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It was night in the Smurf Village. The brazier that was lit to burn the scrolls that contained each Smurf's own faults burned onward even as Papa Smurf scooped up the ashes from the burned scrolls to use for marking each Smurf with a blackened dot to indicate that their innocence was proven and will be watched over for another year.

Every Smurf lined up before Papa Smurf to have their foreheads marked with the ashes of their scrolls. "You have been forgiven for your misdeeds," he announced to each Smurf as he made the mark with his thumb.

Brainy was carrying Baby Smurf up with him, and after Papa Smurf marked both Brainy and Baby Smurf, he invited Baby Smurf to do the honor of marking his own forehead. Baby Smurf giggled as he stuck his hand into the bowl of ashes and placed a handprint on Papa Smurf's forehead. "For-give mis-deed," Baby Smurf said.

"Bless you, Baby Smurf," Papa Smurf replied, almost giggling himself.

As each Smurf took a slice of bread afterward to eat and a small cup of smurfberry wine to drink, Smurfette found herself sobbing, with only Tapper and Duncan comforting her. "It just isn't fair," she cried out. "Empath shouldn't have died in that Pool of Souls for what he smurfed. I just knew it in my heart that he could never smurf anyone's life without a good reason. Empath could never be that cruel to someone."

"Aye, Smurfette, I agree from the bottom of my heart that Empath wasn't the kind of Smurf that would ever smurf anything that wicked to someone," Tapper said honestly. "At the very least, he will be another guardian spirit resmurfing in its waters, judging eternally all those who smurf through the Pool of Souls to make sure their innocence is proven."

"But why does it have to be him?" Smurfette asked, finding no solace in Tapper's words. "Why does Empath have to suffer this fate when he had suffered enough smurfing in Psychelia all those years? Those Psyches didn't care about smurfing his 'innocence'...they were just trying to smurf Empath into being just another Psyche, and how they smurfed it that time was just brutal."

"There, there, now, my dear Smurfette," Tapper murmured. "I can smurf from Empath's heart that he truly cares about you, and that he would smurf his own life for you so that you would be happy and smurfing in love with another Smurf should that ever happen. There is no greater love for another Smurf than that of self-sacrifice."

"And by the ancestors of the Clan McSmurf, I will not let his sacrifice smurf in vain, for he was a true McSmurf who stands among the McSmurfs that have ever smurfed," Duncan said.

Hefty came to Papa Smurf with tears in his eyes – something no Smurf ever saw Hefty do much, since he usually was too tough of a Smurf to cry. “Is there something bothering you, Hefty?” Papa Smurf asked.

Hefty nodded with a sniff. “I thought seeing Empath smurfing for what he desmurfed, even for what he smurfed to me, would make me smurf a whole lot better, Papa Smurf. But now it makes me smurf so empty inside, so guilty of wanting to see Empath smurf like he did today.”

Papa Smurf sighed. “Revenge never satisfies anyone who smurfs for it so much, Hefty. Even when the one who is avenged smurfs the victory, it doesn’t smurf everything back to the way the avenged had smurfed it. In any case, your smurfonal struggle with Empath over what he had smurfed with you is over now. We’ll all have to smurf on with our lives and smurf for tomorrow in the hopes that Empath’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain.”

“I hate having to smurf on with my life without Empath,” Grouchy muttered, also weeping.

Papa Smurf in the meantime noticed that Empath’s scroll still wasn’t opened. He took a look through the inside of its rolled-up form and noticed that there was some writing on it. He then unrolled the scroll and saw that it wasn’t Empath’s faults that were written on it. Rather, it was a poem.

“’Please make sure Poet reads this in case this smurf is judged guilty by the Pool of Souls’,” Papa Smurf read aloud from the top of the scroll. He then had a feeling that this was what Empath would have wanted. “Poet, would you kindly smurf the honors of smurfing this poem that Empath had written for this occasion?” he requested.

“Absosmurfly, Papa Smurf,” Poet replied, taking the scroll as he approached Papa Smurf and recited the following, as the other Smurfs listened:

I never knew what life was until somebody showed me,
How precious a gift it was to be given,
That every moment in life was meant to be lived
Until someone I knew was no more among the living.
Whatever life I knew, I tried to lived it
And give it meaning the best way I knew how.
But what I wouldn’t give to give back a life
To a one whose life isn’t lived right now.
I know not a whit of what tomorrow may be,
I know only what may come today.
And today I can only wish that life
That I took is the one that will ever stay.
But this is the thing that I cannot undo,
To erase this guilt in my memory.

At this point, another voice joined in the background to finish the reciting:

I can only hope that when you think of life,
That you will never take it like me.

Poet was taken aback by the voice that finished reciting the poem for him. "How did you know how the rest of it would go?" he asked.

