in Psychelia."
"This smurf can only hope so, this time," Empath sighed as he got up and left the tavern.

Smurfette was busy in the privacy of her own house, trying to write down her yearly faults on her scroll, when she heard a knock on her door. She laid down her quill and answered it. “Empath, what smurfs you here?” she asked, greeting him by the door.
“Can this smurf talk privately with you for a bit?” Empath requested.
“Sure, Empath,” she responded, allowing Empath to enter her house. He sat on a chair while she sat on a sofa across from him. “Is there smurfthing on your mind that you wanted to smurf me alone?”
Empath wasn’t sure how he could really tell her what was on his mind – that particular thing he hoped to never reveal about himself. “I’m just wondering how it was for you, Smurfette, the first year you were in the village, when you had to undergo the annual Redemption Day ceremony of swimming through the Pool of Souls.”
Smurfette thought about that for a minute. “Well, I smurfed a little bit uncomfortable smurfing through it – I mean, I had no idea that being a real Smurf meant having to smurf your conscience clear of every sort of evil thing you have smurfed. I ended up having to be the last Smurf smurfing across the pool, and I didn’t think that I was going to smurf it across. But I feel thankful that I smurfed it through my first Redemption Day still alive and smurfing.”
“But did you ever have such a secret shameful thing that you did as a Smurf – the kind of thing that you never wanted to let any Smurf know about?” Empath asked.
“The only shameful thing I smurfed was that I tried to destroy you Smurfs,” Smurfette answered. “And that was no secret, though it was before Papa Smurf had smurfed me into a real Smurf. But I no longer smurf the guilt of having ever smurfed that, because it was all smurfed away in the waters of the Pool of Souls.”
“And you never had thoughts of Gargamel haunting you, trying to remind you of what you were before Papa Smurf remade you into what you are now?” Empath wondered.
“I did smurfed those thoughts, Empath,” Smurfette confessed. “And one time, Gargamel did smurf me back into my old un-Smurfy self before Papa Smurf had changed me, but I didn’t smurf like that for long. The real Smurf that was in me rebelled against Gargamel, and I ended up smurfing back into my real Smurf self.” That made Smurfette wonder herself about her friend Empath. “Is there smurfthing in your past that’s been haunting you, besides the time when Papa Smurf had smurfed you in Psychelia when you were just a baby Smurf?”
Empath felt a little uncomfortable trying to answer her. “Just one of the Psyches that this smurf had acquaintance with in Psychelia, if not anything else. His name is Polluxis, a fellow student who was in training along with this smurf and the K generation of Psyches.”
“Polluxis?” Smurfette asked, uncertain of what Empath was trying to say. “What smurfened to this Psyche that’s so terrible that you’re being haunted by his memory?”
“He died during a training exercise,” Empath answered, a little too quickly.
“That’s terrible,” Smurfette remarked. “But what smurfened to him isn’t your fault, is it?”
Empath gulped. “This smurf could only wish to say that it wasn’t my fault, Smurfette. But I was there! I saw it happen right before me! I felt like I should have smurfed something, anything, to keep it from happening.”
“Empath, you can’t smurf everyone from dying on you,” Smurfette reminded him. “Even with all the powers that you smurf, you’re still just one Smurf, and you can’t smurf everywhere at once smurfing everything at once. Polluxis’ death is just an accident, not smurfthing that you have any real control over. You have to accept this and smurf on with your life, not let this death continue to consmurf your mind like that.”
“I just wish I can smurf myself that, Smurfette,” Empath muttered, feeling really gloomy. “But lately I keep smurfing him when I’m awake, when I’m asleep. He smurfs me that I murdered him, and that I must smurf up to the fact that it’s my fault that he’s dead, that I smurfed it with my own hands. I can’t smurf him out of my mind, no matter how hard I try to!”
Smurfette gently held Empath’s hands, looking at them. “I don’t smurf the hands of a murderer on you, Empath. I smurf the hands of a Smurf who knows how to smurf his strength wisely and lovingly.”
Just then, Empath could hear a voice: Empath Psyche, designation 1137-K, you cannot hide what you have done to this one from your fellow Smurfs. They will know for certain that you are truly not one of them.
“There it is again, Smurfette,” Empath said, looking around the room as if he could find the one who was speaking to him like that. “The voice of Polluxis is speaking to me. He’s smurfing me that I cannot hide what I smurfed to him!”
Smurfette looked puzzled, not hearing anything of what Empath was hearing. “Empath, maybe you should go smurf to Papa Smurf about those things you’re seeing and hearing,” she suggested. “Maybe he can help you smurf past the guilt that you’re feeling about this Psyche that you have smurfed died.”
Empath nodded as he turned to leave Smurfette’s house. “Maybe this smurf should.”
Smurfette looked at Empath with some concern for him as she watched him leave. She truly wished that she could see into Empath’s mind the same way he could see into hers so she could understand just what it was about his past and this Polluxis that was tormenting him.