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Characters / The Order of the Stick: The Empire of Blood

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Beware MASSIVE spoilers.

Gladiators WILL fight! Prisoners WILL die! And you WILL be distracted from our brutal oppressive regime until Saturday!
ALSO: Bread! Circuses!
poster announcing special mid-week games in Bleedingham

    In General 
  • All Crimes Are Equal:
    • No papers means prison for life. Don't worry, you'll be in the gladiator arena — your sentence shouldn't last too long.
    • The Dewey Decimal system is strictly enforced.
    • Thog got sent to the gladiator arena for public urination.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The Empire of Blood makes no attempt to hide how oppressive and downright evil it is. Judging from their names, the other two empires aren't much better in this regard.
  • The Empire: Empire of Blood, and it is aggressively expanding.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The Empire employs humans, kobolds, and lizardfolk indiscriminately, and one of their leaders is a tabaxi.
  • Gladiator Games: Both a form of entertainment and an important part of the legal system; (the punishment part).
  • Government Conspiracy: Not only is the Empress in fact a figurehead and true power in the hands of General Tarquin (who is the de facto Prime Minister and Head of Government) and his High Priest associate, Tarquin secretly rules two other empires with four other associates and every war on the continent, including wars between said empires, are ruses designed to make sure that Tarquin and his gang will one day be the only real game in town.
  • Kangaroo Court: In the Empire's legal system, whether or not you pissed off the General is more important than your guilt or innocence.
  • Kent Brockman News: As showcased in comic #755, the Empire's newscasters exchange witty banter with painfully fake smiles.
  • Meaningful Name: This may or may not be the case, but both Elan and Haley meet very close blood relatives here, particularly their fathers. Even more meaningful after we have learned that Malack is a vampire, and what his plans for the future are.
  • Medieval Prehistory: Civilized humans and lizardfolk with dinosaur mounts.
  • Mook Carryover: Invoked. When an empire is toppled, its resources and minions go to the conquerors. If the Empress of Blood is taken down, well, the next ruler gets a powerful high priest and competent general for their forces. This keeps Malack and Tarquin employed, and prevents them from ever losing power, as they begin ruling behind the throne of each successive overlord.
  • Obstructive Bureaucracy: The empire runs on red tape about as much as it runs on blood. Just as an example, besides entry papers, a bounty hunter needs a license, a change of address forms for the last three places of residence... and a receipt for the teleportation scroll used (if they don't have an arcane spellcaster registration).
  • Please Select New City Name: The Empire of Blood and its capital Bleedingham have been through many name changes in the past. One of those names was Terrorburg, capital of Tyrinaria.
  • Strawman News Media: As showcased in comic #755, the Empire's newscasters don't go against the regime (or if they do, they will run afoul of the odd ninja death squad).
  • Theme Naming:
    • Most of the place names (and other things) have a blood theme:
      • Bleedingham (the Empire's capital)
      • Bloodstone Correctional Facility
      • Bluddy (national mascot)
      • Clotsburg High School
      • Hemorrhage Road
      • Miss Bloodstain pageant
      • Platelet High School
      • Sanguine Avenue (puppet show)
      • Sunrise Bloody Sunrise (bed & breakfast)
    • There is also an Empire of Sweat and an Empire of Tears.
  • Villain of Another Story: A major theme in the arc, each of the leaders of the three desert empires, from Malack on down to Tarquin is dangerous enough on their own for their defeat to be the object of a major quest. This applies especially strongly since it's repeatedly hinted that the Order will eventually have to deal with them, but cannot do so until their quest against Xykon is finished.

The Vector Legion
The Legion in the past (as Tarquin remembers). From left to right: Shoulderpads Guy, Malack, Jacinda, Miron, Laurin, and Tarquin.

A group of mainly Lawful Evil adventurers who have been around since a long time, they've now settled down into prestigious positions and play powerful roles of influence in the Western continent. They're "led" by Elan's father General Tarquin, though they don't adhere to his authority seriously and he's only considered leader in the sense that it is his master plan they're all following. And given that we know only Tarquin's version of the story, it might not even be his plan.

    In General 
  • All There in the Script: According to Word of the Giant on Twitter, Tarquin's adventuring party is called the "Vector Legion".
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: They are a group of adventurers who eventually got themselves into positions of great power. While details are unclear, it involved beating a good adventuring party to an ancient treasure and they engage in direct combat in the present.
  • Badass Crew: The fact that they've been able to essentially conquer most of a continent in only a couple of years is a testament to this, and they're no slouches on the battlefield either. Only half of the group (Tarquin, Laurin, and Miron) is needed to curb stomp the entire Order without even breaking a sweat.
  • Cool Old Guy: They're all in their older years and definitely old enough to be grandparents. They're all also highly capable and powerful individuals. They're basically older, evil versions of the Order of the Stick.
  • The Creon: They have perfected the use and exploitation of this trope. One or two of them will work their way up to being top advisers to promising leaders and serve as the Man Behind the Man. If the nominal leader gets too big for their boots, or their subjects start to chafe under the dictatorial yoke, another member of the group will back a popular coup, kill the old leader, and install a new puppet. Rinse and repeat until your six buddies have controlled an entire continent for decades, despite constant wars and revolutions, all while never appearing to be the actual rulers of anything.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Between pulling strings of (somewhat) legitimate organizations behind the scenes, an emphasis on putting business before pleasure, and keeping as few people in the loop as possible, everything about the Legion carries heavy undertones of The Mafia. It's cemented by Laurin referring to the group as "this thing we do", similar to how mafia members in Real Life refer to the organization as "our thing".
  • Evil Counterpart: The Vector Legion consists of this toward the Order of the Stick:
    • Tarquin is to Elan, being both happy and cheerful individuals with a love of theatrics and knowledge of tropes and story structure. However, Tarquin weaponizes his knowledge to a ruthless degree and he's an egomaniacal Control Freak unlike the humble Elan. Furthermore, he's Elan and Nale's father.
    • Malack is this to Durkon. Both of them are the clerics of the team and serve as the number twos to the leaders. They're also among the more serious members of their team. They're also pretty headstrong at times in what they want to do. Their commonalities as fellow clerics help forge a friendship between them though it's ruined with the reveal of Malack being a vampire.
    • Laurin is this to Vaarsuvius. Both are powerful magic-users and the "heavy fire" of their teams, though V is a Wizard and Laurin is a Psion. Furthermore, both of them are parents who are fiercely protective of their children and have short tempers and pride issues. Ironically, Laurin is a better parent than V.
    • Miron is one to Belkar, though to a lesser degree. Both of them are smartasses with a penchant for giving nicknames to everyone and they're also laid-back individuals with sadistic streaks. They also hit hard, but suck defensively. Of course, Miron is a spellcaster and certainly more cautious than the impulsive and manic Belkar. Alternatively, Miron can be one to Haley. Both are greedy and money orientated, and Miron does represent a lot of Haley's problems in her arc. In addition, they function as the pragmatic hind mind of their teams, focusing on the simplest solutions that gain the most coin.
    • Jacinda is this to Haley despite little being known about her, as they are both the Rogues of their teams. Furthermore, Jacinda is partnered up with Laurin during their plan, which mirrors the Odd Friendship V and Haley have. If Miron overlaps with Belkar and Haley due to his snarky attitude, sadism, greed and pragmatism, Jacinda overlaps with Haley and Belkar due to her roguishness and overt revelry in killing people.
    • By default, this leaves the Shoulder-Padded Guy with Roy, though not much else is known outside of being dark-skinned sword wielders. Shoulderpads Guy is shown wielding a Knightly Sword and Shield, which is a contrast to Roy's two-handed greatsword.
  • Evil Is One Big, Happy Family: The Legion are all quite friendly with one another and do care for one another, even if it doesn't show often with some more than others. They're also all Evil, mainly being Lawful Evil.
  • The Man in Front of the Man: The crux of their long-term plan (along with Mook Carryover) is to be the visible henchmen of the ever-shrinking number of countries on the continent.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: They don't bother with speeches or overly complicated plans like the Order's other antagonists, which is a major contributor to why they're so much more dangerous than most of said antagonists. If they want somebody dead, it gets done.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Their main rule appears to be "business before pleasure," which makes them an effective team unit, especially in contrast to the Linear Guild's excesses, like Revenge Before Reason.
  • Villainous Friendship: Aside from the Order itself, the Vector Legion appears to be the most cohesive group seen so far. This is because they aren't a gang of petty and vindictive bullies with chips on their shoulders (like the Linear Guild) nor are they a group of individually powerful adventurers that hate each other's guts (like the Order of the Scribble), nor are they run by an insane lich whose chief lieutenant is subverting him at every turn and is very thorough in cutting off loose ends. While the Legion all have their own agendas, they have rules in place to ensure these agendas don't lead to too much internal strife, and they seem like very good friends. Nale finds this out the hard way.

    General Tarquin 

General Tarquin

"Here's to us, Elan. We're going to tell the best story EVER."

Race: Human
Gender: Male
Class: Unknown (probably Fighter or Warblade)
Alignment: Lawful Evil

An extremely Genre Savvy warlord in service to the Empress of Blood, and father of Elan and Nale.

