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Thunder shook the world around him as Casey drew closer to the fortress where Jason was being kept by his own uncle and someone from Casey's family. He had confirmed with Grandpa Tarien that only his blood family would have the kind of magical presence he had felt coming from the woods around this fortress.
One by one, his 'army' of boys with phenomenal powers very like his own, despite the different feel to them had been either distracted into long battles with some monster or beast, or were exhausted from those battles to the point that had they had been unable to carry on to the fortress with him. Some of the creatures they had faced he had recognized from either the mythology or the paleontology of earth, but the others.... He was more than a little worried about his young comrades in arms, but he had to keep going. He knew even before being told that he would have to face whoever his kinsman was in this fortress alone.
"This is where we split up," the little commander told him. "I can only step in if you get taken down. I know you can do this, though. I will be keeping an eye on you, but I really need to go back and check on my family."
"Shouldn't you check on the kids that were with us?" Kim asked a little harshly.
"That is my family," the boy informed them with a proud grin before he vanished as quickly and quietly as he had shown up.
As soon as he was gone, the boy that had battled next to him on the way to the castle appeared. "My husband said he believes in you, so I will too, but know this. If you lose this fight, I am not going to be happy and nobody wants to see me angry again." The loudest clap of thunder Casey and Kim had ever heard literally knocked them off their feet as this boy disappeared.
"Are you ready for this, Merlin?" Kim asked Casey once they were alone.
"Are you, Wonder Woman?" he returned.
"Not a bit," she answered honestly. "But after seeing what those kids did to get us here and what that one just did.... Don't screw this up, Casey. I've actually started to like you and I would hate to see you become that," she added as she pointed at scorched, smoking hole in the ground where that last boy had been standing a moment before.
"Well, let's do it then," Casey said firmly. Just at that moment, they heard a young boy's voice screaming in pain, coming from inside the fortress. With a strong jabbing motion of his staff, Casey exploded the wooden doors in front of them into splinters. Casey led Kim through the building, following the pull of his magic to a door with a huge padlock on it. With a wave of his staff, the lock liquefied and ran down the door, puddling and cooling in the cracks of the stone floor beneath them.
Inside that door, they found a room that positively reeked. To be fair, the whole fortress smelled badly, but this room stunk like an uncleaned locker room. All around the room were naked boys in chains with one very disturbing common trait. They all looked exactly like Mitch.
"Casey, I need you to tell me again that our son was never messed with," Kim begged him, looking as sick as Casey felt.
"My magic showed that Mitch had not been touched in that way," Casey replied.
"NO! No more magic, please! I promise I won't ever say my other name again. You can call me Mitch, really. Just don't hurt me no more, please," one of the fake Mitch's near them started crying. Another of them came over and hugged him while glaring at Casey and Kim.
"Look, do whatever sick crap you want to me, but leave this Mitch alone, ok?" the hugger said, obviously trying to sound braver and stronger than he really felt.
"Well, how about we do this first?" Casey said and waved his staff over the two boys and their appearance and that of the other boys in the room drastically changed. The hugger morphed into a boy about 9 years of age with sandy blonde hair and green eyes. The boy being hugged was a smaller clone of the obviously older brother, only his hair had a bit more curl to it. He appeared to be no more than six years old. Another wave of Casey's staff and a door appeared in the wall closest to them. "You two, take the others through this door. Our son will take care of you all and see that you are returned to your homes."
"I ain't going nowhere that involves anybody named Mitch!" one of the other boys yelled angrily.
"Yeah, me either," another one agreed firmly.
"Boys, please try to calm down for a moment," Kim called out. "Think about this for a moment. The men that messed with you, did they ever have you look like your normal selves?" A few shook their heads. "What was the first thing Casey did? He stopped the magic that made you look all alike. I have a feeling he healed some of you as well. He made some of the pain go away, didn't he?" Several nods this time.
Casey spoke next. "Our son did not know anything about this and he will take the best care of you possible before he takes you back to your homes and families. We are here to fight the men that did this to you, and we want you safe from that. We need you to be safe so that we can end this."
"I trust him," the small boy being hugged by his brother said quietly. "I believe them. Let's leave here, please, bro?"
"One thing before you all go, please?" Kim asked as all of the boys started to walk or shuffle toward the doorway. "We also came here to rescue my brother. Do any of you know where another boy is being kept? He has brown hair and blue eyes and his name is Jason."
"Jason stays in Mr. Clyde's room," one of the boys responded. "I got taken there once to perform with him for Mr. Clyde. Jason wouldn't do anything with me though, and Mr. Clyde got really mad and hit me until I couldn't stay awake anymore. He's in the tower down the left hall."
