Tear Jerker: The Order of the Stick

The Order of the Stick might be the only comic in existence that can have some hilarious meta/Fourth Wall jokes (and a couple of Lampshadings) and then successfully pull off a heart-wrenching death scene in the same page.

Note: Please keep the examples sorted in chronological order, as to avoid repeats.

  • Start of Darkness— The second scene consists entirely of Redcloak's entire family save Right Eye being massacred by the Azure City Paladins. No wonder he hates paladins so much.
  • Start of Darkness — when the wizard Dorukan rages against Xykon for his imprisoning the soul of Lirian within a magic stone. Of course Xykon ends up kicking his ass and imprisoning him within the very same stone, where Dorukan's soul meets up with Lirian's.
    Lirian: Dory? Dory, is that you?
    Dorukan: Yes, my love. I've failed. It looks as if I am to share your prison forever now...
    Lirian: No, no... not a prison anymore. (they embrace)
  • The climax of Start of Darkness, particularly Right-Eye's last words. "Goodbye, Brother." "Goodbye... Redcloak." Major Downer Ending.
    • Especially since he called him Brother or Big Brother throughout Start of Darkness. Until he lies dying as a result of his betrayal. Then it's just "Redcloak".
    • Also because throughout the story, Right-Eye criticizes Redcloak not correcting Xykon on his name, since he considered the nickname to be a demeaning sign of domination.
  • Lampshaded in #84 — although it doesn't show on the page, the title of the comic is: "Saddest. Comic. Ever."
  • While it's not dwelt on much, Soon Kim losing Mijung. According to the Giant, he grieved her until his own death, and it appears that insulting her memory is what ticked him off enough to nearly attack his own party members (sure, there was probably a lot more built-up stuff, but that might have been the straw that broke the camel's back). Soon really loved his wife.
  • #131. Haley putting on her mask to the world...
  • Internal Dialogue:
    Haley: But I'm a rogue...
    Haley: ...Hiding is my best skill.
    • Also here, with Haley battling with her own sense of self loathing as the countdown comes for Southern Continent New Year, debating whether to risk kissing Elan, and by the time she hesitantly reaches out to him, some random Azurite has already grabbed him. The last line of the strip is in her (at the time) custom cryptogram, but says, "happy new year."
  • This comic. Poor Durkon.
  • This comic. And then later this.
    Elan: My evil twin brother is going to kill my— my Haley! And she's all unsuspecting and defenseless and, and, and Haleyish!
  • Haley having to helplessly watch as Nale convinces Elan that she is evil. Well, until she gets her voice back, that is.
  • Played straight in #443.
    • The line "Wait— why do I feel like we were supposed to be somewhere?" in the last panel of #444 just hammers it home.
  • Three Words: "Oh Buddy Roy". Appropriately set to one of the most heartbreaking folk songs in human history.
    • "Oh Buddy Roy" is even more tear jerking if you read it while listening to this video. Read along with the flute that starts out at about 1:18. It's heartbreaking.
    • One of the forumites is an operatic tenor, and he recorded a rendition of the song which he posted on the site. It was gorgeous.
    • Here's a rendition.
  • Miko Miyazaki's last moments. Notably, out of the nearly 800 strips that exist as of this writing, this is the only one that doesn't have any jokes in it.
  • These three strips. The Order left Haley and Belkar in Azure City, which is now under the control of Team Evil, and Roy is still dead. And that's the end of the third book.
  • Also a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming: Roy meeting his younger brother, who'd died very young, and playing blocks with him
    Eric: Hi Roy! wanna play blocks with me?
    Roy: (a tear running down his face) More than anything.
    • Then you find out that they made the block castle 34 times without Roy noticing because he was enjoying it THAT much.
  • At first, this strip just looks like a gag involving Roy being frustrated as he tries to communicate with Haley. But then you think about it, and about how normal she treats the whole scenario, and you realize that for months, she's been fighting and struggling on her own, and keeping herself going by talking to all that remains of her former leader and friend, because she cares about him that much, misses him that much, and needs him that badly. It's kind of sweet and kind of horribly sad.
