Empath was standing on the top of a terrace, looking at the desolate and ruined landscape that surrounded the temple, when Ares returned. "So have you made your decision?" he asked.
"This smurf still thinks you are a very despicable god, Ares," Empath answered, "and frankly, this smurf just can't stand being in the same room as you. Does this smurf have to sit on the same throne as you if this smurf decides to become a god of conquest?"
"All I can tell you, Empath, is that when you're a god, the whole world is your address," Ares replied. "You can even set up for yourself a temple of worship in the Smurf Village, and make it look as extravagant as you like. You won't even mind me visiting you now and then just to see how you're doing - but I promise to make my visits short and sweet."
Empath nodded. "Show this smurf what needs to be done in order to become a god."
Ares grinned. "Now you're talking like a true warrior Smurf!" he roared, clapping his hands and causing a secret door to open in the wall of the adjoining upper room. Beyond the door was a chamber lit up by hellish flames, dancing and licking from within. "You have to walk through fire to see the very thing I hold in this chamber that can transform you into a god."
Empath swallowed hard and entered the chamber. He soon found that it somehow made him feel bigger walking inside - as if the very concept of accepting godhood was forsaking your own physical limitations. Ahead of him, sitting on a stone altar adorned by skulls and bones, was a golden chalice with thick red liquid that bubbled like a heated stew. Empath smelled the contents of the chalice and had a feeling that this was blood he was going to be drinking.
"The blood of every being who was conquered and slain by the hand of man fills this Chalice Of Conquest, Empath," Ares reminded him. "Drink just a bit of this blood, and you'll never have to go back to being such a small limited creature without any of the powers you once had. You'll have eternal life and eternal power beyond anything that even you or Papa Smurf could imagine."
Empath's stomach turned in revulsion as the smell of this blood filled his nostrils. It was the most disgusting thing he thought he would ever do to gain greater power than what he once possessed. But now, all that mattered to him was getting his fellow Smurfs back home, and for that purpose alone, Empath would sacrifice himself, even if that meant swallowing poison, to achieve that end.
He lifted the chalice high from the top of the altar and raised it to his mouth, ready to drink its contents, when something zoomed into this chamber at incredible speed and whisked Empath away, letting the chalice drop to the floor and spilling its contents.
Ares was more than astonished to see Empath disappear on him like that...he was angered. He turned and saw that it was his fellow god Hermes invading his temple. "How dare you pay such a visit on me without so much as an invitation from me?" Ares growled.
"You could never build a temple that I could never be able to race my way through, Ares," Hermes smirked. "That's one of your biggest downfalls right there, as is trying to pervert a being like a Smurf into one of your foul-hearted servants."
"Who sent you here, Hermes?" Ares asked. "I don't recall that any of those Smurfs had ever made it back into this time period to warn you about me."
"Someone else that you'll never be able to pervert into a warrior," Hermes answered. "But since I am already wearing out my welcome, I'm going to leave you right now with your own misery."
Ares was becoming more and more furious. As much as he didn't like mortal beings refusing his gifts, he hated his own fellow gods trying to protect such mortals from his own machinations. He wasn't going to let Hermes and whoever else was with him get away stealing someone who was going to commit himself to the rite of godhood.
"Hang on, my friends," Hermes warned. "Getting into Ares' temple was the easy part, but getting out is where it gets a little hairy even for a god like me."
One by one, Ares' demons came storming after Hermes, intent on stopping him before he escaped with Empath and Polaris. But as fast and powerful as the demons were, they were no match for Hermes' blazing speed. He easily evaded them and even caused some of them to defeat each other, making Ares curse his fellow god's very name. Soon the temple was littered with the bodies of collapsed demons as Hermes simply bolted out of there with Ares' would-be prize.
Ares vowed that Hermes would pay for his interference someday. He also vowed that he would get Empath back where he wanted him, no matter what it took.
"Polaris, why were you trying to stop this smurf?" Empath asked, sounding somewhat indignant. "If this smurf had succeeded in drinking from the Chalice of Conquest, this smurf would have gained abilities unlike what this smurf was given before!"
