Part 5

"That was sweet of Wild to do while you were incapacitated, Empath," Smurfette said. "But the other Smurfs must have been worried sick about not finding you during that time."
"That's what this smurf had heard, Smurfette," Empath said. "This smurf spent days being healed, and slowly this smurf was regaining mobility, which really made the Smurfs feel frustrated in not being able to find this smurf, especially Papa Smurf since this was the first time in years that he had been with this smurf since our separation years ago in Psychelia."
"But you did get healed and you did eventually smurf back home in time for the Winter Solstice," Smurfette said. "I would want to hear about how that happened."
"Just be patient, and this smurf will tell you," Empath said. "Anyway, it was several days later, according to the other Smurfs, when they still couldn't find a trace of this smurf in the forest, and Papa Smurf's faith was severely being tested, but Tapper wasn't going to give up."
And as Empath continued his story, Smurfette saw in his mind the point in the story where it was several days later, when Papa Smurf waited at the end of the day for Tracker to return from his usual airborne search through the forest only to come home and say that he found nothing. Papa Smurf's face felt heavy with sorrow, as if he was coming to the realization that he may be losing Empath all over again.
Late at night, when most of the Smurfs were asleep in their quarters, Papa Smurf was still up at night, sitting in his chair and looking at an old hand-drawn picture of his wife Lillithina, feeling sad that she couldn't be there at that moment to comfort him during his time of loss. The first time they lost Empath was bad enough for her to take, but it felt even worse as if he was going to experience the loss all over again.
Then he heard a knocking on his door. He opened it and found that it was Tapper, all dressed up in his robe and nightgown. "May I enter to smurf something with you tonight, Papa Smurf?" Tapper asked.
Papa Smurf allowed Tapper to enter, so he pulled up a chair to sit by the fireplace with Papa Smurf. "What smurfs to be on your mind tonight, Tapper?" Papa Smurf asked.
"The same thing that smurfs to be on everybody's mind, Papa Smurf...wondering where Empath is and what he's smurfing, if he is still alive," Tapper answered.
"That's just what I was thinking, whether he is still alive tonight," Papa Smurf said. "I feel like I'm losing a special child that smurfed more to me in this world than any of you."
"I'm sure Empath is special to all of us in more ways than one, Papa Smurf," Tapper said. "But I feel in my spirit that Empath is still alive, being smurfed over by a guardian angel who has been smurfed by the Almighty to take care of him."
"You believe that this guardian angel is protecting Empath?" Papa Smurf asked.
"As surely as the Almighty is my witness, Papa Smurf," Tapper said. "I can sense that the Almighty is protecting him for a very special time in his life when he will smurf deliverance to his fellow Smurfs from a very powerful evil that would threaten to destroy us all."
"The Almighty has smurfed you this?" Papa Smurf asked, sounding a bit incredulous.
"Only He knows the exact details of how it's going to happen, Papa Smurf," Tapper said. "All I can smurf to you right you is not to lose hope, for the Almighty will bring Empath safely home at the due time appointed. We just need to continue to believe that we will see Empath again."
Papa Smurf sighed. "You seem to have more faith in this Almighty than even I do in anything at this point, Tapper."
"I'm just simply smurfing what I can as a humble servant of the Almighty, Papa Smurf," Tapper said. "This is all His smurfing, and He will smurf it to pass without fail. The One who has our lives in the smurf of His hands can never lie about that."
Papa Smurf reached out and touched Tapper's shoulder. "Thank you for your words of encouragement, Tapper. I guess that's just what I needed to hear right now."

"And so while the Smurfs continued their search during the days leading up to the Winter Solstice, this smurf was slowly recovering, and Wild was learning more and more about what it means to be a Smurf from what little this smurf knew about them at the time," Empath said.
And as Empath's story continued, Smurfette saw in her mind Empath beginning to move around, feeling like he had been stiff from lying around for ages. Wild had brought him something to eat, which Empath gratefully accepted, even if it wasn't very palatable to Empath's tastes.
"These Smurfs have a celebration around this time of year...what is it called?" Wild asked.
"It is called the Winter Solstice, where the Smurfs celebrate the shortest day of the year with gifts and presents and food and singing," Empath answered.
"And you're going to this?" Wild asked.
"As soon as this smurf is fully able to walk, this smurf is going to return to the Smurf Village," Empath said. "You can join this smurf on the way and return to them if you want."
"But I would miss my family, the squirrels," Wild said.
"The squirrels have been your family?" Empath asked.
"Ever since I was a baby, I was raised by various families of squirrels," Wild said. "They felt so warm and furry, and here I am, so naked without hair."
"You can join your fellow Smurfs and feel like you belong there," Empath said.
"I would never fit in among them, Empath," Wild said.
"This smurf knows how you feel about not fitting in, Wild, but this smurf will be there with you until this smurf returns to Psychelia," Empath said.
"But you would forget me," Wild said.
"By the Great Ancestors, this smurf will never forget you as long as this smurf lives," Empath said, holding Wild's hands while he said that.

