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Reckless Paradise

Chapter Two: Sherwood

The week passed fairly quickly with Mark there. Quinn could take all the things that usually drove her nuts, including the books on the cruelty of villains and heroics of the heroes that Fairy Godmother not-so-subtly had her read because she could talk to him about it all. He understood her just like all the Sherwood kids did.

He told her of his adventures travelling through the lands behind the Great Wall and before Quinn knew it, it was Friday, and she was waiting for the bus that would take her to Sherwood Forest. Quinn had done this trip so many times that she went on autopilot as she mulled over the Isle of the Lost again.

It seemed like a good idea at first, to have all the villains in one place, with no magic and no escape. But now most of them had kids, who had done nothing to be in such a terrible place. Surely, others must see the unfairness of their situation too.

Soon the train pulled into Locksley Station and Quinn saw Dad standing on the platform, towering over everyone else. She smiled and pulled out her earbuds before stepping off the train.

“How was the trip?” he asked.

Quinn hugged him. “It was good.”

“I brought Onyx for you,” he said as they approached the stable section of the parking lot.

“Onyx!” she exclaimed, rushing forward to stroke her velvety nose. “Hey, girl.”

Riding back, Quinn felt her chest get lighter as they got closer to the forest. While Mark had helped back at school, nothing was like coming home.

“How was your week?” asked Dad.

“It was alright,” Quinn said. “Did you know that Mark is back to help with archery at school?”

“I thought I’d heard Robin say something about that. How’s he doing?”

“Good. He really helped me handle everything this week.”

They were silent for a little while, as they entered the forest. Quinn breathed in deeply, filling her lungs with the earthy air.

Soon they reached the village, a cluster of houses built up in the trees, with ladders to go up and bridges between them, around a well and a large fire pit. While they did have electricity and internet and everything, the village still looked very much like it used to.

After supper that night, Dad and Quinn sat on the back porch of the house.

“Is this the time when you tell me to try not to sound like a traitor at school?” Quinn asked after they had sat there in silence for a while.

She heard Dad take a deep breath and he stared up at the stars that peeked between the leaves. “You know I love you, right?” he asked quietly.

“Of course, I do, Dad,” Quinn said, realizing that this was serious. “And I love you, too.” Thinking she knew where this was going, Quinn sat forward in anticipation. She had always known this was coming; he was going to tell her about her mother, she was sure of it.

“Quinn... you’re… oh, how do I say this? You’re adopted.”

She blinked. This was not at all what she had been expecting. “What?”

“I love you like a daughter, Quinn, and I’ve raised you for most of your life, but.”

It was hard to fully understand what was happening. “So, who is my biological father? Was he one of the Merry Men?”

Dad shook his head. “His name was Starkey. I don’t know what his first name was. He was first mate to Captain Hook.”

Starkey. Captain Hook. “He was a villain?” Quinn’s eyes were wide as she stared at Dad. She did not know what to do with this new information. “Was?”

“He died in the final battle,” he said, and Quinn breathed in a slow breath. “I know this is a lot to take in,” he continued.

Quinn stared at Dad and then out at the village. In the clearing, there were some kids, running around the fire, as she used to when she was younger. All those years, not quite fitting in with people at school, her only friends being those from around here, raised slightly more in the morally grey area. She did not belong here, and that was why she never felt like she did. She was a Villain Kid, not a Hero Kid. She belonged on the Isle, with people like her, not here, pretending to fit in with royalty.

“I’m going for a walk,” she said, standing up abruptly.

“Quinn,” Dad said, getting up as well. “I know this is hard –”

“No, you don’t, Dad!” Quinn shouted, surprising herself with her anger. “You belong here. You’re a hero. I’ve never felt like I belonged, and now I know why!” She turned and headed into the forest.

“Quinn!” Dad called after her.

“I need some time alone!” Quinn ran deeper into the darkness of the trees. She knew the forest well, and the darkness did not frighten her. She ran and ran, using the faint light of the moon and stars to guide her.

Villain. Villain. Villain. The word echoed through her mind with every footfall.

Maybe a villain kid could live in Auradon. After all, she had made it this far. No one else knew, otherwise she would have never heard the end of it. As long as no one found out, she could go on pretending until she had fully figured this out.