  • "Sweet Dreams, Monster-san."
    • Extra bit of sadness on this page: the Monster in the Darkness specifically mentions Right-Eye as one of his friends, and that he hasn't seen him for a while. The Mit D has no idea that one of the people he considers a friend is dead, and that the other people he considers friends are responsible.
  • "...I'll take my chances that the afterlife... won't have any punishment worse... than not being with you..."
  • After Kubota's disintegration at the hands of Vaarsuvius, Elan reveals the details of Therkla's death and how he feels personally responsible. But Vaarsuvius doesn't care about it, and criticizes Elan for forgetting about Haley, which infuriates him. Commentary in the hardback books reveals that, while Elan may not have approved of V killing Kubota, he probably would have gotten over it because the man was evil. But V's treatment of Therkla appalls Elan and makes Elan, who once dressed up as a wizard because Vaarsuvius was so cool, want nothing more to do with him.
    • Worse, when he tells V that he will inform Hinjo of what he did, s/he threatens to kill Elan. While the implication is lost on Elan, the bard covers for V anyways.
    • #598. Elan's speech to Therkla. Particularly her tombstone. Therkla's Headstone: Here lies Therkla ???-1184 She would have made a pretty cool girlfriend, too.
    • And later, what Elan did in response.
  • The Black Dragon may be Evil, but listen to her grievances against Vaarsuvius, and you can't help but think she had a point.
    The Black Dragon: "My son was gone, along with our hoard! I later found out his very ashes had dissolved into the swamp. I had nothing left of him! And he himself was all that I had left of his father, who was lost to adventurers just like you - his skin made into armor for the party leader to wear."
  • Vaarsuvius keeping the soul splice and leaving his/her family behind to try and fix everything else.
    • Inkyrius' words before Vaarsuvius leaves, aka the last words they speak to one another.
    Inkyrius: I think that we both know that this? This thing that you've become? This is always what you really wanted. More than you ever wanted me.
  • O-Chul's final conversation with the Monster in the Darkness.
    • And O-Chul's escape from Xykon's prison, and MITD's reaction, finally calling him by his name.
    O-Chul: You may not know exactly what you are, but I do.
    MITD: You do? Really? Then what am I?
    O-Chul: A good man. Farewell, my gentle friend.
    MITD: Wait, Mr. Stiffly! Come back! Mr. Stiffly! MR. STIFFLY! O-CHUL!
  • When O-Chul escapes, he takes out Redcloak's right eye. As punishment for his failure, Xykon forbids him from using Regenerate to restore his eye. So now he's got an eyepatch over his right eye and one working, left eye. In one comic, just before he gives a big speech, he is seen looking in a mirror. His reflection shows his face reversed, so he sees Right-Eye. His brother. And it dawns on you that that's who he'll see every time he looks at his own reflection. He just stands there looking at the mirror for a panel or two, and says, simply, "It'll all be worth it. You'll see."
  • Elan's one-two revelation that his father is not only evil, but also highly savvy.
    • Even worse, he's taking the rules of drama that Elan loves so much and twisting them to the evilest applications imaginable. The worst part is his last line, "we're going to tell the best story EVER!"
      • Because, going by the rules, it's 100% true.
  • Haley's reunion with her father Ian starts well, but then descends into letting his trust issues split them into separate ways.
    • Also, the death scene of Haley's mother that started the guilt complex of her father in failing to save an important life.
    • The last 3 panels of this page. No other comment necessary.
    "No, Dad. I didn't mean what I said. You raised me well."
    • The potion only works on lies.
  • "What the hell is wrong with you, you stupid oaf? You moron! Kill me already!" Even Roy admits how wrong the scene is... and then Tarquin ends it.
    • "Enor... don't you see? It has to be you. It has to be. You have the Victory String." Remember that 6 strips prior to this, Gannji had given him the very same string so Enor would have the bravery to face his opponent. Little did either of them know that they would face each other.