  • Above Good and Evil: invoked Claims to be such in "Realizations & Rationalizations". Later he openly refers to himself as a villain, so it's hard to tell if he believed it at all. As the story progress it's becomes pretty clear he is too unbalanced to actually have a moral system; he simply believes in narrative roles, with him taking the villain role. It's even more hamfisted than usual, because Good and Evil are literally aspects of the universe in this setting, so he's not even debating moral ambiguity, he's either being willfully ignorant, or embracing this trope as a useful villain narrative.
    Tarquin: Labels like "good" and "evil" are just words. Words with many possible capitalizations.
  • Abusive Parents: invoked He considers even his own children to be pawns in his schemes, and any attempts they make at outside-the-box thinking are met with increasingly brutal reactions. He also corrupted Nale into becoming Lawful Evil like himself, for which Tarquin suffered the consequences when Nale murdered Malack.
  • And Your Little Dog, Too!:
  • Anthropic Principle: Invoked and exploited: For a "hero topples the evil empire" plot to work, the evil empire must exist, must have existed for some time, and must be in a position to continue to exist unless the hero topples it. And all that requires that somebody rule the empire, with all the privileges that come with that position... so why not him?
  • Appeal to Tradition: An unhealthy side to his narrative fixation is his failure to understand how stories have moved on and developed since his day. Notably, Julio Scoundrèl riles him up because his stories are subversive.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Elan being a hero is a fact that he is thrilled about, considering his Genre Savvy and personal slant about heroic stories.
  • Arc Villain: Of Book Five, much to his chagrin, as he refuses to consider himself as anything other than the ultimate Big Bad.
  • Arrow Catch: Repeatedly. First time he catches Haley's arrow, he uses it to stab Belkar. It backfires the second time and the fourth time.
  • Badass Normal: Takes on the entire Order of the Stick (except V), and while it's not quite a Curb-Stomp Battle it's still decidedly one-sided in his favor. And according to Malack, he isn't even trying. When we see him get serious, he breaks Haley's arm after shrugging off a sneak attack.
  • Bad Boss: Perfectly fine with wasting his troops for narrative purpose, and some refuse to fight Elan out of fear of pissing off Tarquin.
    Lizardfolk: [Roy] can only kill us. Your old man can have our whole families wiped out.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work:
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Tarquin figures that he has to keep winning until a hero comes along to kill him, and then he will just become a legend. This appears to have been subverted with his actual defeat, which consists of being dumped off an airship and abandoned in a desert, disregarded as an unimportant distraction from the main plot, which is utterly unbearable for him.
  • Bait the Dog: He initially comes across as so likable and essentially a Reasonable Authority Figure, that you'd be forgiven for thinking he's the nice, Noble Demon variety of Lawful Evil. You would be very, very wrong indeed. For example, after Girard's Gate's destruction, where Tarquin reveals he was going to destroy the gate himself and offers to help Elan get to the next one... Only to then reveal he's framed Haley's father for murder after killing Nale, then ordering his soldiers to kill Roy, Belkar, and Durkon so Elan can be The Hero.
  • Berserk Button: In short, any affront to his ego. A patron of his wife's tavern grabs her butt? He murders everyone in the tavern. Talk to him like an equal? Frames you for murder. Make him a second-fiddle villain and allow his son to be a minor character? THAT is the last straw. When Elan defers to Roy again — in front of him, no less — in #927, you can see Tarquin's palpable rage.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: He feels it only fits narrative convention for him to be the main villain for Elan and thus tries very hard to force the set up. Even among his own party, Tarquin is not the leader. Neither Malack, Laurin, or Miron have any interest in doing what he says, they mostly just put up with it because Tarquin's narrative logic assists in their own personal motives, and is quite profitable to boot. He has to cajole and run on a system of favors in order to get them to do anything for him. His military prowess is stated to come from elsewhere in the party. Even Julio Scoundrél only considers him one of his "B-list villains". Lampshaded by Durkon when he came up with a plan to push him back. The plan sounds good to stop Tarquin, but he knows it would just be a speed bump for Xykon, who is the real threat.
  • Blood Knight: A rather literal example. His initial reaction to being attacked head on by the entire Order sans V?
    Tarquin: Magnificent.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: He considers the structure of a story to be more important than who or what that structure affects. He even has some idea of what good and evil are but acts evil anyways because he figures that heroes are interchangeable, while villains are the part of the legend that everybody remembers.
  • Boring Yet Practical: One of the enchantments on his armor just allows him to change its appearance. It has almost no combat application, but for someone who turns their cloak as often as he does it's a big time- and money-saver.
  • The Brute: Although he hardly fits the character type, he replaces Thog as the strong-man in the Linear Guild.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Though he is not as scatterbrained as Elan (and possessing a very dark and intelligent serious side that Elan lacks), the two share a gleeful childishness and a passion for narrative conventions which borders on the silly. Malack and V briefly bond over how annoying it is to work with someone like this.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: Tarquin tries to invoke this with Nale. Nale was a screw-up who was already marked for death for killing Malack's spawn, so Tarquin sends him to secure Girard's Gate hoping that he'd prove himself a useful ally and could justify not killing him.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: While refusing to be placed in the D&D alignment system, he says he is running an evil empire. Also his wife divorced him on grounds of being Lawful Evil.
  • Cassandra Truth: He states that his latest wife died due to "mysterious circumstances", which everyone believes to mean he killed her (except Elan, who thinks it's an actual disease/condition). It turns out she was killed by V's familicide spell.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: First seen on page #50, but not again until #722.
  • The Chessmaster: As demonstrated in "Spins of the Father" and on the next page. Possibly Averted since we know only the story according to Tarquin and he might very well be an Unreliable Expositor.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The Giant notes that this is a big clue that he's not really the leader of his party. The rest of his team act as his minders, keeping his crazy notions rooted in reality, not as the people who work for him. Heck, he even takes a page out of his son's book and has his own god puppet!
  • Control Freak:
    • His central motivation is to unite the world (or at least the Western Continent) in accordance with story structure, genre narratives, and tropes:
      Tarquin: As I've said before, procedure matters.
      Elan: But the safety of the world —
      Tarquin: — is meaningless if everyone is going to run around doing whatever they feel like, without regard for proper story structure. There must be some sense of order — personal, political, or dramatic — and if no one else is going to bring it to this world, I will.
    • The fact that Elan persistently refuses to accept what Tarquin views as his role in Tarquin's epic narrative is one of the few things we've seen that has driven Tarquin to pure, naked fury.
      Tarquin: I'm sorry, Elan, but you brought this all on yourself. I tried to give you a dramatically significant death scene to swear vengeance over, but you seem to prefer this... this disjointed anarchy. There's no unity of theme here at all!
      Elan: Didn't we... already do the scene... where you try to convince me to do things your way?
      Tarquin: [grabbing Elan, face twisted with rage] Yes, and it didn't go right, so we are DOING IT AGAIN. And we will CONTINUE to do it until you understand that it is in your best interest to...
    • The only time Tarquin has shown anything resembling fear is when he has no idea what will happen next.
  • Corrupted Character Copy: Of Darth Vader. He checks the bill at first, being the Archnemesis Dad to the good-looking blonde hero. He also wears a heavy suit of armor and frequently makes Star Wars references, such as threatening to chop off Elan's hand as well as referencing the "I am altering the deal" line from The Empire Strikes Back. But unlike Vader, Tarquin has no Freudian Excuse nor any form of redemption. Indeed, much of Elan's personal struggle comes from how irredeemable Tarquin truly is, not to mention how while Vader was very much The Dragon to Palpatine, Tarquin is the Man Behind the Man for the Empress of Blood, and while Vader was burned and crippled, Tarquin, while old, is still perfectly fine and healthy; even the worst injuries he suffers in the story can be easily dealt with in the comic's world. Even Tarquin's end-goal is not for any form of true order or peace the way Vader desired, just a sociopathic outlook on creating an ideal story for the sake of his Genre Savvy nature. And as the final straw? While Vader truly cared for his children deep down, Tarquin sees Elan and Nale as nothing but story elements, and if they ever step out of line, are immediately dealt with.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Implied to have been this toward his first wife. He promised her he would liquefy everyone in the bar if a patron grabbed her butt again. When someone did, Tarquin proved the threat was Not Hyperbole. The marriage ended shortly after that.
  • Crazy-Prepared: He knows the counters to a great many obscure combat techniques, up to and including Dashing Swordsmanship. Granted, he was a recurring foe of the man who taught Elan.
    • When disguised as "Thog", he wears a mask with the word "Nope!" on it under his helm, just in case someone tries to reveal his face by pulling off said helm.
  • Cruel Mercy: Part of his evil overlord persona is making sure that, no matter how badly some of his victims are hurt, "You'll live." It becomes an Ironic Echo by Elan.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: Of Genre Savvy villains. While his Genre Savviness make him a clever and deadly opponent who can quickly and efficiently form complex plans, he also treats other people as nothing more than plot devices and has a chilling Lack of Empathy towards those he either kills or disregards as "unimportant" to the narrative. Ultimately, Tarquin is a high-functioning sociopath who can only interpret the world through his understanding of common storytelling clichés... but with the Logical Weakness that he understands only those clichés. Once the story he's in goes off the clichés? Things get problematic as he tries to railroad things back towards his preferred narrative.
  • Despotism Justifies the Means: An interesting version. He likes having power, sure. But he mostly wants to be a despot because he thinks it's what he is supposed to do.
  • Determinator: He is one tenacious bastard. After the Order tries to escape his whole army's ambush on an Allosaurus, he calls in his favors and his team chases them down on a Triceratops boosted with wormholes. After they get rid of both the Triceratops and Tarquin's mage, Tarquin and his psion topple the order by themselves. After The Cavalry show up to save them, the two of them teleport onto the ship to chase them down again. The last part is notable because the entire team had split apart to go recover and get some rest like the conclusion of any arc, and no-one thought about the possibility of them gating up into a pirate airship. And then, when his ride home bails on him and he's hanging off the side of the airship with no allies left, he's still trying to find a way to remain relevant to the plot.
  • Dirty Old Man: He's not above flirting with Haley or an attractive female petitioner. So far, Tarquin has had no less than nine wives — and that amount would've been higher if it wasn't for Julio Scoundrél.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • He murdered every guy in the bar his first wife worked at, then ground them into fertilizer, in response to one of the patrons grabbing her butt.
    • He has the bounty hunters sent to their deaths via gladiatorial combat because they joined in on the barrage of Star Wars references he just made, and Gannji had the bad sense to reenact the infamous thermal detonator extortion scene with a can of tomato soup for the sake of the joke.
    • He has Ian Starshine framed with assassinating an ambassador and announces a reward for his death because of the disrespect Ian treated him with. Tarquin is particularly offended that a lowly thief like Ian spoke to him as an equal, and regards Haley's management of the situation as a test of her worthiness to marry Elan.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Is a big believer in this. Doing things the right way is more important than your reasons for doing them in the first place.
  • The Don: Has this role by virtue of coming up with the Vector Legion's Evil Plan to play the role of The Creon long enough to take over half of the entire Western Continent.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Technically, Tarquin is The Dragon to the Empress of Blood (who is herself a literal dragon), but in practice he's the one who runs things and the populace seems to think of him as their actual leader. Despite his protestations to the contrary, he also proves to be this to Nale in the Linear Guild.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: His belief that It's All About Me means that at the climax of the arc, he's simply unable to comprehend what happened. He shouts that Elan hasn't learned anything, hasn't lost anything, there's been no growth, no change. Except that there has been: Elan's learned that tropes aren't necessarily good or bad and that strictly forcing them can be disastrous; he's lost any potential relationship with his father, the Doomsday Clock has lost another minute, and not least, Nale is gone. The only one who hasn't changed is Tarquin.
  • Dramatic Unmask: He loves doing this. It's narratively appropriate. Not just playing it straight either, he loves joking about it too.
  • Engagement Challenge: Upon learning that his possibly soon to be daughter-in-law, Haley, is the child of a lowly thief, he decides to see how she deals with her father's Frame-Up to test her worthiness.
  • Epic Fail: The culmination of his attempt to retake control of Elan's narrative? Girard's Gate is gone and Malack is dead along with almost one third of the army he brought along with him to subdue the Order of the Stick, and he expended a favor he was owed by Miron that he'd been sitting on for twelve years and even gave one out to Laurin just to get his allies to help him kill Roy. He's ultimately defeated not in a climactic battle by Elan as he wanted, but by a combination of Sabine giving Vaarsuvius intel on the Vector Legion, the Order, and Julio Scoundrél's crew ending up with him being dropped from both the airship and the plot. Elan is gone, leaving him stewing in plot irrelevancy, and he has nothing to show for it and feels lost and confused in what he believes is an unsatisfying plot arc resolution.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: invoked Gradually subverted. Despite his tyrannical attitude, on the surface he still cares deeply about his family. He legally divorced his first wife due to "irreconcilable differences" (he's a Lawful Evil warlord, she's a Chaotic Good barmaid) and she's still serving drinks on the Eastern Continent. He endlessly dotes on Elan and takes every step to avoid killing Nale. After he finally brings himself to kill Nale, he decides that he needs to be more careful with managing Elan. His former party also seem to be genuine friends, given their reactions to Malack's death. The Giant, pointedly, warns us that this is very misleading. Tarquin, he says, probably believed that he loved his son right up until the moment when he has to choose between letting his son live and relinquishing the least bit of control over his life. Then he (and the audience) get to see what really matters to him. Ultimately, Tarquin does not love anyone other than himself, and only appreciates his sons and friends in the same way that someone deeply appreciates certain characters in their favorite book.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Darkly subverted; he casually declares Laurin disintegrating Nale's corpse "perhaps a bit overkill", but ultimately deems it "just as well" in spite of it taking place in the middle of Elan mourning over Nale's corpse.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: While the attraction shown on "Slash Attack" is obviously a put on, Tarquin is used to men being attracted to him. His sons inherited his good looks as well.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good:invoked
    • It caused his divorce to his first wife (Elan and Nale's mother) because he is Lawful Evil and she was Chaotic Good.
    • And an argument over a sign with Elan.
      Elan: I don't enjoy watching people suffer just because they got the better of me once!
      Tarquin: You don't? Huh. Weird.
    • He also fails to understand why Elan isn't incredibly happy about the fact that Tarquin just murdered Nale in front of him.
    • In "End of the Line", Tarquin believes that Elan will save his life to prove the hero is better than the villain. Elan refuses and abandons his father, turning this trope into Evil Cannot Comprehend Good Is Not Dumb. In that same speech, he also claims that Elan hasn't lost anything over the course of the story arc.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • To Elan. Unlike Nale, who is an "evil opposite" to Elan, Tarquin is a lot like Elan personality-wise. In fact, Rich Burlew admitted that Tarquin's creation basically followed the line of thought, "take Elan's Genre Savvy and fondness for stories, make him evil and smarter..."
