The hunter moved silently through the foggy woods of Gevaudan, watching the battle unfold. He was not like those he watched, but they shared more than they realized. They shared a world, and the willingness to fight for it.
That said, things were not going well for the home team. The Astral Republic's soldiers in their grey-green uniforms blended well into the trees and mist, though not as well as the hunter; he was practically invisible when motionless. The soldiers had been ambushed and were falling back, one of them bravely standing to hurl covering fire at their pursuers as others carried their wounded to safety. The pack protecting its own, leaving no one behind; that was something the hunter admired. It showed that they belonged. Perhaps there was something to be done here, something to help.
With that, the hunter circled back, circled around to find the pursuers. There they were, the outsiders. These soldiers were different in so many ways: the star and sword on their shoulder, the ill-fitted gray camouflage from somewhere else, their destructive disregard in the name of conquest; they even smelled strange to the hunter, downwind as he was. Clearly, they did not belong here, and they would pay for the trespass...
"I have them! Keep going!"
The Sergeant shouted the order to his men as he pulled the trigger of his rifle's grenade launcher. The explosion toppled a tree sideways, showering deadly wooden splinters on the Blakists as he fell back to the next bit of cover. His squad had been ambushed; his own damn fault, and he would leave no one else the responsibility of getting them out. The three fit men were carrying or dragging two wounded through the rough woods, trying to get back to the support of their company camp. Help was coming toward them; he could hear the rumble and crash of a Destrier plowing through the forest, but it seemed so far off as he snapped a burst at a figure moving between cover. And where was his missing man? Unacceptable! He waved his men on, then cut off sideways through the underbrush. He would circle back around and find him...
"Well well, what have we here?" The Blakist chuckled as he looked down at the wounded Republic soldier. He tried to sit up, only to be struck by the laughing Blakist. "Not so fast, lad. We're gonna have fun with you."
No, you will not.
The Blakist started as the hair stood up on his neck, and looked around. He hadn't heard the words, but rather felt them somehow, like eyes upon him. The shadowy woods seemed to close in for a moment, but he saw nothing. He shook himself, tried to shake off the feeling, only to find himself looking back down at the wounded man; he was lying very still, with only his eyes moving as he watched and listened.
The Blakist realized the implication. "You heard that too?"
Then suddenly, a steel colored blur exploded sideways out of the fog, and the Blakist was gone, carried away. Only a rustle of the undergrowth resettling was left to mark that he had ever been there...that, and a few drops of blood scattered on the leaves.
"Sacre bleu," the wounded soldier muttered as he struggled to his knees. The hole in his side burned like mad, he had lost his gun and his helmet with its radio, but all that now seemed like an inconvenience. His adult self blindly hoped that the metallic blur was just a Chevalier or Pale Horse, one of his comrades in armor, but having grown up on Gevaudan, his inner child knew better. The Blakist didn't even have the chance to scream...
"There you are!" The Sergeant came running up and checked his man. "Hold this." He handed over his gun, then began digging in his first aid kit.
"We've got to get out of here," the soldier said as his Sergeant dressed the wound. "There..."
"I know," the Sergeant interrupted. "The Blakists are coming. There is a path back this way." He hauled the soldier to his feet, putting one arm over his shoulder. "Keep that gun ready."
"C'est la," the soldier replied, taking the pistol grip in his free hand. "But there are more than Blakists here."
"What do you..."
He means me.
The question was interrupted, answered by itself. The two men froze, feeling the same eerie sensation the Blakist had felt. The wounded man, his senses strung up by shock and stress, reacted first, swinging around to point the Sergeant's rifle at a shadow in the foggy woods. There was a moment's pause, then the two men could only stare as the shadow stepped forward and resolved itself into the figure of the hunter.
There was no question of its identity. The wolf head came up to their chests; its bushy tail made it three meters long, packing hundreds of kilos of pure canid muscle under silver-gray fur that seemed to bleed and blend into the misty forest like mimetic armor. Streaks of blood made it clear what had happened to the Blakist. The loup, Gevaudan's perfect predator.
"Ave Maria," the Sergeant breathed. It was the only sound for several seconds, as the two soldiers stared into the hunter's cold wolf eyes. It came to them that something strange was going on; loups did not usually show themselves like this.
Slowly, the wounded soldier lowered the gun, with a nod of understanding. He straightened as best he could, and looked the loup right in the eyes. "Merci."
The loup unmistakably grinned, then seemed simply to dissolve as the noise of an approaching Destrier suddenly broke through the woods, along with the shouts of other soldiers. "Sergeant! We counterattacked!" "You found him!" "Where did those bastards go?"
The Sergeant and the wounded soldier looked at each other as their comrades surrounded them. After a moment, the Sergeant simply said to his man, "We saw nothing, right?"
The soldier smiled and nodded. "C'est la."
With that, the Destrier's door opened, and they were on their way home.
Be careful what you wish for. I might let you have it.