Chapter 26: Deadly Encounter
In the months after Viggo’s defeat and Runt’s death, life finally started going back to normal for everyone. Humphrey and the others would go on long expeditions, desperately searching Jasper for any sign of Viggo, but it was as if he had just disappeared. They had no idea if he had survived Viper’s bite or not. But whether or not he did, it didn’t seem to matter. There was absolutely no trace of him.
By the time winter came, they and many of their allies had searched the entirety of Jasper Park, but he was nowhere to be found. Humphrey decided to call off the searches for the time being as he was stressing himself out too much. And besides, something else had happened that required his attention. Lisa had given birth.
Not long after Runt’s death, she found out that she was pregnant and two and a half months later, she gave birth to an omega pup she named Josh and she loved him with all of her heart.
As the hunt for Viggo settled down, Viper occasionally left for long periods of time, searching far outside of Jasper, determined to find the elusive hunter. Six months after Runt’s death, she finally found him, wandering around in the forest far outside the Northern Region. And in typical fashion, it was the worst time for it to happen as Kate and Humphrey’s twenty-fifth anniversary was only a couple of days away and they had something very special planned. However, if they waited, they might lose him.
It was the middle of night when Viper returned to the pack and she immediately headed for Kate and Humphrey’s new den.
“Humphrey,” she said quietly, “wake up.”
“What is it, Viper?” Humphrey asked, tiredly lifting his head up to look at her.
“I found Viggo.”
Humphrey suddenly stood up in shock, accidentally bumping into Kate and waking her up.
“Where is he?” he asked urgently.
“Way up north, near the mountains past the northern edge of Jasper,” Viper replied.
“Alright let’s go,” Humphrey said, starting to walk out.
“Humphrey, wait,” Kate called after him. “We can’t go after him alone. We should get everyone first.”
“He killed Runt,” Humphrey replied angrily. “And if we wait, he’ll get away again. And I am not going to let that happen. I don’t care if I have to go alone.”
“Then let me come with you,” Kate said, following him, “and we can finish this together.”
“Thank you,” Humphrey said after taking a moment to calm down.
“I guess it’s just you and me, then,” she told him, trying to pry some of the old Humphrey out.
“Always,” Humphrey replied. “I-is that corny, or-“
“Kind of,” she said. “But it’s nice, though.”
“Good luck, you two,” Viper called after them.
For two days, Kate and Humphrey journeyed north across Jasper and beyond. On the eve of their anniversary, they arrived at the foot of the mountains and came across an all too familiar scent. Then they suddenly heard a voice that they had heard many times before, in both reality and their nightmares.
“Hello, old friend,” Viggo said. “I was wondering how long it would take for you to find me.”
The two began growling at him but before they could react, Viggo suddenly threw a bola at Kate, entangling her legs in the rope and causing her fall. Humphrey looked at Kate for a moment before turning back to Viggo.
“Stand down,” Viggo said. “I don’t want to fight.”
“I don’t care,” Humphrey replied, his anger quickly growing.
“Humphrey, I just want to talk.”
“There’s nothing to talk about!” Humphrey yelled as he rushed at Viggo.
Humphrey bared his teeth, fur bristling straight up on his back. He lunged at Viggo, who stumbled out of the way. Humphrey jumped at him again and surprisingly, Viggo didn’t put up much of a fight. It didn’t seem like he was actively trying to hurt Humphrey, unlike the wolf.
Kate watched Humphrey go full wolf, viciously attacking Viggo and clearly trying to kill him. She tried as hard as she could to free her legs from the heavy stones, but the rope around them was too secure.
Humphrey swiped at Viggo, causing him to trip over a small stone and fall onto his back. Humphrey jumped onto his chest and stared into his eyes, and when he did, he saw some part of Viggo he never knew was there. Fear; complete and utter terror. There was no sign of the merciless killer who had taken his son from him.
Humphrey continued to viciously snarl at Viggo, his snout wrinkled as he growled. Saliva dripped down onto Viggo’s face. Humphrey opened his mouth to deliver the killing blow when he heard Kate’s voice behind him.
“Humphrey, no!” she screamed and he stopped and looked at her.
She had a scared expression on her face as she looked at him, seeing what he had done; what he was about to do. Humphrey looked back at her and a wave of regret and guilt hit him. What had he done? Is this what Viggo had turned him into? Or was it all his own hate that had done this?
Humphrey looked back at Viggo, the terrified look slowly passing, but still clearly there. As Humphrey looked closer, he noted the lack of a sword behind Viggo’s back or a gun at his hip. He had been almost completely defenseless the whole time. They looked at each other for a moment, the look in Humphrey’s eyes almost saying, “I’m sorry”.