"The Chalice of Conquest was Ares' biggest lure for those who wanted to gain godhood for the sake of what they themselves had lost, my little friend," Hermes answered. "Had you actually taken a drop of that blood into your mouth, you would've been turned into another of his foul demons, and by then you would have been so twisted and transformed by its power, you would never be able to realize how deceived you were. I've seen many a soul who have fallen for the promise of the Chalice…and they wound up being like Dissonance, living forever but in a state of such ugliness and wickedness, serving forever the god who wants to plunge all of mankind into eternal war and slavery. Ares truly hasn't been the same since this 'unknown and invisible' God came along and started overpowering even the great god Zeus. He's gotten worse, and he wants to gain as many wicked souls as he can to combat this God before he, too, falls."
"But you don't fear this God that Ares fears?" Empath asked.
"Of course, I fear Him," Hermes replied. "As powerful as the gods were, this God has proven to be more powerful than any of the gods that have come into existence, working through a small group of people called the Israelites, making all other gods that dared to oppose them look small and weak. It's only a matter of time before I join those gods who now must bow before Him and confess that He alone is God. It's not something that I take any pleasure in, but if it means that Ares is defeated, I would gladly give up all my places of adoration just to see it."
"Empath, this one cares about you enough to not want to see you be turned into the very things Hermes warned this one about," Polaris said. "Your fellow Smurfs would have expected no less."
Soon Empath found himself back where it had all started, back to that tree in a forest a good distance away from the Smurf Village, with his friend Polaris and Papa Smurf's assistant. Hermes had already departed, moving at incredible speed, to somewhere else before any of them had a chance to thank him. Empath looked around to see if there was any trace of what he thought he had experienced - some sign of this angelic version of Smurfette that turned out to be nothing more than a creation of an evil god. He wanted to make sure he would never be fooled again in such a fashion like that.
Polaris sensed Empath's apprehension and confusion over the situation. "The god of war must have made it so convincing that you felt that you could let all your troubles and worries slip away into nothingness," he mentioned. "He had preyed upon your fear of losing your fellow Smurfs forever so that he could try turning you into his servant god again."
Empath nodded. "This smurf just couldn't believe this whole thing was a set-up! This smurf wanted so much to believe that I was with them again, knowing what it is to be a Smurf in the here beyond."
"What is quite amazing, Empath," Papa Smurf's assistant suggested, "was the amount of trouble Ares smurfed through to get you to accept his gift of godhood. Apparently, from what I can remember of Papa Smurf's previous dealings, Ares doesn't spare any expense of his own power to smurf your whole 'afterlife' experience to be very convincing. It's fortunate that you somehow managed to smurf through his grand illusion."
"But still this smurf wonders...are this smurf's fellow Smurfs all really dead, or are they still alive, traveling through time," Empath asked.
"There is much that we do not know about the condition of your fellow Smurfs," Polaris answered, "but this one can assure you, Empath, that as long as hope exists for their return, they may still be alive."
"And as long as I'm still being smurfed around on a chain," Papa Smurf's assistant added, "I will continue to be there for you as well."
"This smurf appreciates your companionship, the both of you," Empath said, with some honest feeling behind it. "This smurf thought that being separated again from this smurf's fellow Smurfs would be an easy thing since this smurf had been seperated from them before, but apparently this smurf is just too much of a Smurf to realize the truth of it all." He yawned, realizing that the whole experience was tiring him out again.
"You should rest now, Empath, before we smurf onward with the journey ahead," Papa Smurf's assistant suggested. "Polaris and I will make smurftain nothing else happens to you while you're sleeping."
"Perhaps this smurf should," Empath replied, too weary to even protest. He fell asleep against the same tree that he rested near when he thought he had left his body. Polaris noticed that Empath somehow looked more at peace with himself than he did the night before when he rested.
"This one can only wonder about this 'afterlife' Empath had experienced, Culliford," Polaris began to ponder, "and whether it was anything like the real thing would be when people pass on from this life."
"There's just so much that we don't know about what smurfs on after this life, Polaris," the HoloSmurf answered. "Even what we do know would smurf pale in comparison to what it will actually smurf like. A place of eternal joy and happiness - or one of eternal torment and suffering. Frankly, I would smurf the first place over the second on any given day. If what Empath had smurfed through today smurfs anything, I'd say he has already smurfed his first taste of heaven - and hopefully, it may not be his last taste."
Polaris nodded. "Then may this one someday join him in that place when this one's time on earth is finished."