    • And a little while later, it's revealed that even Belkar, the Order's Token Evil Teammate, was affected by it. Specifically, he released the arena's previously-featured dinosaur to disrupt the fight (which allowed Enor and Gannji to escape) because he heard Roy say that watching the two fight was like watching someone be forced to duel his own puppy. Cue Belkar's point of view, where he sees Enor's face replaced by Mr. Scruffy's head and his own head replacing Gannji's.
  • Thanh and Niu during the fall of the Resistance.
    Niu: ...You're the bravest man I've ever met.
    Thanh: And you're the slowest woman. Run!
  • Tsukiko may be an evil creepy murdering bitch, and probably did deserve what happened to her, but it's no less horrible to watch.
    "No! Stop! You don't have to do this, little ones! He just wants you to think you have to! You can- AAAGH!!- You can fight back! Resist! No! NO!! Don't you- AAAGH!!- Don't you understand? I love you all! I love you! Why don't... you love... me?"
    • Then a couple of comics later when Xykon's rounding up Team Evil to go after the next Gate he casually asks where "what's her name, the chick with the pig tails" is. No matter how colossally misguided it was, she did love him, and it's a little heart-wrenching to realize how little he thought of her.
    • And when the rest of Team Evil finds out what happened to her, the only one actually upset about it is the Monster in the Darkness. When one of the Demon Roaches asks him why he's upset, he explains how sad it is that Tsukiko really just wanted to be loved.
      Demon Roach: So what? Who cares?
      MitD: Exactly. That's why I'm sad.
      • It's also possibly a bit of the You Bastard to people who disliked her "thinks she's in a romance novel" character.
  • While Elan is trying to figure out how to feel about his father:
    Elan: I thought it was tough to figure out how to feel about Nale, you know?
    Roy: What's so tough? He's a villainous jackass!
    Roy: I think you're overemphasizing the importance of biological ties, Elan. Nale has tried to kill you three times!
    Elan: I know that! But sometimes when I was little, I would walk in on my Mom crying about having lost a nail. And now, I don't think she was upset about missing hardware at all!
  • Looking back since the last time we saw him, it's painful to revisit Thog's Type III Villainous Friendship with Nale and Sabine. Thog was the Linear Guild's humanising agent; most ancillary members basically thrived on their own evilness (with Nale in particular enjoying being petty and disproportionate in his revenge), and Nale and Sabine's relationship was based at least in part on murder and bloodletting, but Thog's constant childish and humorous antics prevented them from becoming serious villains. No doubt in part because of this, Nale and Sabine kept Thog around only as a meat-shield, when he genuinely considered them his friends. When Thog thought Nale was in danger, he tore his own prison cell apart to escape so he could rescue him; when Thog really was in danger, Nale abandoned him. Asshole.
    • In fact, Nale was apparently too selfish to inconvenience himself to save an ally. The fact that Elan did is what tipped off Tarquin that he wasn't Nale.
  • The consequences of the Familicide spell Dark Vaarsuvius used finally catch up with the Order: "The propensity of both dragons and humans to breed outside their species is well documented." The entire Draketooth family was related to a Black Dragon. Which will now prevent the Order of the Stick from directly finding the Gate. Even worse than that, Familicide did not only kill the Draketooths. It killed anyone that was related to them by blood. And the Draketooths happened to be scoundrels who propagated by seducing random bystanders and absconding with the resulting children. All those bystanders are now dead - along with every living member of their families! And there is no reason to believe that they're an isolated case. What really sells it is V's expression. The Order may forgive him/her, but s/he never will.
    • And throughout V's explanation of why Familicide was so awful, we see a montage of several bystanders and their families being slain by it.
    • When else have we ever seen V cry? Not when his/her mate was threatened, not when s/he was served divorce papers, not when s/he saw his/her children's legs broken, house burned down and mate crucified on a tree. Not when the dragon said she would kill his/her children or described exactly how she would do it, not as s/he reached the pinnacle of desperation trying to figure out how to stop it from happening. This hit him/her hard.