    • He also comes across as something of an Evil Counterpart to Roy Greenhilt (which is part of why Elan initially trusts him). Like Roy, Tarquin is a fighter who totally inverts that class's stereotype of being Dumb Muscle, and Tarquin's total amorality gives an idea of what Roy would be like if instead of being pragmatic and good, he was just pragmatic. He's also a foil to Roy in fighting style: where Roy relies on Boring, but Practical heavy attacks and heavy armor to power through combat situations, Tarquin uses defensive feats and counterattacks to turn his enemies' strengths against them. (His class hasn't been explicitly identified, so he isn't necessarily a single-class fighter either.) He's also best friends with Malack, similar to how Roy is best friends with Durkon. Incidentally, he replaces Thog as Roy's counterpart in the latest incarnation of the Linear Guild.
    • His subtle machinations and keen political savvy show him as an evil counterpart to Lord Shojo. To elaborate, he rules the Empire of Blood with an iron fist through decoy leaders while pretending to just be a high-ranking citizen. Meanwhile, Shojo benevolently rules Azure City while letting the high-ranking citizens believe they're The Man Behind the Man. Lord Shojo is happy to manipulate people from the background while Tarquin has to be the leader.
    • Tarquin can also be seen as an Evil Counterpart to Ian Starshine, Haley's dad; like Ian, Tarquin believes that Elan is a lot more competent, capable and intelligent than he truly is, and both believe that their offspring is the "real" leader of the Order of the Stick, acting as Roy's Bard/Rogue Behind the Fighter. The biggest difference, besides their alignment, is Ian Starshine believes Elan is a ruthless evil dictator-in-training, while Tarquin knows Elan isn't.
    • invoked After it is revealed that Julio Scoundrèl is an old foe of Tarquin's, the parallels between the two become glaringly obvious. Both men have a Silver Fox characterization, although Tarquin likes to force women to marry him, whereas Julio rescued a number of Tarquin's forced brides. Both are also obsessed with genre savvy/genre conventions, although Tarquin takes this farther and with more harm to others than Julio (Elan explicitly considers both a Deliberately Bad Example). Whereas Tarquin is a Lawful Evil tyrant, Julio is a Chaotic Neutral rogue who hates authority. Julio considers Tarquin (perhaps accurately, as noted above under Big Bad Wannabe) to be a second-tier antagonist of his, and Tarquin predictably feels likewise. Julio being Elan's mentor in becoming a Dashing Swordsman makes him a father-figure in contrast to Tarquin, who is Elan's blood father and wants Elan to become a brooding avenger. Finally, while Julio is just as Genre Savvy as Tarquin, and loves tropes, he enjoys defying them too (he initially avoids going with Elan due to the Mentor Occupational Hazard, but later Elan convinces him that doing a Defied Trope would be so much more awesome).
    • Commentary from the Giant in the "Blood in the Family" book reveal Tarquin is one to Miko Miyazaki in a narrative sense. As Miko obstructed the Order of the Stick despite being completely in tune with their ethics, Tarquin was nothing but helpful (at least in the beginning) despite being completely opposed to them ethically.
  • Evil Feels Good: As he himself puts it, when an evil overlord lies dying, he will remember...
    Tarquin: [...]that he got to live like a god for three decades! Sure, the last ten minutes sucked, but you can't have everything.
  • Evil Genius: A case of Playing with a Trope. His team's military record is impressive but he's mostly familiar with the tactics that make for good theater. The Giant has implied that the vast majority of his organization's military talent came from other quarters. His only "genius" is recognizing the narrative conventions at play but he has a number of big points incorrect; such as himself as the Big Bad when he's only an Arc Villain. Like the estranged son he disdains, Tarquin's genuine talent and intellect have huge gaping blind spots whenever they intersect with his ego.
  • Evil Is Cool: Invoked, in that he certainly seems to think so (though he does not like to see it in terms of "good" and "evil").
  • Evil Is One Big, Happy Family:
    • Defied. As the villain of his particular story, he has no intention of competing with the other villains out there.
    • Played straight with him and the rest of the Vector Legion. They're all Evil and they all care for one another, even if most of them are visibly exasperated with his antics.
  • Evil Is Petty: He killed a whole tavern full of people because one of them grabbed his wife's butt, sends the bounty hunters to the arena for trying to get in on his Star Wars joke(s), frames Haley's father for the murder of the Reptilian ambassador for daring to speak to him as an equal, and goes into a Villainous Breakdown because his escaping heroic son is doing it wrong!
  • Evil Overlord: His long-term goal is to rule the Western Continent with an iron fist, and he would qualify already if he wasn't The Man in Front of the Man.
  • Evil Overlord List: He has read it. In fact, he seems to be trying to standardize it.
    Tarquin's Tips: We do not have surprise inspections. Ever. Especially not at night, when the other guards have been called away to another event. Those inspectors in front of you? They're intruders. Get them.
  • Evil Plan: Conquer a place, rule like an evil overlord, die at the hands of a hero and be immortalized as a fearsome villain in the saga of said hero.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: Since he effectively rules one-third of the continent, he's not interested in any other villains usurping the entire world, or worse, blowing it up.
  • Evil Will Fail: He discusses it In-Universe as an occupational hazard of being the Big Bad, but he does not cares because the time before it happens will be a hell of a ride and when the eventual story that immortalizes his fall is written, he will be the coolest character of that story. When it actually comes to happen, it's a whole lot more humiliating that he expected and he is left alive but with full knowledge that he is only an Arc Villain to the Order of the Stick.
  • Exact Words:
    • Tarquin offers to send 500 of his troops to "join the battle" between the Free City of Doom and the Empire of Tears, to attempt to get a petitioner to sleep with him. He fails to mention which side his troops would be on.
      Tarquin: Here I was worried all night that you were going to figure it out early. I mean, I thought I made it, like, WAY too obvious, but I guess it all worked out, huh?
    • Later, when asked where he managed to obtain a magic carpet, Tarquin says that one of his friends stole it from a man that was very wealthy and owned six others, and that he only missed it for a few seconds. What he doesn't mention is that said friend stole it while the previous owner was riding it and presumably caused him to fall to his death.
    • The first real thing we hear about him is that he thinks bards are an underpowered class, an opinion which steered Nale into his more complex fighter/rogue/sorcerer build. It later turned out that he wasn't comparing them to other classes, but to how powerful a class that automatically comes with Genre Savvy should be according to his worldview.
  • False Flag Operation: He and his adventuring partners serve as advisers to the continent's greatest rulers and manipulate them into conquering smaller nations, "liberating" them, and then assimilating them under the guise of protection. This way, Tarquin's six-person party are each the de facto ruler of one-sixth of a continent.
  • Fantastic Racism: A subtle case where he's not entirely wrong; after meeting up with Roy after his epic duel with Thog in the arena and Roy negotiates for Belkar's release, he immediately calls the halfling a "sidekick" and seems to be just as unable to see Belkar as a potential main character of the story as he is unable to see this quality in Roy, Haley, and Vaarsuvius. Furthermore, during the story arc's Final Battle, he derisively kicks Belkar away while mocking him as not a "real" warrior.
  • Fatal Flaw:
  • Fate Worse than Death: Richard Burlew has described Tarquin's defeat at the end of Blood Runs in the Family as this. Killing Tarquin won't work (even without Malack, his allies can resurrect him easily) and it would only re-affirm Tarquin's opinion of himself and his belief that he's the true villain. Elan's disregard for him (simply letting him fall rather than taking the actions to push him) forces Tarquin to face his own irrelevance to the greater narrative and that leaves him a screaming, angry mess.
  • Faux Affably Evil: He initially comes off as cheerful, friendly, and all-around pleasant despite his tendencies towards brutality and petty revenges; but when he's under pressure, the façade snaps. As he tries to separate his life as an evil overlord and his personal life, one corrupts and colors the other.
  • Foil:
  • Four-Star Badass: Conquered eleven different nations over the course of eight months shortly after appearing on the Western Continent — and was only deposed through the combined efforts of twenty-six others. His personal combat prowess is as impressive as his apparent military savvy. However, most of the real military savvy came from elsewhere in his team. At the end of the day, he's just a delusional control freak who's convinced himself that he's far more important than he really is.
  • Frame-Up: After releasing Ian Starshine, he decides to frame him for some of the crimes he (Tarquin) has committed. Ian's real crime, as far as Tarquin is concerned, is daring to speak to him as an equal.
  • Friendly Target: At first he was willing to put up with Haley, but post-Villainous Breakdown Tarquin flips out and declares that everyone in the area, including Haley, would now be killed in front of Elan to force him down the "proper" narrative path.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Zigzagged; the rest of the Legion are exasperated by his Genre Savvy attitude and find it annoying... unless it's being used to help their agenda. He and Malack are genuine best friends and Malack puts up with him the most (the only time he ever gets really upset is involving Nale and even then, Tarquin realizes when he crosses a line and apologizes.) Miron seems to respect him the least and only helps when Tarquin calls in his favor. Laurin seems to like him better but is pissed that he indirectly caused Malack's death, snaps at him when Tarquin tries to bring her daughter into an argument (which also seems to upset Miron), and only helps when he does her a favor.
  • Genre Blind: For all his savviness, for all of his scheming and using tropes to become the evil general destined for a one-on-one duel with The Hero for the fate of the world, he has one enormous blind spot, which Elan points out:
  • Genre Savvy: He is Elan's father and a particularly interesting case. Being Genre Savvy isn't merely something that he does, like most of the characters in the comic, but the whole basis of his character and ultimately the crux of his motivation. The desire to fulfill his role in the genre to the fullest drives him. Too bad he's wrong about what that role is. One of his main flaws is refusing to admit that the genre has moved on. The story he's in isn't as formulaic as fantasy often was years ago, so many of his predictions are simply wrong.
  • Giant Flyer: He uses a Pteranodon as mount.
  • Glamour: Tarquin has his armor enchanted with a glamour spell that allows it to give the appearance of having another shape and color. He says that for someone who has to change flags as often as he does, it comes in handy by saving him a lot of money on re-enchantment costs.
  • A Glass of Chianti: Tarquin keeps several handy, just for dramatic speeches.
  • Glorious Death: Tarquin plans to live and die like an Evil Overlord out of legend: live in luxury and dictatorial privilege, then fall in climactic battle against The Hero and gain Immortality Through Memory. After meeting his long-lost son Elan, he decides Elan will be the one to defeat him in the end.
  • Glory Hound: Everything Tarquin does is to build his legacy, and he is willing to sacrifice anything to that end (though he tries to be pragmatic about it).
  • Godzilla Threshold: Given the way Laurin reacted to it, calling in his favor with Miron is something he would only do in a true emergency.
  • Golden Mean Fallacy: In Strip #936 he uses this trope as a last resort. He says he will fund a legion of adventurers with Roy as Da Chief, so Elan can be The Leader of his own team while still working under Roy.
    Tarquin: Everyone gets what they want with this plan!
  • Graceful Loser: His reaction to finding out about the Order beating him and Nale to Girard's Gate and destroying it basically boils down to "Good game. Anything I can do to help you find the next one?" This is because the Gate was never seriously a part of his plans; he reacts to Elan rejecting what Tarquin views as his role in Tarquin's grand epic narrative a lot less gracefully.
  • Gradual Regeneration: Thanks to his Ring of Regeneration.
  • Hair Antennae: Sports two, just like his two sons, and also like his sons, he has blind spots in his intellect.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: He legitimately feels that Bards are wasting their skills, because with their awareness of genre conventions, they should be unstoppable.
  • The Heavy: Definitely invoked because he believes himself to be the one pushing the story forward and enforcing narrative structure, but unfortunately for him, it is only during this arc.
  • Hobbes Was Right: His opinion on civic stability. Specifically he thinks that dictatorships inevitably lead to uprisings and coups, and the best way to maintain order in the wake of that is for the true power to be The Man Behind the Man, who can remain in the regime undisturbed.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Tarquin's fixation with being Genre Savvy leads to his downfall as his plans to force Nale to prove Nale's worth as a valuable asset and Elan to take on his "designated role" as a hero end up with one of Tarquin's closest allies dead and Tarquin's being left alone in the middle of the desert, broken and unaware of what's going to happen next.
    • Tarquin kills Nale partly out of revenge for Malack's death and partly to refocus the narrative onto Elan's conflict with him. However, Elan has grown out of the idea that he can have a happy family with his father and brother, and Tarquin killing Nale completely severed any possible hope Elan might have had otherwise. So Elan abandons his father and leaves him to be defeated by other heroes with more personal investment in stopping him (like Ian Starshine and Amun-Zora). As Elan puts it: "I'm not a twin anymore. And you're not the real villain."
    • Killing Nale resulted in Sabine giving Vaarsuvius the intel needed to take Miron and Laurin out of commission when the Vector Legion showed up and helped Tarquin.
    • In a more direct sense, his "Snatch Arrows" feat allows him to automatically catch any arrows fired at him. At first this mostly makes him immune to Haley's ranged sneak attacks, but when he is hanging off the Mechane by his hands and Haley shoots him again, his reflexes take over and he lets go to grab them, which leads to him falling off the airship.
  • Human Hammer-Throw: Tarquin demonstrates his skill at dwarf-throwing while disguised as Thog, grabbing Durkon by the beard and spinning in a blur of movement (shown in a rare-for-the-comic top view) before tossing him away inside the ziggurat.
  • Humble Pie: Receives a massive slice when Elan lets him fall from the Mechane, causing him to crash into the middle of the desert as a broken mess with no clue of what to do next, or how to even get back home.
  • Hypocrite:
    • With the help of his allies, he rose from a lowly fighter to being The Man Behind the Man for one of the largest empires on the Western Continent. Despite this, he showcases an incredibly classist view of the world, outright describing Haley (who grew up from an impoverished background) as "coming from lowly stock."
    • While Tarquin claims he's Above Good and Evil, he calls his own empire evil as part of his intended narrative with Elan as the hero in this equation. He also claims good and evil are outdated concepts, but he's completely unable to recognize that his idea of narrative structure, that he bases his entire life around and tries to force others into, is outdated too.
  • I Always Wanted to Say That: Constantly. The first was the "Elan... I am your father" line.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: He "convinced" some of his reluctant previous wives to marry him forcefully, and plans to do the same to Amun-Zora. Loveable Rogue Julio Scoundrél saved some of them.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: For the charming effect.
  • I Lied: While he doesn't say it to his face, he admits that his promise to Malack was a lie and that he never intended to let him kill Nale.
  • Informed Attribute: His racism in assuming Elan is the Order's leader because of skin colour is only directly referenced by [[Invoked]]Word of the Giant in the commentary, and goes against both the setting in which skin colour has never been brought up, and also him enthusiastically congratulating Roy on his victory in the arena. His It's All About Me tendencies can easily explain the actions attributed to it, so readers would be very hard-pressed to come to it themselves.
  • Instant Knots: Tarquin kept a whip with him on his excursion to Girard's pyramid and he puts it to use when he grabs a flying Vaarsuvius with it and flings V into Durkon.
  • It's All About Me:
    • Tarquin doesn't "get" that his horrible deeds could bother anyone, whether it is good-aligned people he interacts with, or sometimes, even the victims of those same deeds. He's basically a sociopath who can be a nice guy to others when things are going his way, and takes badly to people who act against him.
    • He also tends to assume that any odd plot development is about him unless proven otherwise. He's obsessed with the idea of a narrative that stars himself as the villain and Elan as the hero. As they both have noted, he treats his sons Nale and Elan like nothing more than pieces of that narrative. He also is willing to try to kill off most of the Order, jeopardizing the world's freedom (best case) or existence (worst case) to improve his story's structure. In fact, he clearly considers himself to be the main villain of the story, dismissing "Zyklon" as a mere "sub-boss"; a little side-quest that Elan can undoubtedly resolve by himself since he's his son. To top it all off, when the arc finishes Tarquin rants about how there's no sense of closure and how nothing's changed... when in fact this arc has the biggest Character Development for most of the Order.
      Julio Scoundrél: I think that's half your problem, T— You always think everything that happens is about you!
