Order of the Stick

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If there’s a core truth to Rich Burlew’s fantasy stick-figure webcomic Order of the Stick, it’s that it stays true to storytelling tropes. Thus after Roy and his companions were overwhelmed by General Tarquin and his associates it was obvious to me that we’d be seeing a Deus Ex Machina appear to save them. Elan’s mentor, Julio, and his traveling airship fulfills just this purpose. However, while some readers may think Julio will take the sacrificial role that Tarquin intended for Roy, I suspect the end result may surprise some readers.

The core story for OotS is the ongoing efforts of Roy and the Order to stop Xykon and Redcloak (and in doing so, fulfill the Oath that Roy’s father never bothered to finish). While we’ve spent a significant bit of time on this side-story with Elan’s father (which also managed to bring closure to the Elan/Nale dynamic), there is no reason for the Order to return and deal with Tarquin once the Snarl has been secured and Xykon’s threat ended. Thematically the story concludes with the death of Xykon and Redcloak. So why then would we return for Tarquin?

Obviously we won’t. Tarquin is a bit player in the grand meta-story of OotS and has served his purpose (both in killing Nale and in bringing closure to Elan’s story). Julio’s entrance is not to provide the Order with a means of escape but to end Tarquin’s threat permanently while allowing Elan to retain some iota of innocence. And in doing so he’ll also give readers a glimpse at the greater world around the Order. Just as Tarquin and his companions are more powerful than Roy and crew, so too is Julio part of the greater world of heroes and villains that the Order is just one part of.

Finally, this provides closure to yet another character’s backstory. Of all the crew, only Durkon has not had a major arc focusing primarily on him. But now that he’s dead, he can return to the dwarvish lands… where I suspect the final Gate lies concealed. Durkon himself will not destroy his people, even as a vampire. Instead, it is Xykon and Redcloak that will be the catalyst… and Durkon will serve as the herald of the dwarves’ doom. And who knows, maybe when Julio delivers the Order to the dwarvish lands, he can die by Xykon and give Elan a chance to declare vengeance as was hinted at long ago.