Dad would get worried if she did not come home soon, and even though she did not want to talk about it, Quinn decided to head back.

“Quinn!” Dad exclaimed when she walked through the door. He was sitting at the table, a cup of tea in front of him. “I was beginning to think you were going to spend the night in the forest.”

She shook her head. “I just needed to clear my head.”

“And is it cleared?”

“A bit.”

“Do you have questions?”

“No, I’m good for now.” She started for the loft, then turned back. “Hey, Dad, can we hang out in the forest tomorrow?”

His expression brightened. “Of course, we can.”

Quinn smiled. “Goodnight, Dad.”

“Goodnight, Quinn.”

The rest of the weekend went without a single mention of Quinn’s true heritage. On Saturday, she and Dad spent the day in the forest, climbing and moving unseen through the trees. Quinn was better at it than her dad now sometimes, although her experience was still lacking compared to him. On Sunday, Mark was back, so they spent the morning with his family.

After lunch, Mark and Quinn went out to shoot while Dad, Robin and Marian chatted. After a little while, Mark turned to her. “Alright, what’s up?”

She drew her bowstring. “What do you mean?”

“Something’s different.”

Loosing her arrow, she watched as it lodged in the target, close to the bull’s eye. “Not that I know of.”

“You may have gotten better at lying,” said Mark, stepping up to take a shot. “but I can still tell.”

Quinn looked at him. “I’ve gotten better at lying?”

He smiled at her worried expression. “Don’t change the subject.” Mark loosed his arrow and got a perfect bull’s eye. He grinned.

Rolling her eyes, Quinn stepped up again. “I don’t want to talk about it. Not here.” After loosing her arrow, she looked him right in the eye to make sure he knew she was serious. He nodded and did not mention it again.

After supper, Dad, Mark, and Quinn rode down to Locksley so she and Mark could catch the train to Auradon Prep. Dad hugged her longer than usual at the platform, but she did not mind. She needed it.

The school week started again and Quinn told herself that she was not going to think about it. And yet, she found herself in the library researching him and paying extra attention whenever there was a mention of the Isle and its inhabitants.

It got worse as the week went on, Quinn started finding herself wanting to defend the inhabitants of the Isle whenever they were brought up. For if she was not born inherently evil – hopefully – how did they know the VKs were?

Even worse than her odd behaviour was her lack of findings in the library. There were hardly any mentions of Starkey anywhere. In Peter Pan’s biography, he was referred to as ‘Gentleman Starkey’ and the only thing said about him was that because he had once been an usher in a public school, he was still dainty in his ways of killing. It wasn’t exactly a comforting thing to hear about one’s biological father.

Quinn had always been good at pretending. She had to be, otherwise she probably would have been expelled long ago.

But now things were getting too much. Never before had she realized how black and white everything was to everyone. It had never bothered her this much before.

In Biology, when learning about genetics, it was suggested by a student that perhaps evilness and goodness could be passed on. The teacher merely said that it was unknown if it was a heritable trait. History painted the heroes as perfect people in flowing capes and immaculate hair. And for the first time, she began to question the narrative. Was everybody as perfect as they were in the history books? If they were wrong about inherent evilness, what else were they wrong about?

No one had yet mentioned Captain Hook or his men. Not until Chivalry on Friday morning.

Chivalry was known as an easy class. Everyone knew how to be polite and this class was just an extension of that.

“Today, we are going to talk about how chivalry and politeness can be used by those with malevolent intentions,” said Miss Dwerven. “Charm is a tool that villains often use to deceive.”

Quinn sighed and rested her head on her arms. This was the one class where she hoped there would be minimal mentions of villains.

“And no villain was as talented in deceptive politeness and charm than Captain Hook.”

Her head snapped up again and she saw Captain Hook’s mug shot on the smartboard. She had seen pictures of him before of course, but it was different now. This was a man who knew her father, who trusted him to be his first mate.

“…politeness hid a nefarious motive,” Miss Dwerven continued. “and it was not only the captain of this evil crew that used this tactic. His first mate, Mr. Starkey, is often characterized by his gentlemanly behaviour, even when committing evil acts.”

No mug shot appeared on the screen, just a grainy photo of captain Hook’s entire crew. Quinn squinted, trying to pick him out. Although she knew it was ridiculous, she felt like she would recognize him right away, even though she had no idea what he looked like. Before she could stop herself, she raised her hand.