    • He also thinks he's a natural, charismatic leader, but it's actually the opposite. In order for Malack, Laurin and Miron to do what he asks, he essentially has to either bribe them or call in favors. Malack is the most loyal simply because Tarquin promised him the biggest prize: leadership of the Empire of Blood after he's dead — and Malack has no problems waiting.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: He flat out calls Nale's plan for the Gate stupid, since Nale has no idea how to control the Gate. And power you cannot control is no power at all, and, in fact, can be quite dangerous.
  • Just the First Citizen: Officially, he's just a general. When he addresses the crowd at the gladiator games, he describes himself as a lowly, humble soldier and props up the Empress instead.
  • Just Toying with Them: When he goes up against all of the Order's melee fighters at once he holds back just to enjoy the fight, which Malack calls him on. He still comes close to taking them out regardless.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Not that it wasn't there before, but Strips #756 and #757 go a long way in proving that underneath all his affability, Tarquin is a monster.
    • Strip #759 is what finally convinces Elan beyond a shadow of a doubt that his father is an abhorrent wretch of a person.
    • In #763 he explains to Elan that his death would inspire other villains (meaning that he'd be perfectly happy with dying since he'd know that it'd be bringing about even more suffering and misery into the world), and that even if Elan personally kills him, his last thoughts would just be that he got three decades worth of being treated like a god and that only the last ten minutes sucked.
    • In #913, he kills his own son by stabbing him in the chest with a dagger without blinking an eye after being rejected by Nale for the final time. He also doesn't give Elan almost any time to mourn over his own brother's corpse before Laurin vaporizes it to make sure Nale is Deader than Dead.
    • Just two strips later, he reveals he's had Ian Starshine framed for challenging his beliefs and simply talking to him as if they were equals. He also then immediately calls Haley "lowly stock" to her face.
    • And after that, he sends his own personal army to attack Roy, Belkar, and Durkon for no other reason than that Elan telling him that Roy's the Order's leader instead of him as well as being the best hero ever, leading him to believe he was ruining his son's heroic potential, setting the course for a far less impressive story.
    • When Tarquin is about to impale a dazed Roy on his own family's sword, Elan tries to pull a Go Through Me by standing in front of his friend. Tarquin's response after confirming that Elan is still at full hit-points? To stab Roy through his own son's body, dismissing Elan's agony by coldly remarking "You'll live".
    • One of his final actions in his story arc is him breaking Haley's arm and deciding to kill everyone aboard the Mechane along with cutting off Elan's right arm in order to ensure what he sees as the "best story ever."
    • Played for Laughs when he plans to punch a bunny in front of Elan's face at a later confrontation.
  • Lack of Empathy: An incredible lack of it to anyone outside of his inner circle. Even in it, you aren't exempt. He tells Malack he's sick of hearing about his dead children and to man up to work with Nale. On the other hand, when Malack later points out he's being a hypocrite regarding how he's treating their respective families, he apologizes and agrees not to do it again. To hammer the point home, he tries to kill Roy and the others so that Elan can become a brooding avenger who will have a climactic battle with him.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A minor case; he mocks Belkar for not being a "real" warrior near the end of Blood Runs in the Family, but Tarquin's psionic dagger gets accidentally left behind aboard the Mechane and is eventually gifted by Vaarsuvius to Belkar as a new weapon to use.
  • Last-Second Chance: In spite of Nale's rebellion, and the fact that he murdered Tarquin's best friend, Tarquin offers Nale one last chance to reconcile. Nale rejects it and dies at Tarquin's hands.
  • Laughably Evil: His obsession with plot devices results in a lot of amusing dialogue coupled with his goofy charm and Black Comedy, but at the same time, it causes him to see people as nothing more than actors in his preferred narrative which leads to a lot of legitimately unnerving scenes where he showcases himself as a ruthless sociopath.
  • Lawful Evil:invoked While explicit character alignments aren't new to TOotS, Tarquin gets a special mention for exactly why he qualifies for it. He treats the world as a plot that he has no qualms about forcing to follow narrative conventions, which puts him firmly into Lawful. At the same time, it produces a Blue-and-Orange Morality that leads to him treating everyone and everything around him as setpieces that he is entitled to direct as he wishes... which is very concretely Evil.
  • Law Of Narrative Causality: Follows this in-universe, and feels obliged to execute anyone who threatens to derail the Narrative (or what he thinks the Narrative is).
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Invoked, but ultimately subverted. Although, he was looking forward to making this kind of revelation.
  • Made of Iron: Survives a fall from an extreme height, and it is notable because this is how Roy died. It helps that he's an very high-level character with plenty of levels in a fighting class. And that he didn't get hit by a (possibly maximized/empowered) Meteor Swarm before he fell.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Tarquin lost his last wife to "mysterious circumstances." At first that familiar term seems like the use of this trope... but it's subverted, because she genuinely did die in mysterious circumstances thanks to V's use of familicide.
  • The Man in Front of the Man: He's not technically in charge, but he and Malack are clearly the brains behind the Empress of Blood. They're also behind the rulers of two other empires to boot.
  • Manipulative Bastard: He's honest about it. He'll manipulate people into doing what he wants, but by making people do things they would probably do anyway, while he's the one pulling their strings. For example, he tries to help Elan find the next gate because it's in his interest to keep them out of the hands of other Evil Overlords; he's helping the heroes, but he's also making them dependent on him.
    Tarquin: Nale, please, I'm trying to manipulate your brother into tacitly accepting my authority.
  • Meaningful Name: The name "Tarquin" calls to mind either Rome's tyrannical last king or his rapist son, both of which are fairly apropos for this Tarquin. Also, Tarquinia was an Etruscan city where some of the early Kings of Rome (before the establishment of the Roman Republic) were from. However, despite the plethora of Star Wars jokes when he was introduced, there's actually no connection to Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin.
  • Metaphorgotten:
    Tarquin: You can't make an omelet without ruthlessly crushing dozens of eggs beneath your steel boot and then publicly disemboweling the chickens that laid them as a warning to others.
  • Metaphorically True: A lot of what Tarquin says is truthful, but he's especially fond of Exact Words. For example, he tells Elan that the previous owner of the flying carpet "only missed it for a few seconds." — which was the time it took him to hit the ground.
  • Mood-Swinger: He can switch from patient explanation to furious assault and back again, literally from one panel to the next.
  • Moral Myopia: Cares very little for people not friends or family. If a family member proves to be dedicated to being a hindrance to Tarquin's plans rather than being an asset he can control, he isn't about to hesitate offing them either. In his mind, they are "side characters".
  • Multilayer Façade: He disguises himself as Thog wearing a helmet. When Roy tries to unmask him, underneath is another mask with the word "Nope!" written on it.
  • Multi-Melee Master: While most D&D fighters would pick a weapon and stick with it, since Tarquin is Crazy-Prepared, he's mastered a lot of different weapons. He's utilized the widest arsenal of melee weapons of any character to date, including a longsword with a shield (in a flashback), a dagger, a greataxe and a whip. He also borrows Roy's greatsword during the battle in the desert.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: It hasn't happened yet, but he's revealed that this forms the core of his Evil Plan. He will be immortalized in the story of the hero who kills him and this will inspire a new generation of villains.
  • Narrative Causality: A great believer in the trends in stories (a trait that Elan has inherited).
  • Nepotism: He considers his sons more important to the story than his friends, something which Malack calls him out on.
  • Nerd in Evil's Helmet: He can't go for long without making a Star Wars joke or engaging in some other form of casual troping.
  • Nerves of Steel: Rarely loses his cool even when faced with the Order of the Stick (minus V).
  • Never My Fault: Insists that Elan is forcing him to slaughter the Order by not abiding by "proper narrative structure".
  • Not Me This Time: The story heavily implies that he was behind the death of his previous wife, calling her death "by mysterious causes", and even Nale believes that he killed her, because it's exactly something he would do. However, Tarquin was under the belief that Nale was responsible and has no idea that the true cause of her death was because of V's use of the familicide spell. It eradicated the Draketooth family as one of their great-grand sires was a male Black Dragon, and because Tarquin's wife had a child with one of Draketooth's descendants, she counted as part of the family line.
  • Not So Stoic: He starts losing his cool as the Order continues to one-up him and evade his attempts to kill Roy, with #928 being the first time he's seen showing any level of anger above mild annoyance.
    Tarquin: [to the Order] What the hell is wrong with you?! How did you all get to such a high level without anyone teaching you your place?!
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Tarquin initially claims to be a Well-Intentioned Extremist to Elan. He's an Evil Overlord, but the people will be better off without the constant wars and regime changes. Considering what he intends to let Malack do after he is gone, all for a bigger statue, he really doesn't have anyone else's best interests in mind. He just wants to build and run (three) Evil Empire(s) because his eccentric worldview demands that he do so for (what he thinks is) Elan's story. Anything and anyone outside of that specific context is, at best, irrelevant to Tarquin.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: As shown in "Also, the Desert Is Dry", it's clear he knows Elan, Haley and Vaarsuvius are secretly working together with Roy, Belkar and Durkon.
    Tarquin: Better to look the fool than be one.
  • Offing the Offspring:
    • After a climactic battle on the rooftop, Elan assumes his father is going to finish him off, and requests to be stabbed in one of the "less hurty organs." Tarquin just helps him to his feet and tells him that he's not going to stop loving his son because they have different ideologies. That said, Tarquin does impale Elan with Roy's greatsword in more or less the same place after the Gate's detonation while noting his son'll survive that.
    • Later, Nale believes that his father is willing to let Malack kill him once Nale has outlived his usefulness so Nale preemptively kills Malack to avoid this. When he rejects his father's offer to reconcile, it leads to his death at Tarquin's hands anyway.
  • Old Soldier: He is old enough to be a grandpa but he is still is able to take on the entire Order of the Stick, minus V, with absolutely zero magical abilities save his gear. He's been doing this adventuring-thing for much longer than the Order has, after all.
  • Orcus on His Throne: This is how Nale sees him, and it pisses him off to no end, as he feels that Tarquin has more than enough power to conquer the world and can't get it through his head why his father has no desire to.
  • Overly Pre-Prepared Gag: According to Malack, he's always willing to go the extra mile for a punchline, which is confirmed a few times, notably him waiting forever to say the line, "Elan... I am your father!"
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Now that he knows that his hero son turned out pretty well, he can't just have anyone of lowly stock marrying him, and frames Haley's father for the murder of the ambassador of Reptilia partly to see how she handles the situation as a test of her worthiness.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Despite being a vicious warlord, he's still willing to have a day of bonding with his long-lost son. Unlike Elan, however, readers get to quickly see the true nature of his Faux Affably Evil façade here.
    • He admits that because of how Elan turned out, Nale's upbringing is his fault.
    • With the first display of blatant homosexuality in the comic (though very obviously BS to try and keep secret), and the obviously flattered Tarquin just tells the "admirer" that he's engaged.
    • Roy convinces him to release Ian Starshine from prison. Subverted later on when he frames Ian for murder because he was annoyed by Ian speaking to him "as if we were equals."
    • He gives a genuine apology to Malack when he gets called out on toying with the Order of the Stick just to see how good Elan is, after having forced Malack to work with his children's murderer.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain:
    • Though he's charming to women in general (Haley, being his son's paramour gets nothing more than a kiss on the hand, and even she later admits that he's rather attractive), his actions towards women he desires that aren't receptive to his attentions are uniformly repulsive. When a disguised Tarquin is fighting the majority of the Order at Girard's pyramid, Haley quickly figures out it's him pretending to be Thog because he stops to tell a casually sexist anecdote mid-battle.
    • While it's largely overshadowed by his nepotism, the commentary mentions that part of the reason Tarquin assumes Elan is the main character is because he can't even fathom the idea of a black man or a woman being the star. Likewise, Tarquin thinks he's the leader of the Vector Legion because his companions are two black guys, a black woman, a cat-woman, and an albino reptile-snake vampire. In Tarquin's prejudiced mind, he, the white human guy, must be the leader.
    • At one point, he refers to the genderqueer Vaarsuvius as "it."
    • Gradually shows a very classist view of the world, with him having framed Ian Starshine for murder primarily because "I didn't care for the way he spoke to me. As if we were equals." Furthermore, his opinion of Haley nosedives after he learns that Ian is her father, as shown below:
      Tarquin: Now that I know you come from such lowly stock, I need to make sure that you're worthy of dating Elan.
  • Pragmatic Villainy:
    • Has no desire to outreach his grasp, knows the difference between family and philosophy, and is even willing to help the heroes prevent world domination. This last one is because that would interfere with his regional domination. This makes him a wonderful Foil for Nale, who is crippled by his gigantic ego.
      Tarquin: Remember, Nale: Who knows that you know is as important as knowing it in the first place.
      Nale: But you look like a fool for being ignorant!
      Tarquin: So what? Better to look the fool than be one.
    • He refuses to work with Thog, citing a dislike of working with "loose cannons". Smart move — for all his lovably dim charm, Thog was one of the reasons the Linear Guild were borderline Harmless Villains.
    • In #912 it's revealed that he intended to destroy Girard's Gate himself after studying it rather than using it to Take Over the World or something, because he figured that Nale's plan to control it had too many holes, and that he probably wouldn't be able to get anything out of having the Gate anyway. Nale, naturally, is incredulous.
      Tarquin: Honestly, Nale, that "plan" of yours had way too many moving parts. A Gate, an abomination, a ritual, and you don't even have the ritual but a friend of a friend does? We were never in any position to realistically pull that off. I would have preferred to secure the area and study it for a bit first, but—
      Nale: You pompous buffoon! Do you have any idea how much power—
      Tarquin: Power I can't access is no power at all.
    • On the other hand, he's willing to throw away the lives of many of his soldiers just to motivate Elan to step up as the hero. His former party members aren't willing to waste their own time and resources indulging Tarquin unless he gives them compensation in favors/calls in the favors they owe him. This is justified, though — just two strips ago he killed his own son for completely disavowing him and murdering his best friend, and Malack is too dead to rein him in. The Giant has noted that Tarquin has become a very different person from strip #913 onwards.
  • Pretender Diss: During his and Laurin's fight with the Order near the end of Blood Runs in the Family, he gives a brief but harsh one to Belkar:
    Tarquin: [after disabling Vaarsuvius and Durkon] Laurin, please keep those two down so that the real warriors can finish this.
    [a woozy Belkar staggers up behind Tarquin with both daggers raised, only to get unceremoniously punted off-panel]
    Tarquin: I said the real warriors.
  • Rage Breaking Point:
    • Downplayed in strip #913. He's given his children every chance to clean up their acts — Nale to be more intelligently Evil and Elan to be more proactively Good — but when Nale not only confesses to killing Malack, but boasts he's an Ungrateful Bastard, Tarquin calmly drives a dagger into his heart with nothing save a Disapproving Look. Some readers doubt there was any fury at all.
      Tarquin: What did you think the price for killing my best friend was going to be? Really, Nale, you would have been dead years ago if it weren't for my protection.
    • Things really take off in the aftermath, however, when Elan becomes every bit as determined to reject him, resulting in Tarquin trying to kill all Elan's friends to increase his importance, and ultimately degrading into rabid screaming and flailing that makes him a lot easier to defeat.
  • Railroading: Attempts to force Elan into what Tarquin perceives as his (Elan's) proper narrative role by any means necessary, up to and including attempting to brutally murder the rest of the Order of the Stick because he believes they are overshadowing Elan.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Gets three of this, two of them courtesy of Elan.
    Elan: You're wrong. You're wrong about everything. You only think you know what's supposed to happen. But we get to decide what story this is and what role we play — hero or comic relief. Or both at the same time.