"This smurf should know," the voice answered back, "because this smurf wrote it."

Every Smurf recognized the voice. They all turned around and saw Empath, alive and well, still wearing his star-patterned hat and his white gown.

"Michty me, I don't believe it!" Duncan said.

"Blessed smurfs of Eire, our fellow Empath is alive!" Tapper said.

Smurfette was so happy to see Empath again she went over and hugged him. "Oh, Empath, I knew you'd be judged innocent," he said.

"Actually, this smurf was judged guilty and was sentenced to drown, Smurfette," Empath corrected her.

Smurfette was puzzled. "Then how did you survive?" she asked.

"This smurf had no idea, Smurfette," Empath answered as honestly as he could. "One moment this smurf found himself drowning and losing consciousness, and the next moment this smurf was on the other shore, breathing again. It took this smurf a while to realize that a half-hour had passed. This smurf had never experienced a feeling like death before, nor would this smurf want to repeat the experience anytime soon."

"This just doesn't make any sense," Smurfette said, shaking her head. "If you were supposed to die for smurfing a life, then how is it that you smurfed back to life like that?"

Papa Smurf stroked his beard as he thought of how this was possible. "Perhaps the spirits that guard the Pool Of Souls smurfed something about what Empath did that made them reconsider smurfing his life," he suggested.

"This smurf upon awakening on the other shore did see one of those spirits talking to this smurf," Empath recalled. "This spirit told this smurf that though the other spirits had judged this smurf to be guilty, she had seen into this smurf's heart and noticed that what this smurf did was not out of malice, nor was it what this smurf chose to do. Basically, this smurf acted only out of a need to survive a situation that presented no other alternatives. She saw that this smurf did everything possible to prevent that death from happening, and ultimately the other spirits had given this smurf a second chance."

"Oh, what a wonderful gift to smurf, a second chance," Tapper said, sounding very ecstatic. "I couldn't be more happy for you to be smurfed worthy of such mercy."

"It's good to see you smurfing among the living after what you had smurfed through there, laddie," Duncan said.

Just then, Vanity approached Empath. He could see that Vanity's physical injuries were healed, but what surprised Empath was that Vanity didn't seem to be holding a grudge against him anymore. He looked exuberant, as if he too was released from his own guilt.

"Vanity, this smurf wants to apologize for the violent actions this smurf committed on you on the day before Redemption Day," Empath stated.

"Oh, Empath, smurf nothing of it!" Vanity replied. "That was just you smurfing off some steam, and besides, I feel and look just as smurfy as I did before it even happened." He held his hand mirror to show Empath an angle of his now-unblemished face. "Oh, blessed be the healing waters of the Great Pool of Souls, for they have smurfed the inner me and now also made it the outer me again!" He then kissed his own reflection as a symbol of his reverence, which made Empath feel better about himself again.

He then turned to Papa Smurf. "Will you forgive this smurf for the most immoral fault this smurf could ever commit, even if this smurf had to break a promise to you?" Empath asked.

Papa Smurf looked at Empath with genuine affection. "You are my only true son, Empath," he replied. "After all you smurfed through without me behind you, how could I not forgive you of that misdeed?" He then placed a black mark of ashes on Empath's forehead where his smurfmark was.

"Here, Empath, I smurfed a piece of this just for you," Greedy said, handing Empath the last piece of bread for him to eat along with a small cup of smurfberry wine. "I was going to smurf this in memory of you, just in case you were truly gone from us forever."

"This smurf appreciates your efforts in either case, Greedy," Empath replied, digesting the piece of bread in a few gulps before drinking the wine.

The other Smurfs joined in welcoming Empath back into the land of the living.


Later on, in Empath's own house, he saw the phantom of Polluxis visiting him again.

"This one wishes to express gratitude for your courage in confessing to your fellow Smurfs what you have done to this one in Psychelia," he said. "Now that your life has been restored and you are free of the guilt, this one can now rejoin the spirits of the Great Ancestors of Psychelia. Your training is now complete."

Empath thought of something. “What was the whole point of the training exercise?” he asked.

"The point of that particular exercise wasn’t just whether you were willing to take a life," Polluxis answered. "It is also whether you were willing to live with the burden of having to take the life, regardless of the consequences. Had you continued your training in Psychelia, the Psyche Master would have taught you well in how to deal with such a burden. Unfortunately, you have left before he could teach you, and you had to learn how to deal with this burden among your own people. It is through your actions today that you have proven yourself to be both a true Psyche and a true Smurf. To that, this one bids you a long healthy life and to be guardful of this new innocence you have been given. Farewell forever, fellow Empath."

Empath watched as the phantom of Polluxis vanished from his sight.

"Farewell forever, fellow Polluxis," Empath said silently, "and thank you."

THE END

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