Recap: Start of Darkness

Note: As a recap page, all spoilers are unmarked. You have been warned

This is for The Order of the Stick prequel volume. Go here for the trope.

The story starts about 100 years before the start of the comic, with a four year old boy mourning the death of his dog. He begs the dog to "come back" and suddenly a jolt of energy goes through his body and to the dog. While the boy is confused by what happened, his dog stands back up, clearly zombified. The boy is overjoyed to have his dog back, until a bird flies nearby and the dog attack and immediately devours it. There's a beat panel, and then the boy exclaims with malicious glee over how "cool" that was and goes off to find more birds for his dog to eat. Or to kill and feed to the dog...

A few years later, the boy, now a rather sullen teenager, comes home from school to find a middle aged, handicapped, bald wizard named Xavion in his room. Xavion tells the boy that the boy's parents asked him to come and talk to the boy about his powers. The boy tries to deny having any strange powers, but when his closet is opened to reveal the zombie of his grandmother standing there, craving brains, it's a little hard to deny. Xavion explains to the boy about sorcerers and wizards, and that the boy is a sorcerer, someone to whom the use of magic comes naturally, without the study that wizards must use to control it. Sorcerers aren't often looked kindly upon, since many discover their abilities early in life and use it to pursue selfish goals, so people often mistrust and fear young sorcerers. Xavion has a school though, where he gives these sorcerers a place to learn how to control their abilities and then use them for good. The boy is against the idea of going, both due to the wizard's condescending attitude and a disinterest in helping other people who fear and distrust him. He abruptly murders the wizard, turns him into a zombie, and decides it's time to cut ties to his life and leave home forever. As he goes to kill the rest of his family using the zombies of Xavion and his grandmother, the boy does conceed that everything else aside, Xavion had a cool name, and he should adopt a similar one. Eventually, he comes up with one that he likes: Xykon.

Quite a few years later, a quiet goblin village is celebrating the ascension of a new youth as an apprentice cleric. The priest who conducts the ceremony tells the youth he expects great things of the young goblin, to which the youth modestly replies that he simply wants to do a little good for his people. The youth is celebrating with his various family members afterward, (including an uncle, his mother, a respected warrior older brother and a pair of bratty younger siblings, a boy and a girl) when the festivities are disrupted by a group of Paladins and clerics from Azure City arrive and start massacring the village. Their primary target is the High Priest who was in charge of the ceremony, but they are quite happy to slaughter all the other goblins around, including the youth's elderly mother, who is one of the first casualties and is standing mere feet away from him when she's killed.

The goblins attempt to fight back, but are no match for the paladins and clerics attacking them. The High Priest urges the confused youth to run, while the High Priest calls attention to himself and tries to hold off the human attackers. He kills several of them but is soon swarmed by the attacking humans and before long is very thoroughly dead. With him dead, the humans move to wipe out all of the other villagers still around. With the High Priest's body momentarily forgotten, the youth goes back and sees the ghost of his old teacher, who urges the young goblin to take his cloak and put it on. The young goblin protests, as the Crimson Mantle is the symbol of their god's High Priest, but the ghost points out that with the slaughter going on, soon the young apprentice may be the only cleric left, at least in this area. So the young goblin takes the Crimson Mantle and puts it on... and receives a communication directly from his god. In a haze, he starts to wander away from the site of the battle, until he hears the voice of his younger brother pleading for help, because he's already wounded, (and lost an eye) and a paladin is about to finish him off. The goblin with the Crimson Mantle saves his brother by killing the paladin, then looks to find his little sister, the only member of his family who is unaccounted for... and sees her impaled on the katana of a nearby female paladin. The two brothers leave, perhaps the only goblins to survive the encounter.

Eventually, the paths of the two would cross. The goblin and his brother met with other goblins who were driven from their lands by crusades of the paladins and into a swamp, where they tried to make a life from themselves. When the paladins began encroaching even there and building local fortresses, the goblins planned to fight back and drive the paladins out, only for the local lizard people to try to one-up them and get to it first. As that is happening Xykon happens to be flying nearby, and begins wiping out the paladins, while also carelessly killing a number of the lizard people as well. Impressed by the power of the now elderly sorcerer, both the lizard people and the goblins attempt to recruit him for their various schemes. After Xykon offhandedly murders the chief of the lizard people for having a long, difficult to pronounce name, the goblin with the Crimson Mantle introduces himself as Redcloak, and his one-eyed brother as Right Eye.

To be continued...


Tropes

  • The Bad Guy Wins / Foregone Conclusion
  • Breaking Speech: Xykon gives a truly nasty one to Redcloak, as listed here.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover shows Xykon as a lich killing a paladin before his first encounter with Redcloak — while in the story proper, he wasn't yet undead when this happened. This is lampshaded on the last page of the book:
    MitD: Wait — the scene on the cover didn't happen that way.
    Demon-roach: Welcome to show business, kid.
  • Deal with the Devil: Redcloak, at the end, describes his alliance with Xykon as such.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Xykon provides the page quote.
  • Doomed Hometown: Redcloak's village is wiped out by overeager Paladins from the Sapphire Guard at the very beginning.
  • Once More with Clarity: In the webcomic proper, we only get a single panel of Xykon killing Eugene Greenhilt's mentor, which looks like he's using a spell to do the job. In this book, we see what really happened; Xykon had already killed Fyron through blunt force trauma by that point, and was turning his corpse into a zombie.
  • Start of Darkness: For Redcloak, anyway. Xykon, as we see, was pretty horrible from early childhood.