    Julio: I think that's half your problem, T — you always think everything that happens is about you!

    Elan: But see, Dad, that's the thing. I'm not a twin anymore. And you're not the real villain. Don't worry. You'll live.
  • Resemblance Reveal: When he pulls off his helmet, it is immediately obvious to Elan, Haley, Vaarsuvius and the audience that he's Elan's father, confirming what he just said moments previously. He gets another one later for Roy and Belkar.
  • The Reveal: Oh, he loves these. In addition to the reveals that Tarquin has personally delivered, he has an entire army division trained for "ominous plot-critical reveals".
    • He's Elan's father.
    • He and Malack are the real powers behind the throne.
    • He and his adventuring buddies are the real powers behind the throne of the three biggest empires in the Western Continent, and they're playing a three-way con to absorb the rest.
    • One of the aliases used by Tarquin's ever-changing empire was Tyrinaria, which means he is responsible for the unfair arrest of Ian Starshine, Haley's father.
  • Reverse Arm-Fold: Very fond of this pose, as a military man of great patience and understanding.
  • Ring of Power:
    • He never leaves home without a Ring of Regeneration.
    • He also owns a Ring of True Seeing which was a birthday present from his departed wife.
  • Sanity Slippage: Tarquin steadily grows more unhinged from the Order screwing up his plans and Elan defying Tarquin's attempts to railroad him into being the hero of his narrative. The loss of Malack contributed to this, as Malack's main role in their association was to rein him in. By the end of Blood Runs in the Family, he's left screaming in impotent fury as the Order flies away on The Mechane.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: Strip #757 makes it fairly clear that his seduction of Captain Amun-Zora from the City of Doom are more like threats. The same comic reveals that he "convinced" previous brides to accept him through Cold-Blooded Torture and will likely be doing the same to Amun-Zora.
  • Secret Test of Character: Tarquin gives one of these with Nale regarding his feud with Malack; prove yourself too useful to kill by leading the securing of Girard's gate. Nale fails miserably on two accounts; first the mission itself and playing the role of a sidekick to Tarquin.
  • Shoulders of Doom: His regular armor sports them because he is a general and (in his mind) the most important villain.
  • Silver Fox: Haley sees him as evidence that Elan will still be attractive in his old age.
  • Smug Snake: While considerably more intelligent and competent than Nale, his Genre Savvy image is little more than a veneer, as considering his obsession with "proper" story structure (and subsequent fury when things don't go the way he thinks they're "supposed" to) combined with a hugely inflated sense of his own importance in the grand scheme of things (he thinks he's the Big Bad when he's really no more than an Arc Villain) as well as the petulant, childish tantrums he flies into when events don't go exactly as he wants them to, point to this trope.
  • Smug Super: He won't shut up about his martial superiority. The difference with the Smug Snake is that he can back some of his boasts up, as shown when he fought the entire party (sans V) single-handily, and when he was within an inch of defeating them alongside Laurin before Julio intervened.
  • The Sociopath: He doesn't view anyone as anything more then assets to be used or plot-elements in the grand tale of Tarquin. Friends and family get more sympathy, but he still killed Nale with little remorse when this particular character refused to have anything to do with him or his schemes. He also shows an oft-overlooked trait of Antisocial Personality Disorder, that of irrational behavior: He refuses to listen to the reasoning of his friends that it would be easier to just wait for his son to come back or off the rest of the Order in some other fashion, and his goal is shown to be a sick fantasy produced by his deluded mind, rather than the grand scheme of an Evil Overlord with a true vision.
  • So Proud of You: He's very happy Elan didn't turn out like his brother did, but for rather off reasons:
    Tarquin: Your brother was a disorganized buffoon who cared more for satisfying his own ego than any realistic plan for world domination. All he ever cared about was that everyone knew he was the victor, even when the situation called for keeping a low profile.
  • Sore Loser: Though it's hard to tell (he has a broad view of "winning"), when he feels like he's losing, he suffers a Villainous Breakdown in an attempt to bring everything back to what he feels is the proper course. Elan refusing to be The Hero sends Tarquin into a cold rage, where he does everything in his power (starting with throwing an army at the problem) to kill off Roy and force Elan into his "proper" role.
  • Spikes of Villainy: His helmet and shoulderpads have spikes, as befitting of his well-groomed Evil Overlord look.
  • The Stoic: Tarquin rarely shows any emotion at all, and when he does it's nothing more than a smile or Angry Eyebrows. It makes it unclear exactly how much he cares for his sons and his former adventuring party.
  • Stone Wall: His fighting style is based on defending against enemy attacks and counterattacking. Which leads him to break Haley's arm when she literally stabs him in the back with her knife.
  • The Strategist: Defied. Tarquin believes himself to be the source of both military and political long-term brilliant plans... but he actually isn't. His real contribution to his group's plans of conquest, besides his considerable personal fighting prowess, is simply pointing out the clichés that always lead to the failure of other Evil Overlords (and even then his advice is only effective because The Order of the Stick takes place in a world where the Theory of Narrative Causality is a functional law of the universe). Being a master strategist is just something he convinced himself of. As one example, his decision to have Laurin keep gating repeatedly to catch up to Bloodfeast on their triceratops looks visually impressive, and may confer a slight psychological advantage, but it almost certainly drains her of power points rapidly.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: He looks like his sons, but with gray hair. Haley is pleased by this, because it means Elan would be just as attractive in forty or so years.
  • Suddenly Shouting: During his final confrontation with Elan he alternates between calmly explaining his intentions and shouting at the top of his lungs, a clear indication of his Sanity Slippage.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: His interpretation of ruling an empire; though it's inevitable that some random hero will eventually kill him for his countless crimes, he still gets to have whatever he wants whenever he wants it until then. And if he does it stylishly enough, he'll be immortalized in epic song afterwards. Win/win.
    Tarquin: Somewhere between "villain of the week" and "good triumphs over evil," there's a sweet spot where guys like me get to rule the roost for years. As long as I go into this accepting the price I may eventually pay, then I win — no matter what actually happens.
  • Take That!: His character as a whole can be viewed as a pretty obvious jab at uncreative and railroading dungeon masters unwilling to think outside of their own biases.
  • Tautological Templar: Tarquin utterly refuses to accept that the Story could be anything other than a grand battle between him and Elan over the Western Continent. When confronted by the fact that Elan is not the hero, he feels that Elan has given him no choice but to kill off all Elan's friends and allies to give him the proper motivation.
  • They Were Holding You Back: At first, he wrongly believes that Elan is the leader of his adventuring party. He later notices that Elan doesn't take the lead in battles, and Elan reveals that Roy is the leader. Wanting his son to reach his full potential rather than risk becoming a side character, Tarquin orders Elan's teammates killed.
  • Tin Tyrant: He usually wears a helmet, so that he can pull off The Reveal when necessary.
  • Too Clever by Half: His Genre Savvy makes him a force to be reckoned with, but he's so focused on it that he's worse off in anything outside of a Strictly Formula plot. He shares a story with several other Genre Savvy characters who understand that tropes can be defied or subverted to improve the story, and they completely blindside him over and over.
  • Tough Love: He believes that Elan has the makings of a terrific hero but is holding himself back by playing second fiddle to Roy. If he has to kill Roy in front of Elan in order to motivate his son to reach his full potential, then so be it.
  • Troperiffic: Intentionally, so that he'll be remembered. It's working, judging by the number of trope pages he's either quoted or pictured on, including What Is Evil?, Fight Scene Failure, Bread and Circuses, Multilayer Façade, The Puppet Cuts His Strings, and Surprise Inspection Ruse.
  • True Companions: Despite all his machinations, he considers his old adventuring party to be friends whom he values beyond their skills or place in his grand narrative. He even considers Malack to be his best friend and kills Nale when he learns that the latter murdered him and rejected all forms of reconciliation.
  • Unreliable Expositor: It is safe to say that any flashback narrated by Tarquin is off by a few details. Firstly through his fondness for Exact Words and leaving crucial elements out, and secondly as a result of his personal delusions. For example, the fact that he's presenting himself as the leader of his adventuring party, when in truth his teammates tolerate him at best as long as it is in their interest, and he has to haggle for favors with them when it isn't the case. Ironically, his most suspicious story — the mysterious death of his wife — is actually true; she was killed by V's familicide spell.
  • The Unreveal: Not as far as the readers are concerned since we already know who he is, but as far as the Order is concerned... Tarquin disguises himself as Thog when battling them. It quickly becomes clear to the Order that he isn't who he claims to be because the fighting style is different, but when Roy tries to remove Tarquin's helmet, underneath is a mask (with a humiliating response written on it to boot). Defied in that Roy and Elan figure out who he really is after their second battle.
  • Uriah Gambit: When his troops invades the Free City of Doom, he makes sure that one of the casualties is the husband of the woman he wants to bed.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: He claims that the natives of the Western Continent are better off under a few big oppressive empires than they were under smaller countries and nation-states that were always at war with each other. Given that he plans to hand off control to Malack who will sacrifice a thousand people a day, all he'll be doing is replacing chaotic slaughter with an organized one.
  • Villain of Another Story:
    • Tarquin recognizes the world is filled with villains seeking total world domination and that any one of them could be a rival to his own bid for conquest. However, he also considers himself to be the Big Bad of the Order's story — in particular, Elan's. The rest of the Order is disposable.
    • He is also a recurring opponent for Julio Scoundrèl, though Julio considers him a B-Lister.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • He starts to lose his cool upon seeing Elan embrace his role as the support for his team instead of being the leader in #927. Notably this is the first time in comic he genuinely looks angry. He follows this up in #930 by abandoning his Genre Savvy trappings and pride in his son's use of plot in favor of attempted Railroading of Elan's role in the Order of the Stick.
      Elan: Didn't we... already do the scene... where you try to convince me to do things your way?
      Tarquin: [grabs Elan by the shirt, looking like he's about to throttle him] Yes, and it didn't go right, so we are DOING IT AGAIN. And we will CONTINUE to do it until you understand that it is in your best interest to... listen to my...
    • He gets way worse after Elan and the Order escape to the Mechane and Laurin wormholes him aboard. See And Your Little Dog, Too! above.
    • The arc basically ends with him standing in the middle of the desert, having been thrown off the ship, ranting and screaming for Elan to come back to finish the "plot" this instant, because without a sense of closure he has no idea what to do next.
  • Villainous Friendship: This appears to be the case with Tarquin's whole adventuring party — his extensive ploy for the Western Continent wouldn't work without a remarkable amount of trust and cooperation. The reaction by Laurin to Nale gloating about Malack's death suggests that the rest of Tarquin's party have close, friendly ties to one another. He even openly calls Malack his best friend.
  • We Have Reserves: Played with. When a dinosaur breaks loose from its cage, Tarquin complains that soldiers don't just grow from trees, but when it comes to losing an undead minion in the Draketooths' ziggurat, he dismisses Malack's concern about wasting them. He also sends waves after waves of his own men to try and kill off the Order following the destruction of Girard's Gate with nary a concern so that Elan can be railroaded onto the "right path".
  • What Is Evil?: invoked He provides the page image.
    Tarquin: Labels like "good" and evil" are just words. Words with many possible capitalizations. They're outdated concepts that do nothing but cause conflicts.
  • Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: If he had his way, it would be more like, "Why did you make me slaughter all your friends, kill your girlfriend in front of you, and then cut off your hand to turn you into a brooding hero?"
    Tarquin: And when you are off brooding and healing for our inevitable final duel, I want you to remember one thing: That you forced me to do this. Just like Nale did.
  • Worth It: Tarquin figures that even though his death as a dictator is inevitable, it will still be awesome until the end.
    Tarquin: If someone conquers an empire and rules it with an iron fist for thirty long years, and then some paladin breaks into his throne room and kills him, what do you think he's going to remember as he lays dying?
    Elan: ...That good triumphed over evil?
    Tarquin: No, that he got to live like a god for three decades! Sure, the last ten minutes sucked, but you can't have everything.
    Elan: But in the end—
    Tarquin: The end of what, Son? The story? There is no end, there's just the point where storytellers stop talking. Somewhere between "villain of the week" and "good triumphs over evil," there's a sweet spot where guys like me get to rule the roost for years. As long as I go into this accepting the price I may eventually pay, then I win — no matter what actually happens.
  • Worthy Opponent: He sees Roy as this. It's part of why he decides to join the Linear Guild, and in strip #863, he acknowledges that Roy is a "wonderful challenge". He's so impressed that he tries to recruit Roy into his organization.
  • Would Hit a Girl: He's tortured women into agreeing to marry him before, and stabs Haley in the back and breaks her arm, although the latter was out of self-defense.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: For all of Tarquin's usual savviness when it comes to narrative tropes, he falls short in one major way: His massive ego has him convinced that he is the Big Bad of Elan's story, rather than an Arc Villain of the whole Order's. Though he acknowledges Xykon as a threat, he believes that the Order of the Stick's quest for the Gates is merely a side-story compared to his grand conflict with Elan, despite everything pointing to the other way around. He also doesn't see how Elan could be effective unless he's The Hero. He believes the Rule of Drama to be more effective than a well-prepared team, so that killing Roy, Belkar and Durkon will increase the chances of the Order stopping Xykon. He also believes that nobody would care about him killing Nale. Sabine, who does care, promptly informs Vaarsuvius of the Vector Legion's weaknesses, allowing V to act accordingly when their soul returns to their body. As noted in the book commentary, one of his main problems is refusing to acknowledge that the fantasy genre has moved on from its Strictly Formula roots, or that the culture around it has moved on; one of the biggest cited is that he's flatly incapable of conceiving that the one white guy in a diverse group might not be the leader by default. Elan finally tells Tarquin he's not the villain of the story, gives a brief And This Is for... by stating he's not going to rescue him partly because he's not a twin anymore, and abandons him in the middle of the desert without a resolution satisfactory to Tarquin — which he hates.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Eventually, a hero is going to kill him and he knows and he's happy about it because he'll be immortalized as a legend by the same bards singing songs of his defeat. In the meantime, he'll be living the high-life as a king for X amount of years until that eventuality occurs.
    Tarquin: That's the beauty of it all, my son. If I win, I get to be a king. If I lose, I get to be a legend. I'll inspire a thousand more leaders to follow in my footsteps. And it'll all be thanks to you, my boy.
  • You Are What You Hate: He frequently mentions that Nale's ego is Nale's Fatal Flaw and talks about how he despises that trait and how it holds Nale back, but Tarquin proves himself to be just as egotistical when he refuses to accept that he's just an Arc Villain rather than the Big Bad, and that his other son is the Plucky Comic Relief rather than The Hero. In Tarquin's mind, he and his progeny are obviously far too important to play a mere supporting role; they must be the center of the story. This causes his legendary Genre Savvy status into becoming increasingly Wrong Genre Savvy. The same ego that he despises in Nale is the source of his own Villainous Breakdown.
  • You Can't Make an Omelette...:
    Tarquin: You can't make an omelet without ruthlessly crushing dozens of eggs beneath your steel boot and then publicly disemboweling the chickens that laid them as a warning to others.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: His awareness of this trope forms the core of his whole lifestyle. While a hero will eventually rise up to oppose him, he gets to live in obscene power and luxury right up to that point. In his view, a more than even trade.
  • You Fight Like a Cow: He's capable of the same pun-dueling as Elan, and their initial fight goes full Monkey Island.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: An interesting variant. For a very long time, Tarquin was willing to overlook Nale's staggering incompetence and overall detrimental effect on his plans, simply because he was his son and he loved him. (Or thought he did, at least.) However, when Nale boasts about killing Malack and then rejects Tarquin's Last-Second Chance to reconcile, Tarquin stops treating him like his son and starts treating him as an asset. A pragmatically evil overlord like Tarquin only has one reaction to a useless asset.
    Tarquin: Is that really how you feel? [...] *sigh* As you wish, son.
  • You Owe Me: He and his teammates trade favors this way. He sat on a favor Miron owed him for twelve years, and gets Laurin's help by agreeing to help her.

