In the third part of the third chapter of “On Ordeal: Ronan,” Ronan’s Ordeal pits him against a violent force. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For brief mention of slavery.
Ronan’s Ordeal is fascinating to examine in contrast with the others that we’ve gotten so far. In some ways, the Lone Power has repetitive techniques. It loves to pull people from the comfort zones, but It often does so by twisting those comfort zones and making them feel wrong. In that sense, his Ordeal is a parallel to Nita’s and Kit’s, since they are sent to an alternate Manhattan, a fucked up version of their own. Ancient Bray is the setting for Ronan’s Ordeal, but the familiarity is not enough to overcome that sense of wrongness.
But I also see a similarity between Ronan and Roland, too, in that both of them went into their Ordeals, went up against the Lone One in a complicated problem, and were victorious. AT FIRST. Because chapter three ends with another conflict, one that highlights the time travel conundrum that bothers Ronan as much as it does. So you’ve got that fake-out that reveals a greater problem, one that is far more challenging than the first one. Which isn’t to say that Ronan’s initial problem was easy, because it was CERTAINLY NOT. Seriously, if the Ordeal had ended after Ronan’s success, I would have been satisfied. It’s such a fulfilling struggle because it involved so many key things in wizardry.
Ronan had to choose to save life over letting it die. He had to learn complex theories of wizardry in a matter of minutes. He put himself in direct harm’s way—even getting struck by lightning at one point!!!—in order to save people he had never met nor would he probably ever meet. When the Lone One taunted him with doubt and failure and apathy, Ronan chose to still fight against him, even if meant he might actually fail. THEY’RE ALL THE COMPONENTS OF A SOLID ORDEAL, AREN’T THEY. But it was that key from Ronan’s past, that memory from a playground years prior, that made this all feel like poetic justice. Instead of fighting the vicious storm that the Lone One sent his way, Ronan pushed it towards him. In doing so, he surprised the Lone One, and y’all, I never get tired of people fooling It. In this case, The Lone One expected resistance, and by subverting It’s expectation, Ronan was able to redirect the storm and save the people in the settlement. Which is a… good thing? Actually, I liked that Ronan thought this:
Did I just save the future? he thought, groggy. Did I just make sure history was going to keep going the way it needed to for things to go the way they’re going already? It was too vast a prospect to take in, in all its good and evil: Ronan had to reduce it to something he could, for the moment, understand.
We’ve seen the other characters do the same thing. They do the work, and they literally cannot conceive of the affect it will have on other people. They just have to move on to the next thing. Unfortunately, the “next” thing for Ronan is the Lone Power’s spite. It is so furious with Ronan that it sends a slaver ship towards Ronan (or, rather, Ronan may have set this event in motion by saving the settlement and redirecting the storm). The Lone One desires to teach one of It’s most vicious lessons: that life can be deeply unfair and deeply unjust. Without knowing what the future holds, Ronan has to decide whether to save the ship or not. To save the people on it or not. To do something that might begin the end of the slave trade in Ireland or push it even further. To risk having his wizardry taken away from him because of failure.
It’s a lot, but he makes the same decision again: saving life is better than allowing it to perish, even if the those people are, by and large, Bad People. It feels like the right choice—he vowed to protect Life—but I’m worried, but IS THAT WHAT I’M MEANT TO DO???
Oh god, I still don’t know what’s happening next, y’all.
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