The Vosges, Alsace.
Looking through the sights, the target loomed large, the eyes betraying awareness and alertness, neither of which was going to save its life on this misty morning in the forest.
A hand reached out and touched the rifleman on the shoulder, giving a moment?s pause.
The owner of the hand placed a finger to his lips in the universal sign for quiet, the finger then moving to point out the problem.
There was no noise, save the sounds of the woods; trees creaking and swaying in the modest breeze, the chatter of birds and other creatures, and the grunting of their prey.
The full grown male wild boar would have made a tasty meal, one they were prepared to risk a shot for, but that decision had become history as the finger pointed towards an indistinct shape in the shadows.
Raising its head high, the boar sensed the new presence, having failed to note the men in the trees above it.
The snout savoured the air, sampling the new scents on the breeze and finding them a threat, not only to him, but to the female and two young he knew were nearby.
The litter was out of season, a rarity in the life of a wild boar, but one that gave the male a reason to act in defence, rather than move quietly away.
A foot set out of place broke a twig, not loudly, just loud enough to precipitate his action. Tensing his large body, the boar defended in the only way it understood; all-out attack.
The owner of the foot, a Goumier scout, cursed his carelessness, checking quickly for signs of the Russian soldiers he and his unit had been hunting.
His priorities quickly changed as sounds of the approaching whirlwind reached his ears.
The boar came into view.
As the Goumier?s eyes widened, the animal covered half the distance to his target.
Three hundred angry pounds of wild boar hammered into the petrified Moroccan, the impact snapping his legs below both knees instantly, the boar?s lowered head tossed upwards, an automatic act that brought its sharp tusks into play.
Tusk met bone, as the boar opened the inner thighs, destroying the femoral arteries, his forward momentum carrying him beyond the dying man before the Goumier had even started to realise his death was approaching.
?Brothers! Help! Brothers!?
Even as he shouted for help, his voice grew noticeably weaker.
The boar turned and crashed back into the now-prone figure, the tusks destroying everything they hacked at, silencing the Moroccan when one tusk penetrated his eye socket.
A bullet took the boar in the side, passing through and into the undergrowth beyond, the pain only serving to enrage him further, increasing the frenzied attack on what was now rapidly becoming a lump of ripped flash.
Another bullet hit the beast, destroying his left hip and spinning him away from the bloody mess.
Two more shots quickly followed, either of which could have been the one that extinguished its life.
Anguished cries rose into the early morning air, the sight of their comrade causing great distress to the other members of the Goumier patrol. Three more shots were fired into the dead boar, more in anguish than to serve a purpose.
A blanket was stretched out on the earth, and the remains were reverently covered up before being carried away for a burial in accordance with the man?s faith.
In the trees, the four men dare not breathe, the staccato rattle of their beating hearts seemingly louder than that of the disturbed forest around them.
The Goumiers disappeared.
Nikitin relaxed his rifle, looking to his companion for guidance.
Starshy Serzhant Nakhimov was weighing up the pros and cons of the situation, and having difficulty finding any con.
A whispered order and the NCO turned to the two men in the adjacent tree, a simple hand gesture passing on his instructions.
When he reached the ground, Nakhimov waited for the other man, checking the two men above were covering as ordered.
?Right Vassily, tonight we dine on boar. Come on.?
The two men moved gingerly to the location of the fight, the large quantity of blood and human detritus startling them.
The dead boar proved difficult to carry, but they managed to get it up and into a jury rig. Comprising two stout branches and weapon slings, the whole contraption more resembled something used on a safari in Africa
Struggling under the weight, they thanked their luck that the hiding place was close.y.