"Can you take me there?" Kim asked.
"Please, miss, don't make me go back there," the boy begged. "It hurt so bad. Please don't make me."
"It's ok, Jimmy," the 9-year-old boy they had spoken with before said. "I will take them there."
"Marty, are you sure you want to go back up there?" his little brother asked him. "Mr. Clyde is so mean, and he hurt you really bad last time."
"I'll be ok, Maxie," Marty assured the young boy. "Look at her, kiddo," he said as he pointed at Kim. "She's got a sword that's taller than I am, and she is swinging that sucker in one hand. I don't think Mr. Clyde has a chance against her."
"Then I'm going, too," the little boy said firmly.
"No, you aren't," Kim, Casey, and Marty all said at once.
"You wouldn't be here if you hadn't demanded that Mr. Clyde and the magic man not take me without you. You wanted us to stay together, so I'm staying with you," Maxie told his big brother forcefully.
"All right, but you two will stay right beside me until we get there and if Clyde shows up, you will both run back here for this door, do you understand me?" Kim ordered.
Just as Kim, Maxie, and Marty and those two boys left the room, the last of the other boys were about to go through the portal to the Time Tower. One of the younger-looking boys stopped to hug Casey. "Thank you for rescuing us, mister. Are you going to fight the magic man?"
"Yes, little one, that is part of my job here," Casey replied.
"Good, cause I heard him say we were all going to die tonight after he came back here with the real Mitch," the small boy told him before running through the portal, pulling the door closed behind him as he was the last escapee.
"HEAR ME, WIZARD!" Mitch bellowed and the whole fortress shook like an earthquake was hitting it. "YOU WILL NOT TOUCH MY SON!"
"Brave words, and so loud, too." Mitch whirled at the sound of the voice walking into the room behind him. "Didn't your father teach you not to yell indoors? Oh, yes, I did. It seems it's time to punish you again, my boy."
"Father," Mitch gasped in shock. He then remembered the horrors he had just seen a moment ago. He saw and felt the pain of those boys who had just left the room. "I can't let this happen, Father."
"What do you think you're going to do about it, boy?" his father laughed. "You stood up to me one time, Casey. Do you remember how that ended? Do you remember sleeping on your stomach for three days because your back and butt and legs were still sore from the spanking I gave you? How much worse do you think it's going to be now that I have the family magic?" He waved his arm and a spell of some kind shot past Casey as he ducked out of the way.
"You forget, Daddy, I have the magic as well," Casey retorted as he returned fire with his staff, literally sending an arc of flames at his father. "You may be a Time Wizard, but right at this moment, I am the Time Wizard. I will end this and if I must, I will end you as well."
"Brave words from a man about to die," his father sneered, blasting a barrage of spells at Casey.
"Ah, but you can't kill me, father," Casey snapped back as he effortlessly shielded himself with his staff. "If I die here in this battle, you will never be able to get into Emifornec."
"I am already here, you little fool." Father used both hands this time to send even more curses at his son.
"Yes, but you came here with your grandson, my son," Casey pointed out as he dodged and returned the curses. "I came here as a thirteen-year-old boy. If you kill me now, I will die as a thirteen-year-old and Mitch will never be born."
"All the better, then," his father called out. "I won't kill you, I will keep you prisoner and use you as a punching bag along with your brat of a son. The two of you scream so beautifully when I redden your backsides with my belt. I have found much more fun things to use since coming to this realm." He shot off another curse that knocked Casey's staff from his hand. "Ha! I have you now," he crowed victoriously as he quickly cast more spells that not only bound Casey in tight ropes, but reverted him to his thirteen-year-old appearance as well. "Now you shall know pain, son."
"There are a few more things I forgot to mention to you, Daddy Dearest," Casey smirked up at his father from the floor where he landed in the bindings. "First is that just because I used my staff up to this point, that doesn't mean I can't fight without it." With a snap of his fingers, Casey's bindings were gone, and he was standing once again. "Second is that being the Time Wizard means I am automatically stronger than any other Time Wizard alive at this moment, which would include you." Instantly, his father was now the one bound and struggling on the floor. "Third and most important is that while you cannot kill me without being forcibly returned to your proper time, I am under no such limitations." With another snap of his fingers, Casey found himself staring at the empty space his father had been a second earlier. "Now to end this before any of it could ever begin," Casey said in a bit of a growl and disappeared himself.
"Casey, what do you plan to do?" Grandpa Tarien asked him sternly as he appeared beside Casey at the top of the Time Tower.
"I will prevent those two from ever doing the harm they have," Casey replied.
