I finally got to sit down, one on one, with Cartaphilus, aka The Count. This is what I was wanting to do for so long: to finally get an explanation on everything.
Me: This whole time, you've led me on a trip around the world, and I've lost two people I loved so much. This better be worth it.
The Count: If by worth it, you mean "gaining a piece of information that can save us all" from The Threat, then yes, it will be.
Me: How so?
The Count: Well, before that, there are a few things that I must tell you of great importance. First off, what Donnie told you he witnessed in that village in The Black Forest.
Me: You mean that mass that was held to Hallow out people?
The Count: Yes. I can fully explain what he witnessed. The swirling black mass that he saw enter the bodies? Those were actually souls.
Me: Souls? Souls of who?
The Count: Of those who were lost on The Path.
Me: What does The Path have to do with it?
The Count: A long time ago, I first discovered The Path when I was trying to figure out exactly what The Threat was. I travelled in there and was immediately overcome with pain. I stayed in there for almost 2 weeks, and I was still alive, but my body was broken. I noticed Him come in and out with people, and sometimes people would enter without Him even leading them. Most of them were children, the others were people around your age. They would barely last a week in there. Their bodies would not only break, but completely break down. There would be nothing left of them afterwards, except for a swirling white mass. I determined this to be their souls.
Me: So, The Path destroys bodies, but not souls?
The Count: Precisely. But the souls wouldn't disappear. They just continued to float around The Path aimlessly. I left in order to recover my body. I realized that because of this, well, you can call it either a blessing or curse, I wasn't able to die, so I would be safe in there. I returned about a month later, after following another child in there. I observed the child's body break down, the soul emerge. I didn't do anything because I didn't want to attract His attention. Over the course of two weeks watching this one soul, it's coloring slowly began to change from white to black. Later on, I observed The Threat take that soul and place it into the body of another person. After that, the person who had the soul put into him was never the same again. I left The Path after that, and I haven't returned since, except on the occasion that I choose to save somebody.
Me: What happened to that person after he left The Path?
The Count: He was basically a servant of The Threat after that. I went to his family to see if I could console them in their loss, but it seemed that they had no memory of him anymore. After witnessing all of this, I decided to name those souls lost and alone on The Path, "The Forgotten."
Me: So how is it that Robert Sagel was able to survive on The Path?
The Count: He didn't spend as much time in there in one shot, just several short periods of time. His body was damaged several times, but never destroyed. However, with all the time he did spend in there, it did do quite a number to his mind. That's why, in his final days, he just became more and more mentally unstable: too much time spent in The Path.
Me: And why is that that I survived in The Path? What made me so special?
The Count: Remember when you were in Georgia, and you spoke to the other Lucien's sister?
Me: Yes, what about that?
The Count: When she told you that the idea of a constant did work and could protect you from The Threat, I think it meant from more than just Him and His influence.
Me: What do you mean?
The Count: When you entered The Path as a kid, you were carrying around something with you. A blanket.
Me: I remember the blanket. I always told my family that it could protect me from anything, that as long as I had it, I could not be harmed.
The Count: Exactly. I believe that the idea of a constant extends beyond just protecting you from Him and His influence. If one truly believed enough that an item could protect them from all harm, I think it could protect one from the damaging effects of The Path as well. You're the only person who has tried this, even though it was unknowing at the time, and you did survive. This is why you are special, Luke. You entered The Path, and you survived. This is the information we need. Sadly, it may come at a great price.
Me: What price?
The Count: To find out if this really will work, I must ask of you the ultimate sacrifice: enter The Path with a constant, and see if it truly protects you. I know you have one on you. You wore it during your last days in The Black Forest. And it is still in your pocket right now.
At this point, I reach into my back pocket, and I pull out the black half-mask that's been with me for several months. I realize that he might be right. I did think for awhile that this mask was protecting me; I felt safe with it on.
The Count: I don't need an answer right away. Think it over, very carefully. I just hope that in the end, you help us in the SIA out in gaining this vital piece of information.
So now, I have a choice to make. Do I make the sacrifice asked of me, or do I just forget about this happening? I certainly have a lot to think about.