    Minister Malack 

Minister Malack

"Ah, the life of an adventuring cleric. I remember it well. A perpetual struggle to maintain the hit point totals of four or five nigh-suicidal tomb robbers determined to deplete them at all costs."

Race: Lizardfolk (actually snakefolk) Vampire
Gender: Male
Class: Cleric
Alignment: Lawful Evil

A reptilian albino, high priest of Nergal. Spiritual adviser to the Empress of Blood and old adventuring companion of Tarquin. Warning, spoilers are unavoidable below.

  • Affably Evil: Like Tarquin, he can be a very pleasant guy. He even greets Durkon in a friendly and respectful manner, despite their differences in alignment and deities, and proceeds to have a good-natured theological debate with him. Even after his vampiric nature is revealed, he tries finding a happy medium with Durkon rather than slaying him outright, and once Durkon clarifies that there can be no such happy medium, he is genuinely upset. Like Tarquin though, this does not make him nicer, only likable.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Downplayed, but it's hard not to entirely pity him to a certain degree when he's Killed Off for Real, as he's destroyed while trying to avenge his vampire spawn and literally begging his god Nergal to save him.
  • And I Must Scream: What happened to the original shaman after being vampirized until Malack was slain, as is the case with all vampires in the setting. However, the High Priest of Hel claims that, after absorbing enough memories or outliving the need for them, the "host" simply sinks into "eternal dormancy," so there's that at least.
  • Animate Dead: Although he claims to be against that sort of thing, upon finding a room full of mummified corpses he considers it a waste of resources to not animate them as mummies. He's put out when his boss casually uses the "gifts of Nergal" as unliving trap-springers.
  • Asshole Victim: Given that he was a ruthless vampire who turned Durkon along with having the ultimate plan of transforming the Empire of Blood into an industrialized slaughterhouse of Human Sacrifice where at least 1000 people will be killed each day in the name of his god, it's hard to feel too sorry for him when Nale and Zz'dtri literally incinerate him.
  • Avenging the Villain: Tarquin kills Nale for killing Malack.
  • Bait the Dog: The revelation that he's a vampire casts a new light on a lot of his earlier comments about his children, and give them a much more sinister implication... or, given who he is, possibly not. A later strip takes this way further, revealing his plans for a future of orderly mass execution as a sacrifice to his god.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Technically this with Tarquin in Book Five as the masterminds behind the Empire of Blood, though not in the long run. Not that he cares anyway.
  • Black Cloak: Naturally, as a Lawful Evil cleric for a god of Death.
  • Boxing Lessons for Superman: Tarquin taught him martial arts, which combined with his vampiric super-strength makes him even more dangerous up close than your average cleric.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: It is made evident extremely early that, as beleaguered as he is by the duty, he tends to get annoyed by Tarquin's love for drama and by his habit of breaking the 4th wall. It's no coincidence that Tarquin quickly goes off the deep end after Malack gets killed by Nale.
  • Combat Medic: As it turns out, he can not only use his dark magic offensively, he can use it to heal himself as well.
  • Commonality Connection: He and Durkon quickly bond over the life of the adventuring cleric. Also with Vaarsuvius over Elan and Tarquin's sense of drama.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Nale removes his protection from sunlight, whilst he's standing in the desert at high noon, in comic #906. Malack promptly bursts into flames and crumbles to ash, screaming in vain for his god to save him.
  • Deader than Dead: He originally died 200 years ago, and it'd take a 20th-level caster with true resurrection to even try to bring him back. On top of that, the person it'd brought back wouldn't be truly Malack, since the vampire calling himself Malack is a separate entity now stuck in the domain of Nergal, while the lizardfolk shaman who became him was a very different person.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
  • The Dragon: He acts as this to Tarquin's Arc Villain since Tarquin is the one calling the shots during the arc and Malack is the strongest villain aside from him.
  • Dragon with an Agenda: He is aware he's going to be around far longer than Tarquin or the rest of his party, and wants to rule the unified Western Continent once he's gone. However, Tarquin is aware of this, and the only stipulation he had for Malack inheriting his empire is that he gets a bigger statue.
  • Enemy Mine: Tarquin makes him adventure with Nale, whom he hates, to investigate Girard's Gate. It ends with Nale killing him.
  • Everybody Hates Hades: Insists that deities and clerics of Death should be seen as Neutral by default because they reap both heroes and villain, without stating his own alignment. Since he is a vampire and therefore canonically Lawful Evil and planning to sacrifice a thousand a day to his god, the point is merely academic.
  • Evil Counterpart: He joins the Linear Guild just to fill the role of Durkon's counterpart after being persuaded by Tarquin.
  • The Evils of Free Will: "Living or dead, we are all of us marching to our orders... It does not matter from whence these orders come, be it man or god. Our place is as an obedient slave to those who command us. Through service, we are rewarded. That is the true natural order."
  • Evil Virtues: He's peeved by the idea of treating undead like slaves, and legitimately cared for his vampire spawn and grieved for them.
  • Family-Values Villain: Just watch him discuss parenthood with Vaarsuvius, pursue vengeance against Nale for the death of his children, and forcibly turn Durkon into a new member of his vampiric "family" when their moral differences prove insurmountable, and even then he was going to release Durkon from his thrall so they could be "siblings".
  • Fatal Flaw: Vanity. Malack, regardless of his actual behavior, always feels the need to present himself as "civilized" and "rational". His protection from daylight spell, the thing that lets him function in society, has become such a crutch that he's happy to stand in an open desert in broad daylight. Nale, despite being much weaker than him on paper, proceeds to kill him by removing it.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Laurin is angry about his death, but Tarquin, while upset, still tries to invoke this by convincing the Legion to forgive Nale. Tarquin does deliver a And This Is for... when Nale refuses to join him for Malack.
  • Friendly Enemy:
    • When he and Durkon clash, he remains civil and tries to find a happy medium where they can stay friends.
    • This is very much averted with Nale, due to the fact that he had murdered his children.
  • Game Face: When he reveals himself as a vampire, his eyes go from pink to red, his speech bubbles become black and the connectors lose their irregular shape.
  • The Grim Reaper: Downplayed. He looks the part and serves a god of Death, but Elan thought he was the real deal when he first met him (and assumed that he had been killed with the rest of the party without knowing it), referring to him as the "lizgreaper".
  • Healing Hands: With cleric spells.
  • High Priest: Of Nergal, the lion-headed Mesopotamian god of Death and Destruction in the Western Pantheon.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Turning Durkon and then casting protection from daylight on him took out one of his redundant sources of the spell and made him vulnerable to Zz'dtri dispelling it and then Nale taking away the remaining backup.
  • HP to One: Or close enough, at least. He uses harm from the source material on Nale, and nearly finishes him off with a quickened attack before he escapes to safety.
  • I Gave My Word: Malack does not finish off Belkar, as per Durkon's final request. Neither does he inform Nale that the Order of the Stick is hiding behind an illusionary wall, though that might have just been a moment of childish spite against Nale.
  • I Love You, Vampire Son: Despite going with "brother" with the vampirized Durkon, he shows him the utmost respect, even though Durkon is currently just a thrall, and does not overtly take advantage of his current place as "master".
  • Immortals Fear Death: When his own death becomes apparent, he suffers an extremely rapid Villainous Breakdown, with his last words being a terrified scream. An Ironic Fear, given his status as a cleric of a god of death who talks a lot about the impermanence of life and thinks nothing of sacrificing or consuming others. Being a 200-year-old vampire covered in protection spells, he likely thought of death primarily as something that happens to other people.
  • Impersonation-Exclusive Character: He's is revealed to be a vampire, which in this universe is a spirit that takes over a body and represses the previous owner's consciousness until they cease to exist. The real Malack died centuries before the story began.
  • Industrialized Evil: His ultimate plan for the western continent is to offer a thousand Human/other sentient Sacrifices a day to Nergal. This will be done very efficiently in special chambers designed to harvest their blood for his vampire ruling class.
  • Ironic Last Words: In earlier comics, he spoke about the idea that death should not be feared and a god of death's work is ultimately a part of existence, Neutral rather than Evil. This makes it rather ironic that when his own death came, his final words were not to quietly accept his fate, but to scream at the heavens begging for his god to save him.
  • It's All About Me: When Durkon learns that he's a vampire and is rightfully outraged, Malack desperately tries to think of ways that they could remain friends... but his excuses are presented as being completely self-serving and Durkon has to eventually underline to him that, even more than Malack being a vampire, they can't be friends because Malack is a willing and complicit Co Dragon of an Evil Empire trying to kill Durkon's fellow guildmates.
  • It's Personal: He has a grudge against Nale for killing three of his children. However, Tarquin uses his team's rule of "business before pleasure" to get Malack to put aside his desire for revenge and work with Nale. It crops up again when Tarquin starts toying with the Order of the Stick sans V, instead of simply killing them so Malack can stop having to work with Nale.
  • Kick the Dog: His ultimate plans for the Western Continent fully cement him on the Lawful Evil part of the wheel. This guy could give most devils a run for their money.
  • Killed Off for Real: Nale kills him by having Zz'dtri dispel his protection from daylight ward, causing him to die from the vampire weakness against sunlight. Since his body is reduced to ash and scattered, there is no way to revive him. And even then, only the original mortal spirit could be resurrected from the dead, not the vampiric spirit (who is now stuck in the Lower Planes).
  • Kryptonite-Proof Suit: He has spent a considerable amount of time amassing a large library of divine lore so he could research a protection from daylight spell, which is what makes him a Daywalking Vampire. He casts it every morning, which allows him to move about freely during daytime. He's genre savvy enough to keep two redundant sources on hand as well. Too bad he didn't keep them secret.
  • Level Drain: As a vampire, he inflicts energy drain with his touch as shown in strip #870.
  • Like a Son to Me: Brother in this case. He holds Durkon in very high regard, and outright says, after draining his blood, that it reminded him of consuming his family long ago. As that last part may indicate, this doesn't stop him from killing Durkon and creating a vampire from him.
  • Lizard Folk: Of the trope-naming race. Well, at first glance. His robe hides a lack of legs, putting him rather into Snake People such as Yuan-Ti.
  • Lying by Omission: When explaining his god Nergal, he gives a brief lecture about how, though gods of death and their worshippers are often considered purely evil, that's a rather unfair accusation. After all, everyone has to die eventually, and death takes bad people with no distinction from good people, so really, by default, a god of death should be Neutral. However, though he happily explains that this "default" death god should be Neutral, he leaves out any direct statement on whether Nergal himself fits that description. By all appearances, Nergal is exactly the stereotype of a death god as a God of Evil who exults in mass slaughter.
  • Made from Real Girl Scouts: His preferred blend of bloodwart tea is not made from the herb bloodwort, but from a mixture of blood and warts.
  • Magic Staff: He mainly uses it as a walking stick, but it can also be used to cast spells. Malack states he has researched several obscure spells, and he crafted the staff to hold them. However, its design is quite unassuming, and could be confused for a simple staff at a glance.
  • Man on Fire: How Nale kills him, burning up in the sun.
  • The Medic: He was the healer for Tarquin's six-person adventuring party back in the day.
  • The Morality/Mortality Equation: Malack dies because Tarquin was a bad influence to his son Nale.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The meaningfully-titled strip "Calm, Orderly, and Efficient" reveals that Malack plans to take over the Empire after Tarquin's death and expand it further so that he can offer a thousand sentient sacrifices a day to his god. He finds Tarquin's arenas inefficient and plans to develop some kind of "special chamber" to speed things up. While fans read this as a reference to gas chambers used in the Holocaust, it was intended as a reference to Soylent Green.
  • Noble Demon: He honored Durkon's request to spare his friends after he killed him.
  • Not So Stoic:
    • His last words are crying out in anguish for his god to save him.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: While the strip notably does not address the type of Snake People he is rather than the Lizard Folk he appears to be. This may be because at least one of those likely options, the Yuan-Ti, are copyrighted.
  • Obviously Evil: His appearance — the albino scales, the black cloak, the name and the fact he's a lizardfolk all point to "EVIL". This has led to suggestions that no-one so obviously evil-looking could actually be evil (which is either Genre Savvy or Wrong Genre Savvy). We later learn he's a vampire of Lawful Evil alignment, but he's still not an actively malicious figure, he just so happens to want to turn an entire continent into a Human Sacrifice factory for Nergal. "Obviously Evil" is Zig-Zagged with this guy.
  • Papa Wolf: He wants to kill Nale out of revenge for killing his children — which is how he views his vampiric spawn.
  • Playing with Fire: He's a fan of the flame strike spell when not simply shriveling his enemies into dust with negative energy, and makes use of it against the Order twice.
  • Prayer Is a Last Resort: As his last words would indicate, he screams for Nergal to save him right before he is reduced to ash.
  • Really 700 Years Old: He's over 200 years old, making him predate even the Order of the Scribble and Xykon.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: When Malack "vamps out", his eyes become sharply red.
  • Religion of Evil: Invoked, and defied, when he admits that he does worship a death god, but insists that such gods should be seen as Neutral rather than Evil. Played straight when it turns out he was lying; his patron god is Nergal, Mesopotamian god of Death, Plague and Destruction, who is given an In-Universe alignment of Chaotic Evil in Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Revive Kills Zombie: Since Malack is undead, Durkon's heal spell inflicts damage on him.
  • Sarcastic Devotee: Malack has endured Tarquin's antics for 35 years; as a result, he won't hesitate to put his friend into place if needed — and Tarquin will listen.
  • Sinister Minister: Aversion at first: he's pleasant, friendly, and while a servant of the God of Death and working for the Empire of Blood, is downright civil to Durkon and apologizes to Elan and Haley. Once it's learned he's a vampire and his plans for the future are revealed, it will send chills down your spine.
  • Snake People: His long cloak and evidently-hissing voice make him seem more snakelike than his fellow lizardfolk. Haley even calls him "Whitesnake" at one point. His fight with Durkon reveals that he's actually a serpentfolk, putting him firmly into this trope. Hel herself refers to Malack as "Nergal's snake".
  • Speech Bubbles: The connectors from his speech bubbles are always irregular, hinting of a raspy or hissy voice. He also displays black speech bubbles when using his vampire powers.
  • The Starscream: Discussed with Durkon. He plans to take over the whole continent when Tarquin and the rest of the party passes away. Durkon mentions that Tarquin won't be happy, but Malack reveals that they've discussed it at length, and Tarquin is thrilled that what he's built will survive him.
  • Storm of Blades: The blade barrier spell.
  • Super Smoke: Gaseous form is a standard vampiric power. Although with artistic license added, since Malack shouldn't be able to speak in this form by D&D rules, but exposition prevails.
  • Taking You with Me: He tries to do this to Nale after Zz'dtri removes his protection from daylight spell and he realizes that he has nothing to shield himself from the sun's rays with. Unfortunately, Nale drinks a negative energy protection potion to prevent this.
  • That Man Is Dead: Considers his living self and the vampire he is now two different people; resurrecting past Malack would destroy present Malack. It also foreshadows some things about vampire Durkon, since in this universe vampires are different from the beings they used to be.
  • Token Religious Teammate: The Western Continent had a team that Elan's father claims to have been leader of. On that team was Malack, a lizardfolk-turned-vampire cleric of Nergal. He wanted to turn the entire continent into an ongoing ritual of death in service to his god. When Tarquin found out, he naturally was fine with the goal, but demanded a bigger statue to recognize his contribution.
  • Touch of Death: Uses one of the best cleric spell combos in the game.
    Malack: HARM.note 
    Nale: I'm... still alive...
    Malack: I'm not done. Quickened Inflict Moderate Wounds.note 
  • Underestimating Badassery: He fully expected to be able to kill Nale at will, and that Nale would either be stupid enough not to see it coming or at least powerless enough not to be able to do anything about it. Unfortunately for him, Nale and Zz'dtri beat him to the punch by taking him out with a disarm check and one spell. Additional commentary reveals that Malack believed Nale would never make a move because it would be a foolish move to do so due to being more powerful and having an alliance with Tarquin. But he did not account for the fact that Nale is more than willing to put himself at such a disadvantage to kill Malack, or at least foolish enough not to fully realize how screwed he'd be if he tried.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Vampirizing Durkon set off a long series of events that molded the central conflict of Book 6.
  • Vampire Bites Suck: Look at it! Does that look pleasant?
  • Vanity Is Feminine: Averted; Malack is very vain and arrogant, having specifically researched a spell so he can walk under the Sun without bursting into flame for the sole purpose of presenting himself as another mortal. Notably, his vanity is presented as less being concerned about his physical appearance and more about conveying himself as a proper member of society.
  • Vegetarian Vampire: Downplayed. He feeds on the runoff from all the executed prisoners, but not only are they in an All Crimes Are Equal state, but he's got no qualms against eating non-condemned people aside from the problems involved in revealing his true nature to people for which it would be disadvantageous. The excessive runoff is simply more than what he needs to survive comfortably.
  • Verbal Tic: "Hrrm."
  • Villainous Friendship: He puts up with Tarquin's constant citing of narrative trends with more patience and has done so for longer than Roy with Elan. Even among the Vector Legion Malack seems to be the one getting along the best with Tarquin, discussing their legacy and reminiscing fondly some of Tarquin's pranks.
  • Villainous Rescue: HARM. Fun fact: that particular spell immediately burns up to 150 hit points off the target, to a minimum of a single hit point. Nale was one successful attack away from death.
  • The Virus: Malack did not create many "children", and he's long gone by now. But the legion of Vampires in the Godsmoot created by The High Priest of Hel could trace their lineage back to him.
  • Walking Spoiler: Just look at the amount of spoilered entries.
  • We Used to Be Friends: The mutual realization that he and Durkon can never be friends again due to their alignment differences is quite a powerful moment.
  • Worthy Opponent: To Durkon, in the new Linear Guild. As with so many things about Malack's character, this takes on some more sinister implications now that we know Malack is a vampire who's interested in recruiting.
    Malack: ...I alone shall handle the dwarf. He deserves that honor, regardless of his minor deception.