“Miss Little?”

“Do we know anything else about this Mr. Starkey?”

“And why would you want to know that? The moral to be learned from men like him is that becoming a villain always ends badly.”

“I just thought that maybe there was something in his past that drove him on that path.”

“That is preposterous, Miss Little, some people are just born evil.”

There it was again, the idea of inherent evilness. “But if their villainy is innate, then how can we blame them for it?”

Miss Dwerven blinked. “I do not see the point behind these questions, Miss Little.”

“I was just thinking that if their villainy is a choice, then something must have driven them to make that choice. And learning about these circumstances could help in understanding them, or helping others to not take the same path.”

“There is no way for us to understand villains, as heroes.”

“But what is the truth? Are the villains born evil, or do they make their wrong choice?”

Whispers rippled over the class. The other students were staring, but Quinn did not care. For once, she wanted the truth. Miss Dwerven was still searching for an answer, so she continued.

“Because if it is a choice, then our focus should be on the children of the villains. They also have a choice, and on the Isle, they are only presented with one of the options.”

“Miss Little, I am surprised at you. What is this fascination you have with the villains’ children?”

There were a lot of whispers now.

“It is not a fascination, Miss Dwerven,” Quinn said, an edge of irritation in her voice. “I just want to know what I am supposed to believe. I want to know what our king’s position is on this subject since that is what we are to think.” She could not help the sarcasm that crept into her tone.

Miss Dwerven was visibly shocked. “Are you questioning our leader, Miss Little?”

“No, I am not,” she said. “But even if I was, are we, as citizens, not allowed to question and criticize our leaders?”

“King Adam has made this entire kingdom what it is today.”

“A place where one is not to question their leaders’ decisions,” Quinn snapped back. “Are we under an authoritarian leader now, Miss Dwerven? Because I think that Robin and his Merry Men would be interested to know that.” As soon as she finished that sentence, she realized that she had gone too far. She had gotten extremely close to suggesting a rebellion. Not knowing what else to do, she got up, grabbed her bag and walked out the door, ignoring the teacher’s protests behind her.

Once again, Quinn found herself in the archery range.

She shot arrow after arrow into the targets, trying very hard to clear her head, when all it did was spin further. It had always been implied that villains were just evil, with no interest in why they did what they did. They were just evil. But she had never thought about how that somehow extended to their children.

And the nagging implication about what that meant for her.

Arrows whizzed through the air, each thud as they stuck in the target like a nail in her coffin. If they were right, then was she guaranteed to turn out badly? Was that why she never quite fit in in Auradon Prep? And perhaps, it was also why she liked Sherwood so much because the Merry Men used to technically be criminals as well.

She managed to split an arrow, an act that would normally have warranted a celebration, but now the sound just felt like a sign of sudden realization.

“I don’t belong here,” she whispered, sitting down on the bench. With the words out in the open like that, she felt a strange sense of relief, followed by utter panic as she stared straight ahead, the beginnings of tears prickling in her eyes.

“Quinn?” said a voice from behind her.

Quinn jumped and turned to see Mark standing by the door. She quickly tried to wipe any traces of tears from her face, but from his concerned expression, it was too late for that.

“Quinn, what’s wrong?” he asked, rushing forward.

So, she told him everything. Of course, she did; he was her best friend, and who else could she possibly talk to about this?

Mark was speechless for a few moments and Quinn could tell that he was trying to think of something supportive to say.

“Mm-hmm,” he said, staring blankly at a point slightly above her head. “So. what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to the Isle of the Lost,” she blurted out.

“You’re what?”

Something inside of her had snapped without her realizing it. The decision had been there in her mind the entire time. “I am going to the Isle of the Lost because that’s where I belong.”

“How do you know that you’ll belong there?”

“If I don’t belong here, then it makes sense that I’ll belong there.”

“Does your dad know about this plan?”

“No, of course not. He would never let me.” She paused. “And also, I literally just decided.”

He shook his head, a small smile slipping onto his face. “This is a terrible idea.”

Quinn knew that look. “So, you’re gonna help me?” she asked, surprised.

Sighing, he stood up. “If I don’t, you will get caught and get in even more trouble.” He headed towards the door. “Well, let’s go, we have a lot to do before you leave.”

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