In the second part of the third chapter of “On Ordeal: Ronan,” WELL, THIS WAS A PLOT TWIST. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of slavery
I have a vague recollection that Ronan mentioned something about his Ordeal that referenced what we begin to see in this part of the chapter, but that was like… two years ago? Maybe less time ago? I can’t quite put my finger on what’s familiar here, but I’m close to SOMETHING. Regardless, there are parallels here to other books, and it’s fascinating to see how this short story exists alongside other canon.
I’ll get there. But let me first note that, once again, Ronan is alone when a major transformation occurs in his life. That theme of loneliness and isolation has popped up again and again throughout Interim Errantry 2. Each of these Ordeal stories features a character out of place, alone, and struggling with how to change their immediate circumstances. That’s certainly the case for Ronan, and much like the others, he can’t figure out what it is he’s supposed to do next. He’s avoided a dreaded confrontation with his parents, but he spends his time wandering around the main part of his town, hoping for a sign, then realizing it’s not going to come.
WHICH IS PRECISELY WHEN IT DOES, BY THE WAY. Much like the events in A Wizard Abroad, Ronan is dealt something akin to a timeslide. (I think? I could still be wrong about this.) And because we all understand the context of this story, it was easy for me to guess that this was the Lone One’s big test for Ronan. Why send him to this place? Why strip him of most of the familiarity of Bray, but not all of it?
In the midst of this, though, is a really cool scene. Now, Ronan had done a few smaller wizardries prior to this one, like the one where he asked the water to help him stay dry. But up until his first transit spell, Ronan hadn’t done the sort of intensive wizardry that involved high levels of concentration and reading as he does here. It’s such an important part of his growth and his story, and I’m glad that it’s actually on the page. Even this far along in the series, I still feel like I can learn more about how wizardry functions and what the experience is like when a wizardry is enacted.
Anyway, initially, I wasn’t sure why Ronan’s Ordeal was in THIS specific time period, though if I had to give a guess at the time, Duane was going to further address the history of slavery in Ireland. As we’ve seen before, wizardry grants wizards a sort of casual access to knowledge of pretty much anything, all of it in the Speech, and it’s how Ronan begins to realize where he might be. And look, there’s a value in this outside of it being an Ordeal experience: we do need to confront and deal with the violent, uncomfortable histories of our own countries and our own peoples. Most of us can probably point to something that we learned that shattered what we’d always been told about a specific aspect of history, and it can be deeply upsetting to realize you’ve been lied to in this context.
So, Ronan’s own anger and disgust over this part of Irish history dovetails right into what I suspect is the actual point of his Ordeal. Does Ronan save this ancient settlement from the ferocity of the oncoming storm? We know the Lone One loves fucking with history and timelines, so It appears to have given Ronan a terrible conundrum. Is this settlement full of slavers? Or is it a pivotal point in history that, if wiped out, will alter the timeline forever? What if it’s supposed to be wiped out, but Ronan accidentally saves it? THIS IS A TERRIBLE CONUNDRUM, OKAY. It’s one that we see in a lot of time travel narratives, but here, it feels different. Ronan was basically brought to this time and place expressly for the purpose of this test, and I couldn’t tell at first which of these options was best. There are important lessons of wizardry in either action: sometimes you have to save people you dislike. Sometimes, failure is a good thing in the long run.
I’m just gonna say that I love that an ACTUAL PUPPY is responsible for Ronan figuring out that he was gonna save this settlement. A PUPPY! In all seriousness, though, his logic is sound:
“Let’s just keep all these people alive and let them sort out the details themselves. This is their time, not mine. If there’s going to be history, fine, let them be the ones who make it. But they can’t do that if they’re dead!
Ronan seems to be good with water already, so… hope he can pull this off???
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