Nobody slept that night. They were too preoccupied with the screaming.
It wasn't pitch dark, but Grathier couldn't see Kashka sitting 25 feet away and neither of them could see Collier.
They had pushed their luck. The Lunarfall outpost was supposed to be a day's hike south. They had moved as two blades and two guns. Grathier was the most malnourished of the four and Kashka had the most rounds for her rifle, so Collier and Exeter had taken swords. Almost immediately, they encountered the Iron Horde blocking their path to safety.
South was out, so they went east to box around them. A few hours this way led them to the Horde - the regular Horde - blocking their east path. They deduced the two forces were currently combating one another. Their options were to either box around them as well, which would take them back the way they came, or try to slip between them. They tried the more dangerous second option.
Just before sunset, they were compromised by a pale orc with a sword for a hand. Kashka shot him and he fled. Ten minutes later they were attacked by a dozen more. All armed with hooks and sword-hands. In the ensuing skirmish, Grathier used the last of his shotgun ammunition and Kashka's rifle broke parrying a blow. They got off lightly.
Collier had been slashed across the chest - a seemingly minor wound - and Exeter had been cut down as they turned to flee. They didn't know how many (or how few) kills they inflicted - he supposed it didn't really matter. When night came, they counterattacked, Collier and Kashka with blades and he with his revolver and percussion cap. It was desperate, but they drove the orcs back as darkness enclosed. They realised soon Collier had been poisoned. His breathing was laboured and he was constantly seething.
Then the screaming started. It was Exeter.
So they sat there in the scrub all night, forced to listen. Minutes dragged by like hours. Whenever he felt faint, Grathier had to rock himself back and forth to keep alert.
He would just not. Stop. Screaming.
He couldn't ignore it and think about something else - reality had a vice grip over his mind. After an hour, it triggered a migraine. Grathier could feel every pain in his body. His head, His cracked ribs, his cut up leg which thankfully didn't make him limp, every damn muscle that should be too weak to do what he was making it do. He was wasting away from starvation, and had not a drop of water since before the skirmishing. He tried to cover his ears, but he had a pistol in each hand. And it was tiring to lift his arms for longer than a few seconds.
Exeter just kept going. And he kept listening.
He found himself looking at green and brown. What was this? Forest? He felt dizzy. Every twitch of muscle coursed pain through his body. He groaned. He was in the foetal position.
It was morning. It was quiet. Grathier needed a full minute to sit up, only with the motivation that he could see a plant with dew on it. He spent another sucking on leaves, which only made him more thirsty.
Collier had stopped breathing through the night. His face and neck were purple and swollen, like he had choked to death. When it had happened was anybody's guess. Kashka was kneeling by his side and noticed him waking.
"It happened some time ago I think." she whispered.
He tried to respond but couldn't articulate any sort of Common. It came out as just random sounds. He saw Collier. That switched him on a little.
"Wha-" he said. "Wha-is..?"
"Shh! I am thinking you had passed out." she said with her hush-hush tone. "Exeter stopped screaming several hours ago."
He was probably dead. Grathier found a bug and ate it, not knowing what it is or if it was even edible. He found another and ate that too.
"We should find him."
Kashka looked doubtful, but behind that was fury. Grathier couldn't muster up the rage right now, but he was sure it would come.
"Yes. Let us."
They set off with Collier's footman medallion. She carried an axe, which made sense. From what he remembered in the fighting, these orcs were nigh-impervious to pain. In fact, they almost fought like Forsaken. Just with muscle. And balls.
He followed her. She was more alert than he was, so she was the logical choice for scout. Exeter had been close, close enough to pinpoint a direction. Kashka suddenly stopped and started crawling. He followed her, eating a small beetle that crossed his path.
She stopped and signalled for him to come up next to her. Crawling was arduous now, but he kept at it. After all, it hurt no more than any normal workout. He got next to her, took a moment to catch his breath and looked up. And froze.
It had to be Exeter. Grathier's stomach lurched and he fought back vomiting. In the end, they had impaled him on a heavy-duty hook and hung him from a tree, where he lightly swayed in the breeze.
It was mostly just a torso. His arms were missing to the elbows, one leg to the knee and the other missing completely. His eyes, ears, lips, nose and teeth were gone. They had scalped him to reveal some skull and mutilated his genitals. Underneath him was a small pile of amputated parts. Fingers and toes were separate to hands and feet and they to arms and legs. The orcs had started small. His torso was covered with cuts and burns. In a cruel twist, they had left his tongue in to let him scream.
The orcs were gone.
"I will kill them all!" Kashka snarled. Grathier didn't reply at first, though he felt the same way. Exeter had only been 18. He may have been vain and cocky, but he had deserved better.
"Let's go." he said. "There's nothing we can do here."
Kashka trembled with rage. He put a hand on her shoulder, which calmed her. She buried her face in her hands for a brief moment before regaining her composure. They got to their feet and turned to leave. They didn't get far.