  • Failing her save against a Holy Word, Sabine apologizes to Nale and gives him some last advice, along with "I love you... forever." However, Nale was deafened by the same attack and can't hear her, so he doesn't understand what's happening.
    • She also warns him not to do anything rash - and not to trust his father and cohorts. Foreshadowing as Nale decides to kill Malack.
    • Even sadder since these are the last words she says to him while he's alive... and he can't hear them.
  • While it's outside of the strip, Rich's injured hand and the responses people have given wishing him well.
  • Mr. Scruffy's useless attempts to stop Malack from killing/vamping Belkar.
    • On a related note, Malack's desperate attempt to preserve his friendship and form a truce with Durkon, only to get rebuffed primarily because of his vampirism.
    Malack: I suppose I always knew it would come to this.
  • Durkon's death. Belkar's gonna be pissed.
    • Made either better or worse by the fact that he died happy, because it meant he was finally going home.
      • As a vampire.
      • What make it especially sad is that he died mainly because he refused to compromise and he put his faith in the wrong people: Malack, who betrayed him but was willing to walk away, and Thor, who he worships wholeheartedly but who wasn't even paying attention when he died.
    • In the aftermath of that, Belkar trying to rush off and warn the others, only to get vertigo due to his injuries. So he starts crawling.
      • His shocked disbelief that he is still alive while Durkon is turned into a vampire. Deep down it really seems like he thinks his life is worth less than Durkon's.
      • Before his fight with Malack, Belkar said that he had something to live for, which is why he will survive. Durkon's last wish before he died was for Malack to not harm his friends because they have more to live for than him.
  • Remember the old example that out of 800 strips, only one had no jokes? As of this posting, there are over 900 comics, and there is a second strip with no joke. It's Durkon's death, and him saying that he's going home.
  • Right afterwards: Belkar, barely alive, crawling back to the rest of the Order and breaking the news — and Roy almost attacking him, thinking it was another one of his tasteless jokes.
    • Made worse on Belkar's side by the fact that Roy only comes around to believing him when Haley points out that she doesn't think he COULD make up a story of heroic sacrifice. Harsh.
    • Made worse if you believe that Roy's anger isn't due to it being, well, Belkar, but due to his desperate attempt to deny what has happened to his best friend.
    • As it is the first comic in which Durkon is absent ever since he showed up to save Belkar, it will also be the first one that will make you cry seeing the joint "Thanks, everyone" message from Roy, Haley, Elan and Durkon at the very end of the page (if it didn't start happening at the latter's actual death, that is).
    • "He just walked in there and saved my life and got straight up murdered for it." Talk about tearjerkers...
  • "This is it, isn't it? This is us losing. This is what us losing looks like."
  • After Durkon dies, Roy is not pulling his punches. Elan's expression right after this exchange is especially heartrending:
    Roy: And as of now, we don't even have any spellcasters!
    Elan: Roy, I'm a spellcaster.
    Roy: YOU DON'T COUNT!!
  • More unlikely Belkar tearjerkery action: Belkar acknowledges his own limitations and sociopathy, even seeming to lament them. Similar to the example above, this one line of dialogue almost lends a smidgeon of tragedy to Belkar's character.
    "Hurting people is the only thing I'm good at."
    • The reason he had to say such hurtful things? Durkon getting turned into a vampire crushed Roy's resolve. Roy, who was willing to keep going despite the insane odds, was ready to give up. That's how badly he was hurting. And the only way to keep him going was to hurt him again.
  • Qarr taunting Vaarsuvius with the horrific consequences of his Familicide. V is curled up in a ball sobbing when Qarr calls him "history's worst mass murderer". Blackwing isn't any help either since the only rebuttal he gives is that "history isn't over yet", which means that Blackwing technically agrees with Qarr.