Humphrey slowly and shakily took his paw off Viggo’s chest and backed away as the man slowly got up. Viggo walked over to Kate and cut her free from the bola. The three of them sat silently in the forest for a moment, catching their breath after what had just happened.
“Humphrey,” Viggo said after a while, “please listen to me. I need your help.”
Humphrey slowly nodded and the three came together. Viggo got a fire going and went off to catch something to eat, leaving Kate and Humphrey with a moment alone to talk about the deadly encounter.
“Humphrey, what was that back there?” Kate asked, concerned.
“I…don’t know,” Humphrey replied slowly.
“Did Runt’s death really mess you up that badly?”
“He was right,” Humphrey said. “Viggo was right. I was one loss away from losing myself. And I did.”
Humphrey looked down at the ground and a tear started to roll down his face, across the scar Viggo had given him.
“Humphrey,” Kate said, sympathetically.
It was at this time that Viggo returned with a small caribou slung over his shoulder. He set it down next to the fire across from Kate and Humphrey and then sat down, beginning to cut into it with his knife as he spoke.
“Robert has somehow come to the conclusion that I am expendable,” he said. “He double crossed me and trapped me in a cave not far from our base. Luckily, I managed to escape.”
“And how did you escape?” Kate asked.
“That’s not important right now,” Viggo replied. “What is important is that we have a common enemy.”
“Yeah, the last time you said that, a lot of wolves ended up dying,” Humphrey shot back.
“I won’t spend the rest of my life waiting for Robert to kill me,” Viggo quickly said.
“Well you have fun with that,” Humphrey replied, “but I’m done playing your games.”
“Oh, Humphrey,” Viggo chuckled. “You have many admirable qualities, but ruthlessness is not one of them. You are too pure and innocent, which will get you, or someone you love killed. In fact, it already has.”
Humphrey quickly stood up at Viggo’s mention of Runt and stared him down. Kate quickly stood up with him and got between the two, looking back at Humphrey. They both slowly sat down again as Viggo tossed a raw piece of meat over the fire to them. Humphrey didn’t react, but Kate, trying the best she could to serve as the middle ground, cautiously sniffed it before eating it.
“Let me offer a piece of advice,” Viggo said. “No one is immune to failure. All have tasted the bitterness of defeat and disappointment. A warrior must not dwell on that failure but must learn from it and continue on. You do that well, Humphrey. It is one of your strongest qualities.”
Humphrey continued to look at Viggo suspiciously, not knowing whether or not to take the compliment.
“But let’s get to the point,” Viggo continued. “The truth is, I can’t exact my revenge without you or Kate. Robert has too many men in the cave for even me to take alone. And once Robert is defeated, I will disappear. You have my word.”
“And what good is your word, Viggo?” Humphrey asked. “After everything you’ve done, all the wolves you’ve hurt and killed? And you just want me to believe you? I will never help you again for as long as I live.”
“Even if it means ending all of this once and for all and never seeing me again?” Viggo asked.
“I don’t trust you.”
“Well that’s a pity, but I can’t blame you,” Viggo said.
He looked back at Humphrey after a moment with a small smile on his face.
“Humphrey, do you know what Wolfsbane is?”
“Of course I do.”
Viggo let out a short laugh of amusement.
“No you don’t,” he said. “Because, if you did, then you would know that it is a plant, which, if ingested by a wolf, will cause a slow, agonizing death. You guys don’t go anywhere near it because of its very pungent scent. But, if the scent is disguised by something like caribou-“
Humphrey quickly put two-and-two together and instantly leapt clear over the fire and pinned Viggo to the ground.
“Humphrey!” Kate shouted.
“You give her the antidote right now!” Humphrey demanded.
“I don’t have it,” Viggo replied, holding his hands up. “But Robert does.”
Humphrey’s face contorted in anger and frustration.
“Help me, and I will give Kate the antidote,” Viggo said. “Otherwise, in three days’ time, she will die.”
Humphrey looked back at Kate worriedly before getting off of Viggo.
“What’s our plan?” he asked angrily.
“We infiltrate Robert’s base, get Kate the antidote, and then wipe out Robert and his men,” Viggo replied.
“That seems too simple for you,” Humphrey said. “Not a whole lot of moving parts.”
“Sometimes the best plans are the simplest ones,” Viggo told him. “I’ll explain more when we get there.”
As the sun rose on Kate and Humphrey’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Viggo kicked a bunch of dirt on top of the fire and put it out before the trio headed toward Robert’s base.