"I know you think this is the answer, but you will come to regret this decision," Kyle said as he and Tyler also popped into place beside Casey.
"Kyle, if I do it this way, how many of the boys that were just rescued will be abused?"
"Only one of them and his suffering is unavoidable," Tyler said sadly. "I have begged the highest power, but that boy's pain must happen for the world to be made right. He is not that unlike Joel in that situation. Sometimes the pain has to be. As a time being, you have to accept that. We can help you with that."
"No, I could never face myself in a mirror again, knowing that any of these boys' pain comes from my father, or Clyde, when I had the power and opportunity to stop it now."
"What if I tell you that doing this will mean that Mitch will not be born in the timeline you create?" Tarien asked.
"If Mitch is not born, he can't ever be hurt and abused by me or my father," Casey said as he wiped away a tear. "I'm sorry, son, but I truly believe it will be better this way. My father hurt both Mitch and Jason so very much. I can never look them in the eye now." He slapped his hands together over his head and in another time and place, Casey's father died of an aneurysm of the brain just after impregnating his wife with a son. In yet a different time and place, a woman comes down with a terrible stomach flu that prevents her and her husband from having sex for several nights, thereby blocking the conception of the child that would have grown up to be, Uncle Clyde.
Kim found herself waking up in her bed at home the same night and time that Mitch had appeared to her. She looked around the room for a moment, then shrugged and started to go back to sleep. In the room next to hers, Jason sat up in his bed, shaking and screaming. Kim ran to her brother's room immediately.
"Oh Kim, we're back, we're back," the thirteen-year-old wept and sobbed as he held onto his sister.
"It's ok, Jase, it was just a dream," she soothed her brother. "Stop crying, it was just a nightmare."
"What do you mean? Hey, shouldn't you have a scar or something? Uncle Clyde sliced the side of your face open a few minutes ago, just before you chopped his head off. Oh, please never do that in front of me again. I don't ever want to see something like that again ever. I mean couldn't you have just stabbed him or something? That was GROSS!"
"Wow, bro, are you sure you ate the same supper I did?" Kim laughed. "That must have been some bad dream."
"It wasn't a dream, it was real," Jason insisted. "Uncle Clyde took me to a castle in another realm, and he.... he.... raped me and did all kinds of stuff to me and a whole bunch of other boys too. He wanted to get girls too, but that other man that was with him that did the magic, he didn't want girls. He just wanted boys, and he made them all look like his grandson, which is super creepy and gross. I saw Uncle Clyde actually kill a couple of the boys when he got too rough with them. It was awful, then you showed up, and you fought with Uncle Clyde with swords and you.... you killed him. It was soooo gross. There was like blood everywhere. Me and the nice boys that brought you to the tower where me and Uncle Clyde were all grossed out, but happy he was gone. Is that bad that I was happy he was dead after all the stuff he'd done to me and those boys? Anyway, that's when you told me that you and your best friend Casey Griffin were there to rescue me and that he would be my boyfriend. But then there was a huge thundering noise and the whole castle started shaking and falling apart, and we got zapped to another castle somewhere and there was this really cute boy.... Oh, he said... some things and then he clapped his hands and then I was back in my bed here."
"Whoa, back up and slow down, bro," Kim told him as she turned to look at the door quickly to make sure that neither of their parents were there to overhear things. "Dude if this is your way of telling me you like boys, it's a little overdramatic, but I promise I won't treat you any different. You are my brother and I will always love you, snotface."
"If you loved me, you would stop calling me snotface," Jason pouted. "And you're really ok with me liking boys instead of girls?"
"I'm sorry, I guess you are getting too old for that nickname now," Kim admitted. "Just remember this, I never once got grossed out by your snotty face or your stinky butt when you were a baby. You are my little brother and nothing, absolutely nothing will ever make me stop loving you. Besides, I have a secret for you, too. I can't get upset with you for liking boys when I like girls. But if you start dating some old dude that you call Uncle Clyde, and he or anybody else, treats you bad, they will answer to me."
"EEEWW I would never date Mom's brother, that's just wrong," Jason gagged.
"What are you talking about, snotface? Mom doesn't have a brother," Kim asked as she stared at her brother. "Mom's an only child, you know that. Try to get back to sleep, sn....kiddo. Love you, bro."
"She doesn't remember any of it," Jason thought out load after Kim had left his room. "How could she not remember all of that? Wait.... if that man used magic to get us into that place, then that cute boy must have done magic to send us back. He must have been Casey, but he said he never wanted to look at me again because of what his father did to me. He didn't want me because I'm used goods, just like his father kept telling me every time." Jason cried himself to sleep that night.