"And so, it was on the day before the Winter Solstice, when Papa Smurf made one final effort to send out a rescue party in order to find this smurf in the forest that this smurf was able to walk, and that this smurf was eventually found by this smurf's fellow Smurfs," Empath said.
And as Empath's story continued, Smurfette saw in her mind the day when Empath finally ventured out of the hole in the tree that he and Wild were living in, to find himself high up a tree somewhere in the forest. He looked down and saw that it was going to take some effort to descend down the tree to the bottom where he would reach ground and then try to find his way back to the Smurf Village.
It was a slow descent, and rather tricky, for some of the branches Empath landed on were covered in ice, causing Empath to slip here and there. However, by the time he reached the bottom, Empath could see that he was in a rather unfamiliar part of the forest he had never been in. He decided to call out: "SMURFS! ANYONE! CAN YOU HEAR THIS SMURF?"
Unknown to Empath, a fierce wolf was sneaking up behind Empath, ready to attack him unaware. Empath then sensed the presence of something dangerous, and so turned and saw the wolf ready to pounce on him. But then from out of nowhere, Wild came and attacked the wolf himself, throwing a snowball at the creature that made him turn his attention toward Wild instead of Empath.
"Wild, be careful!" Empath called out.
The wolf chased Wild until he reached a ledge that overlooked a ravine. Wild waited until the wolf came close, then leaped high out of the way and grabbed onto a nearby branch of a tree while the wolf slid out of control off the ledge and down into the ravine, only to land in the icy river below.
"That was a brave thing you did, Wild, protecting this smurf from the wolf that would have devoured this smurf," Empath said, sounding appreciative.
"EMPATH! EMPATH! ARE YOU OUT THERE?" he heard a few voices calling out.
Empath recognized the voices. "Those are this smurf's fellow Smurfs! They have come to rescue this smurf!" And then he turned and saw that Wild was gone.
A few minutes later, Empath found himself facing Hefty, Handy, Tapper, and Duncan. "Great Smurfiny Crickets, thank the blessed smurfs of Eire that we have found you, Empath!" Tapper cried out.
"Say, where were you?" Hefty asked. "We tried smurfing for you for days, but we couldn't find you."
"Well, this smurf was stranded in the forest, using this smurf's Psychelian techniques in order to survive, fellow Hefty," Empath said.
"They certainly must have smurfed, laddie," Duncan said. "Here you are in one piece, and not smurfing worse for wear at that."
"Come on, Smurfs, let's smurf home so we can tell Papa Smurf and celebrate the Winter Solstice together," Handy said.
"I'd be curious to meet this guardian angel that protected you all this time you were out here by yourself, Empath," Tapper said.
"Well...this 'guardian angel' prefers to keep his identity anonymous, for reasons that are best kept personal, if you don't mind," Empath said.
"Then we shall not bother to ask anymore about him," Duncan said. "Come, laddies, let's smurf home and smurf the good news."

Papa Smurf was in his laboratory doing some important things when he heard the song of Harmony's horn, sounding an announcement. Since he was usually the one that called forth announcements, he went outside to find out what was going on.
He found that the Smurfs were gathering around Hefty, Handy, Tapper, and Duncan as they came home from the forest. "Good news, my fellow Smurfs! Our long-lost laddie is home at last!" Duncan shouted.
Papa Smurf saw who came with them. "Empath! You're home!"
"Papa Smurf, this smurf is honored to see you again," Empath said with a hint of honest feeling behind it.
Papa Smurf took Empath into his arms and embraced him. "I never thought that I'd smurf you again. Where were you during all this time?"
"This smurf was stranded in the forest, unable to find a way back home," Empath said. "Fortunately, this smurf was relying on his Psychelian training techniques to survive in the cold winter temperature."
"You honestly had me worried there, Empath," Papa Smurf said. "Tapper believed that you were being smurfed over by a guardian angel all the time that you were lost."
"You can rest assured that this smurf's 'guardian angel' has protected this smurf up to now, when this smurf was able to find his way back here," Empath said. "Did this smurf miss anything important that was going on here?"
"Fortunately, you smurfed home just in time for us to celebrate the Winter Solstice, which is tomorrow," Papa Smurf said. "In the meantime, we smurfed the village with all the decorations in case you were smurfing home."
Empath looked around at everything in the village. "This smurf appreciates the efforts. Is there anything else you need this smurf to do now, Papa Smurf?"
Papa Smurf sighed. "Just...get yourself freshened up and ready for dinner. We will be celebrating with festivities soon enough." He then turned to all the other Smurfs. "Tonight we will smurf a special feast in honor of the return of Empath Smurf."
"HURRAY!!!" most of the Smurfs shouted together.
"I still hate hurrays," Grouchy said.