In the first part of the fourth chapter of “On Ordeal: Ronan,” Ronan pushes past his terror to complete a complex wizardry. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of phobias, drowning.
The first time I was pulled beneath by an undertow was in Hawaii when I was a kid. Those days, we used to visit my father’s relatives on Oahu as much as we could, and they’re some of my only hopeful, joyous memories from childhood. I’ve only gone back twice as an adult, once for my father’s funeral, but even then, I found a peace there that I probably can’t find many other places in the world. It’s where I learned how to swim in the ocean, where I discovered the beauty hiding underneath the waves, where I learned how to respect the natural world. I also learned the terrible power of that same world, and you better believe I learned it the hard way.
I’d been warned many times before not to go too far from the shore, that even if you’re in a spot where your feet touch the bottom, you can still get swept away. I have always been a natural swimmer and feel at home in the water, too, and I feel like those summers in Hawaii helped me feel that way. But like Ronan’s memory of an event caused deliberately by the Lone Power, I, too, was swept underneath with little warning. It happened almost the exact same way! We were in Waimea Bay, and I kept pushing myself further and further, a cockiness swimming through me like I swam through the ocean. I was certain that I was fine, that because I was the furthest out of all the kids, I was therefore the coolest. I remember the ocean dipping a bit more than I expected, and I turned around to see the wall of a wave heading straight toward me. At the very least, I was smart enough to suck in a lungful of air and dunk myself under the surface. When that wave hit and I felt the current yank on my body, I nearly let all the air out. What Duane describes here is eerily reminiscent of my experience. Once you get disoriented underwater, unsure which way is up or down, it feels like a death sentence. And like Ronan, it took another rush of undertow to orient me towards the sun, which I used to get out from underwater.
LET ME TELL Y’ALL: IT WAS TERRIFYING. I didn’t swim out in the ocean until I was an adult; I only stuck to pools because it was such a traumatizing thing to go through. I’ve gotten back into in the last ten years, though I’m still cautious and hesitant about swimming away from the shore. But that shit stays with you. So I get why Ronan has a similar reaction! He has to become water, and he may have to submerge himself in order to save this ship. And yet? This is his reaction to the Lone One plotting for YEARS to throw him off of this intervention:
So to win this, I have to invite that. I have to let it happen willingly. Squishy’s betting that I’d never, never do that.
Ronan grinned in fury.
OH, IT’S SO SATISFYING. Y’all know I love some motivational pettiness, and that’s exactly what this is. Oh, the Lone One thinks Ronan is not brave enough to face his fear? OH, HE’LL SHOW YOU. And while we don’t get to see what this intervention looks like in full (YET!!!), Duane gives us a sense of the massive preparation Ronan has to go through to enact it. It truly felt all-encompassing because it had to be. It’s not just a matter of reciting a spell and then it’s done; Ronan has to name every piece that is involved in any way. That includes the sea water; all the salts and minerals; the living creatures who are in this part of the ocean; the rocks; the shore; and the list just keeps going and going. Since this is Ronan’s Ordeal, some of this is streamlined and handed to him, despite that later on down the line, he’ll have to commit a ton of things to memory. And let’s also not forget that while he’s naming all the various parts of this wizardry, he is standing on air, which probably looks completely badass and terrifying to anyone watching him???
So what is the exchange going to be? All wizardry has a price, and this particular one feels larger than pretty much most of what we’ve gotten before. (At least from wizardries enacted by a single person, that is.) Duane references this exchange by talking about the way the ocean seems to pull on Ronan, to demand an equal submission from him as he is asking from it. The powerful existence of the ocean doesn’t just wash over him; it almost claims him as one of its own, you know?
I’m so excited to see how this works out.
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