    • From the same comic, Vaarsuvius casually mentioning that "Master Thundershield" should have Raised one of the Draketooths by now. Cringe-inducing since we know how sad V will be when (s)he finds out about Durkon. (S)He may even go through another Heroic BSOD if it occurs to hir that it might not have happened had the Draketooths still been alive when the Order & the LG arrived at the pyramid, or if (s)he had been present for Durkon's fight with Malak.
  • It's clear from #885 that Roy is really guilt-tripping over Durkon's death.
  • #887. Everything has gone wrong. Durkon's dead, V is lost, Tarquin and Nale are winning, and Xykon is on his way. The Order is surrounded on all sides, and there's no where left to run except unknowingly into a happy ending created by an illusion.
    • The happy ending illusion itself. First, long-dead secondary characters are alive and well, due to the Order members not knowing that they're dead. Second, it's pretty obvious that the person (or someone if it's collective) whose illusion is shown would have preferred Durkon to be alive and Belkar to be dead rather than the other way around.
    • Everybody under the spell gets their happy ending. Haley is shown rolling in gold and helping her father take over the Thieves' Guild, which Roy wouldn't know anything about. Elan makes peace with his family, something the other two don't see as a happy ending. Roy gets to rub his swords-are-better-than-magic philosophy in his sister's face, something the other two wouldn't know would be a part of his happy ending. Clearly, there is no one point of view; everybody under the spell gets their happy ending. Belkar is dead, and is presumably killing monsters in the abyss. That's his happy ending.
      • And his cat's dead too. Which means either one of his teammates found the cat too evil to keep around, or Belkar wants the only thing in the world he cares about to stay by his side.
      • At Belkar's funeral, Roy and Varsuuvius are walking away. They don't care enough even to stay as long as Elan has.
      • In the wedding scene, notice the crowd. That green-skinned baldy in a purple suit? That's Thog! The only explanation is that Elan and Thog's Odd Friendship held out long enough that one of Elan's wishes is that he stays alive. In reality, it seems at that point that he's dead.
    • What's even worse; NONE OF THIS CAN EVER HAPPEN! It's been shown multiple times in the comic that the Unspoken Plan Guarantee is almost a law of nature. The only plans that have a chance of happening, are the ones the audience doesn't know about until it's too late. This spell means none of what we see has a chance of happening. They won't be able to hold Redcloak down so Roy can fight Xykon. They can't throw Xykon's phylactery into the ocean/lava.
  • In #888 is somehow both tearjerking and hilarious, as we see that Elan thinks it might be a good thing if his parents got back together... the imagery and dialogue are just hilarious, but the implications make you want to cry.
  • In #889, Elan breaks the party out of the illusion by admitting the truth that he's been hiding from. He can never fix his family, his dad and brother are irredeemable and his dream of his family being together again will never happen.
  • Belkar's and Mr. Scruffy's dream: the two of them and Shojo are living happily together, with Belkar cooking meals for them.
  • A small but very gut-wrenching one as Roy sees the vampire Durkon for the first time.
    • Another gut-punch as the newly freed from thralldom Durkon goes to heal Roy like he usually would in a situation like that... and ends up hurting him instead. Ouch.
  • Small, and short, but Nale is horrified, angered, and hurt when Vampire Durkon just casually gives Zz'dtri a Neck Snap. The two were actually friends.
    • Just a shame he didn't feel the same way about Thog.
  • In #913, Elan's reaction when he sees his father Tarquin kill his brother Nale.
    • Nale's monologue right before Tarquin stabs him to death. He only wanted to be free from his father's shadow.
      • You don't notice it at first due to his professionalism, but Tarquin takes a moment to confirm Nale's motives before resigning himself to killing Nale to avenge Malack. In fact, Tarquin explained to Nale that the arc was his chance to prove himself. Tarquin didn't want to go through with it, but he couldn't ignore Malack's death.
      • Can also be read as Tarquin realising that Nale will never be his pawn and no longer holds any use for him. It doesn't really matter what interpretation you choose, both are definite tear jerkers.