    Laurin Shattersmith 

Laurin Shattersmith

"Hannah is a plumber, thank you, and she thinks I'm just a well-connected interior designer. I do this thing we do so she can have a good life away from all this."

Race: Human
Gender: Female
Class: Psion (probably Nomad)
Alignment: Unknown (probably Lawful Evil)

An old adventuring companion of Tarquin and Malack, and their team psion. Currently an adviser for Queen Shvitzer of the Empire of Sweat.

  • Action Mom: Has a daughter, and among one of the most powerful members in the Vector Legion.
  • Anti-Gravity Clothing: Her Ioun Stones floats around her head, falling into this category.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: She first appears in flashback panels, but doesn't show up in person until a long time later, after a bit of Foreshadowing by Tarquin.
  • Curse Cut Short: "You arrogant little sh—"
  • Dark Action Girl: Laurin manages to incapitate the entire Order by herself with her psionic attacks, and goes toe-to-toe with Vaarsuvius.
  • Disintegrator Ray: She can call upon the psionic version of this power, notably turning Nale's corpse to dust. She also uses it during her duel with V to disintegrate their force spells.
  • Dispel Magic: Like Miron, she can dispel magic, in her case through her Psychic Powers.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Her motivation for evil is to provide a good life for her daughter, and she doesn't tell her child of her villainous activities. Instead, she attributes the profit from them as derived from a legitimate occupation, and refers to those villainous activities as "this thing we do".
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • She is really mad when Nale casually brags about how he murdered Malack.
    • #921 reveals she has a daughter, Hannah, and that her motivation for her involvement in her team's scheme is to give her a good, safe life as a plumber. She only went along with Tarquin's "kill Roy" plan so she could claim the rift valley, figuring the ocean on the other side would make for a lot of work for her daughter.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Vector Legion is composed of evil counterparts to the Order. With her heavy-hitting powers and Hair-Trigger Temper, she is most similar to Vaarsuvius. On a more personal level, she is willing to commit the most heinous of crimes for her children.
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids: She wants to provide a good life for her daughter, far away from the team's shenanigans, and her daughter doesn't know of Laurin's villainous activities. She's lead to believe that her mother is just a very well-connected interior designer.
  • Eye Color Change: Hers turn yellow when she uses her powers. They abruptly turn an odd shade of blue when she uses her powers to peer into the Rift, though that may just be the color reflecting off her eyes.
  • Fangirl: She was one for Julio Scoundrél when young. As an adult, she admits she had terrible taste at the time.
  • Fantastic Racism: Seems to have a grudge against elves for living what she thinks is an idyllic forest life in the northern reaches of the Western Continent, while the humans and Lizard Folk in the southern half of the continent have to constantly fight for everything they get. She dismisses most of what Vaarsuvius says as arrogance and ordering her about.
  • Honorary Aunt: Nale calls her "Aunt" in a sarcastic manner, suggesting that she was supposed to have been considered this before Nale's rebellion.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Coldly disintegrates Nale's corpse right in front of Elan, not even giving the latter a chance to properly mourn his brother.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Teleports off the Mechane when she realizes that V has way more spells remaining than she has unspent power points.
  • Limited Wardrobe: As with Tarquin and Miron, she always wears identical clothes and shoes (only changing the color), whether she's in a desert or in a sauna.
  • Living Lie Detector: She can read thoughts to tell if someone is lying. This allows Tarquin to confirm that Malack is dead and that Nale killed him.
  • Logical Weakness: Laurin is a classic "Nova" character build who is capable of overwhelming power at the cost of expending her resources quickly. So when V reveals that they have a plethora of unspent spell slots to use in their duel after Laurin has used numerous high-level powers fighting the Order, she quickly decides to Screw This, I'm Outta Here.
  • Luke Nounverber: Another name in an already long list (although strictly speaking this is Verbnouner).
  • The Man in Front of the Man: One of two advisers to Queen Shvitzer, and the real power behind the throne, just as Tarquin is to the Empress of Blood. And like him, she's done it to several different nations for years.
  • Mass Teleportation: She can open multiple simultaneous wormholes, with each being big enough to transport an entire army.
  • Mind Rape: She inflicts this on the Order of the Stick when she, Tarquin, and Miron are chasing them all down. Later, she ends up on the receiving end when she telepathically connects with the portal into the Snarl's prison and goes practically catatonic.
  • Noodle Incident: Miron makes reference to "that time with the marids" when Laurin looks inside the ocean-filled Rift. Though given her desire to make the desert a more habitable place, it probably involved trying to steal water from the Elemental Plane of Water.
  • Oh, Crap!: After engaging in an epic Wizard Duel with Vaarsuvius aboard the Mechane, she shouts to them that she can counter any spell they have left and they should just roll over and spare themselves the pain. V calmly retorts that without counting cantrips, they have over twenty-five spells remaining. Cue Laurin staring at V in utter shock before teleporting away.
  • Oh, My Gods!: "Ishtar's crown..."
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: She disintegrates Nale's corpse so he can't be brought Back from the Dead, as Malack cannot be brought back either due to being reduced to ash.
  • Power Crystal: She's always seen with three Ioun Stones floating around her. Well, two after Blackwing steals one of them.
  • Psi Blast: As a telepath, she can stun victims with her will, as demonstrated in this strip against the whole Order of the Stick.
  • Psychic Powers: Her abilities as a psion. Quite varied, though her most common and powerful tricks are instant displacements, so probably of the "nomad" specialization.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: She works with Tarquin only for her daughter's well-being.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After learning that V has 25 spells plus cantrips left, she teleports away without another word.
  • Screw You, Elves!: She has some choice words on the subject while fighting Vaarsuvius.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: Her eyes glow yellow while she uses her powers.
  • Teleport Spam: She uses dimension door a lot in battle, mostly to avoid ever getting pinned down.
  • Two Girls to a Team: With Jacinda in the Vector Legion.
  • Uncertain Doom: Last seen being rendered catatonic by The Snarl's Mind Rape before it bursts out of Girard's Gate, though Miron is seen trying to pull her away at the last second.
  • Underestimating Badassery: To Vaarsuvius. As soon as V tells her how many spells they has left for the day, Laurin bugs out.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Given that she's low on energy and so doesn't have enough power to defeat Varsuuvius, she teleports away instead of wasting her time fighting.
  • Villainous Friendship: Judging by her reaction to Nale's gloating about killing Malack, it was clear that she and Malack were very close. Also, she and Miron get along very well.
  • We Have Reserves: Inverted. She criticizes Tarquin for this attitude towards his soldiers by using them to influence Elan, pointing out that he had already lost a member of his team due to being a bad influence to Nale.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Wants to make her homeland a stable place and shows interest in the rift so that she could provide water to said homeland (which is a barren desert).