      • Tarquin made a Freudian slip when told by Nale that his father and Malack were going to kill him anyway. In #849, Tarquin reassures Malack by telling him to look forward to the end of the mission. He was going to off Nale no matter what. His telling Nale that he was only appeasing Malack and was going to convince him to let Nale live later on was a lie, if this is true, though.
      • #914 confirms the latter, as Tarquin goes on about how Nale was just a B-class villain and that Elan had outgrown him. Tarquin's indifference to killing his own son makes it even more of a tear jerker.
      • To add to that, Tarquin saying that Elan would be the only one who didn't desire Nale's death... Cue the last panel showing a very pissed off Sabine who just witnessed her lover's death through the IFCC's TV set and destroyed it in a fit of rage.
        Sabine: (to V's soul as it returns to his/her body) Knock 'em dead, elf.
      • Sabine was banished downstairs earlier to Durkon's Holy Word, and her last words to Nale before she went was her screaming that she loved him but he was deafened by the same Holy Word. Those ended up being her last words to him... and he never even heard them.
      • It doesn't help that Qarr hangs up on her when she calls and he never relays her words to him either.
      • Reread "Happy Ending" and "Dream Wedding" knowing all this will happen.
      • As Nale's ashes scatter in the wind, Elan grasps hopelessly at them, begging for his brother to come back.
  • "I'm not a twin anymore."
    • Remarkably, Tarquin's attempts to salvage the situation seem genuinely pitiful. When he's barely clinging to the side of the airship, he offers to effectively bankroll the Order's entire mission. Roy would be in charge of an entire army, Elan would be the head of a small team (at which point Elan would be the Cowboy Cop to Roy's angry-black-captain), and they could deal with Tarquin in one of a few ways (one of which being to take him captive and effective make him into Hannibal Lecter). Towards the end of it, it seems abundantly clear that Tarquin might actually care more about the 'story' than he does for his own life. He's not trying to convince Elan to join him, or to weasel his way out of a death he probably deserves. He genuinely believes in the life-as-a-story thing that Nale dismissed as an old man's eccentricity. He killed Nale because Nale valued his own selfish interests over the 'greater narrative good,' and he's horrified that Elan would effectively reject the role of protagonist.
  • When Roy and Vaarsuvius are discussing the details and moral ramifications of V's Deal with the Devil and subsequent actions, Roy relates an anecdote about another wizard who got too reckless with his experiments. Putting two and two together, he is referring to the time his father accidentally killed his brother. The conversation also reveals that Roy blames himself for Durkon's vampirism.
  • Durkon is not really the vampire — he's been trapped inside the whole time, watching the vampiric personality play his friends like fiddles while serving Hel. And Roy has no idea he's working with his friend's jailer towards the destruction of his friend's home!
  • While Crystal was always a character that was easy to hate, getting brought back as a flesh golem that is constantly in pain instead of simply resurrected because Bozzok found out she'd be less easily distracted this way is enough to make one Cry for the Devil.
    • And then Haley luring her out onto a trapdoor over a lava pit, and Bandana dumping her into the lava. There's absolutely no denying it was necessary, but it still hurts.
  • The High Priest of Hel manipulating Roy into thinking he's really just evil-Durkon, not a dark spirit possessing Durkon all just for the of chance it might make Roy hold back in the fight.
    • And then we discover the High Priest, from his perspective, isn't being entirely deceptive. As it turns out, vampiric spirits first absorb the worst moments of their hosts when they first spawn, so in a sense, the High Priest is how Durkon feels about the way he was when he got kicked out of the Dwarven lands for no reason he could understand. He tells this to Durkon, sending the poor guy into a Heroic BSOD and letting the High Priest focus fully on killing Roy. It's also the first time we see Durkon crying in frustration.
      Durkon: "Well, ta Hel wit ye, Hurak! Ta Hel wit all o' ye! Thor as my witness, ta Hel wit e'ry last one o' ye!!"