    Miron Shewdanker 

Miron Shewdanker

"I wrote you that ransom letter 'cause I figured if he was willing to pay to hold him, you might be willing to pay more to free him."

Race: Human
Gender: Male
Class: Unknown (either Wizard or Sorcerer)
Alignment: Unknown (probably Lawful Evil)

An old adventuring companion of Tarquin and Malack, and served with Tarquin as Chancellor during the reign of Lord Tyrinar the Bloody. Currently serves as an adviser to the Weeping King in the Empire of Tears.

  • Affably Evil: He's nothing but friendly to the Weeping King, but he's working behind his back with Tarquin. He and Tarquin also deposed Lord Tyrinar by letting him get eaten by a dragon.
  • Bald of Evil: Like Durkon, he's been bald for decades, ever since Tarquin's flashback.
  • Buffy Speak: Calls a bidet a "splashy butt-washing thing".
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Emphasis on cold; he uses a magic wand to freeze someone's feet while they're tied up.
  • Cool Mask: Wears a face wrap (constantly) that covers the bottom half of his face.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Miron has a contingency prepared to teleport him out of danger if he takes too much damage. Unfortunately, it triggers regardless of Miron's intentions and teleports him away instead of staying for the fight.
  • Dispel Magic: Uses greater dispel magic against V's spells.
  • Evil Chancellor: He was the chancellor of Tyrinaria, and held Ian Starshine for ransom for 200,000 gold pieces.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Vector Legion is given numerous parallels to the Order of the Stick. Between his laid-back attitude, "straightforwardly" sadistic tendencies, It's All About Me tendencies, habit of referring to people by nicknames and Glass Cannon status, he's basically an eviler version of Belkar.
  • Exhausted Eye Bags: If you look closely, there are little crescents underneath his eyes. They don't seem to be there in flashback panels; probably just old-age indicators.
  • Forced Transformation: He knows the spell baleful polymorph and uses it to turn a powerful Allosaurus into a little lizard.
  • Greed: His primary motivation. Besides attempting to ransom Haley's father, he also initially refuses to assist Tarquin's troops against the Order because he doesn't see the profit in it.
  • I Have Your Wife: He's the one who sent Haley the message that her father was captured and being ransomed.
  • It's All About Me: Comes with his greed, with it being implied that he's only stuck around with the Vector Legion's Evil Plan for so long because of what it can do to personally benefit him (unlike Tarquin and Malack's more grandiose goals along with Laurin's concern for her daughter).
  • Limited Wardrobe: Like Tarquin, he only changes the color of his clothes when changing nations.
  • Luke Nounverber: Verb adjective type but same idea.
  • Magic Wand: Has at least one of them, which casts cold spells.
  • The Man in Front of the Man: Worked with Tarquin as one, and still does it, just in a different nation.
  • The Nicknamer: Tarquin is "Tarkie", and Roy is "Greatsword Dude".
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Has owed Tarquin a favor for twelve years for some unstated reason.
    • He and Laurin had an unspecified incident involving the Plane of Water and some marids.
  • Out of Focus: Out of the four Vector Legion members involved in Blood Runs in the Family, Miron by far does the least. Tarquin is the Arc Villain and most prominent threat. Malack is his constant companion and his transformation of Durkon into a vampire has major repercussions for the next book. Laurin serves as the group's heavy hitter who teleports Tarquin's army to the gate and uses her Psychic Powers to their full effect against the Order. Miron is just... there. His only real contribution is turning Bloodfeast into a lizard, as he's the only one who can learn that spell. Beyond that, he barely casts anything that would be expected from a caster of his level, mostly countering the spells of others and using wands rather than expending his own spell slots. He is then quickly taken out by his own Contingency spell when he could easily drink a potion.
  • Pet the Dog: When large purplish tendrils come out of the Rift, a terrified Miron immediately pulls a catatonic Laurin away.
  • Playing Both Sides: In regards to Ian's imprisonment. Bozzok was paying Tyrania 825 gold per month to have them hold Ian prisoner. Miron decided to contact Haley and ransom Ian back to her, curious if she'd be willing to pay even more than Bozzok to free her father.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: He initially refuses to help Tarquin against the Order because there is no profit to it.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Like Laurin, he's part of Tarquin's scheme for the money.
  • Sarcastic Devotee: He's fine with Tarquin's schemes as long as they bring coins to his purse, but he's openly dismissive of the latter's obsession with story and drama, and even calls him by a casual nickname.
  • Shoot the Mage First: V signals the entire Order to attack him with "Lord Xykon is looking quite chilly today" (referencing his scarf). A wise move, considering the amount of damage he has been doing.
  • Squishy Wizard: Played with; he's squishy compared to a fighter-type like Tarquin, but still very high level. He gets shot by Haley twice, eats a lightning bolt from V, falls off a dinosaur, gets blasted with the highest-damage ray from prismatic spray, slashed across the chest by Roy, stabbed twice in the back by Belkar, and shot four more times by Haley. While he does survive all this, it is enough damage to trigger his contingency, teleporting him to safety.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Is openly dismissive of Tarquin's grandiose schemes to kill Roy, stating it would be simpler to just have Jacinda kill Roy in his sleep.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: To Tyrinar and to the Weeping King. His advice is genuine, but he is always working behind the king's back.
  • Uncertain Doom: Last seen trying to pull a catatonic Laurin away from the Snarl as it bursts out of Girard's Gate.
  • Villainous Friendship: He's close enough to Tarquin to refer to him with a nickname, and willing to repay a favor twelve years after the fact. He and Laurin are also quite friendly to each other, with him appearing to save her life from the Snarl.



Race: Catfolk
Gender: Female
Class: Unknown (probably Rogue and/or Assassin)
Alignment: Unknown (probably Neutral Evil)

An old adventuring companion of Tarquin. Currently serves as an adviser to the ruler of the Empire of Sweat.

  • Back Stab: She kills Ambassador Gourntonk in one strike, probably with a sneak attack or death attack.
  • Cat Folk: Humanoid with the ears, tail and tan, striped fur of a feline. Exact D&D species unknown.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Want a magic carpet from a merchant with seven of them? Jacinda doesn't bother pickpocketing his wares when she can just snatch the one he's riding, scoring both the loot and the XP from the merchant's death.
  • Dark Action Girl: Her first non-flashback appearance features her backstabbing Gourntonk.
  • Evil Counterpart: As the rogue of the group, she obviously would be Haley's Vector Legion counterpart.
  • The Man in Front of the Man: Assisting Laurin as adviser to Queen Shvitzer of the Empire of Sweat.
  • Modesty Towel: In the flashback showing her in Queen Shvitzer's sauna.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: Her cat suit has quite the plunging neckline.
  • Slain in Their Sleep: According to Miron, she is their go-to person for killing people the quiet and practical way, instead of the showy and dramatic way.
  • Two Girls to a Team: With Laurin in the Vector Legion.

    Shoulderpads Guy 

Shoulderpads Guy

Race: Human (presumably)
Gender: Male
Class: Unknown
Alignment: Unknown Evil

The sixth member of Tarquin's old adventuring party. Currently working with Miron as an adviser to the Weeping King.

  • Evil Counterpart: By process of elimination, to Roy.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: Unlike Roy, he uses a one-handed sword and a shield.
  • The Man in Front of the Man: Working with Miron as adviser to The Weeping King.
  • No Name Given: As he's only appeared in flashbacks and had one single line of dialogue, next to nothing is known about him, not even his name.
  • Shoulders of Doom: His shoulderpads are massive, as high as his head. It's why he's most often referred to by fans as "Shoulderpads Guy".
  • Silver Fox: Like his old teammate Tarquin, his hair has faded to grey since his adventuring days, but as far as the art style allows, he still looks rugged.

Other characters in the Empire

For the dinosaur Bloodfeast, see Animal Companions.

    Chancellor Kilkil 

Chancellor Kilkil

"I lost the paperwork."

Race: Urd
Gender: Male
Class: Unknown (possibly Expert)
Alignment: Lawful Neutral

First introduced as an accounts clerk for the Empire of the Blood when dealing with Gannji and Enor. It quickly comes to light that he's more of a "do anything in admin" kind of guy. In short, he's Tarquin's glorified personal assistant.

  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat: He seems to be the face of the Empire's whole administration and the poor guy who has to deliver on each of Tarquin's big ideas. Did we mention the Empire runs on paper as much as it does on Blood and that Tarquin tends to kill those for whom he has no use?
  • Evil Counterpart: invoked Well, "counterpart", at least to Belkar in the brand-new, sparkly, reforged (and completely devastated) version of the Linear Guild.
  • Flight: Kilkil is an urd (a species of kobold that has some dragon blood in them). Why walk when you have wings?
  • Good with Numbers: No surprise for an accountant.
  • Lizard Folk: Small, orange, D&D-style draconic kobold, at your service.
  • Ludicrous Precision: He can estimate the deadliness of an attack spell to the exact percent.
  • Nerd Glasses: Kobolds, too, can wear gold-rimmed specs if they have to do desk-work all day.
  • Non-Action Guy: Tarquin puts him on the team just to fill the an archetype slot on his team, mirroring Belkar. Urds are weaker than normal kobolds, and Kilkil even states he has no merits in battle. Fortunately, he's never actually required to fight.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: On Tarquin's orders, he "loses" the paperwork for Enor and Gannji, forcing them into the gladiator arena.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: He doesn't seem in it for the personal gratification of stomping on the unwashed masses or to do the Evil Laugh, but you can't organize half of what he does with anything like a conscience.
  • Running Gag: The kobold race continues being Belkar's personal nemesis. Lampshaded at first, then eventually subverted: he escapes without even meeting Belkar.
  • The Short Guy with Glasses: Short, check; glasses, check; brainy nerd type, check.
  • Theme Naming: Like the other kobolds, he has a repeated syllable name. Now, we've moved to "K"s from "Y"s.
  • Token Good Teammate: The only canonically non-Evil member of the Empire's hierarchy. This is part of what makes him the Linear Guild's newest counterpart to the Order's Token Evil Teammate Belkar.
  • The Watson: The annotations for Book 5 refer to him as this; he's mainly there so Tarquin can bounce ideas off somebody. Unlike Jirix, the Giant never found more of a use for him.
  • Winged Humanoid: Kilkil is an urd.

    The Empress of Blood 

The Empress of Blood
The dragon Empress, with a couple human soldiers for scale.

"No one gets all up in my business, I get all up in THEIR business! OR POSSIBLY THEIR GRILL!!"

Race: Red Dragon
Gender: Female
Alignment: Chaotic Evil

The gluttonous ruler of the Empire of Blood; an obese red dragon who believes she can get more powerful by growing bigger (instead of growing bigger as a result of getting older and more powerful).

  • Adipose Rex: The Empress of Blood is deliberately invoking this trope. As a Red Dragon (and either a very immature one or a very dumb one), she knows that all dragons grow larger as they grow more powerful, and believes the reverse also holds. Thus she is purposefully eating more than even her draconic metabolism can handle in order to become more powerful. (Yet, she can fly...)
  • Berserk Button: One of the few times she's shown getting genuinely angry is when a passing reference is made to someone "getting up in her business". Possibly a reference to the Queen of Hearts and her "all ways are my ways" rant.
  • Big Eater: She's capable of eating entire cows, and probably would clear out a buffet if it meant getting "stronger."
  • Breath Weapon: She breathes fire.
  • Chewing the Scenery: She likes to do this every now and then.
    Empress of Blood: I am here! I am your ruler! Look at me! I am cool, but also very warm! Woooo!
  • The Ditz: We see in "Plotting Something" that she's been present for the last eight strips, including Tarquin talking about how he's using her as a puppet, but is simply too stupid and/or oblivious to respond.
  • Fat Idiot: A draconic version. To whit, an ambassador from Reptilia figures out Tarquin's Man Behind the Man scheme with the Empire of Sweat and Tears, only to be promptly assassinated right in front of her. She simply asks Miron (whose country her country is enemies with) for a snack. He tells her to shut up, and she only gets disappointed!
  • Flight: Yes, she can still get airborne despite her mass and ridiculously small wings.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Sort of. In a flashback depicting Nale's betrayal, she looks like a regular dragon rather than the bloated lizard she is now.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Unsurprisingly, her eating habits are rather revolting for humanoids.
    Tarquin: We've decided it's best if the Empress avoids eating in front of guests from now on.
    Too much clean up, both from her meal and from guests losing theirs.
  • Logical Fallacies: Specifically confusing correlation with causation. Bigger dragons are more powerful, therefore getting bigger will make a dragon more powerful. How many whole cows must you eat for breakfast before you can cast arcane spells? In fact, both are simply governed by the dragon's age.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Most dragons in D&D have genius-level intelligence. The Empress... doesn't.
  • Puppet King: First hypothesized by Haley, and it is soon confirmed that she's right on the money. The Empress is just a glorified figurehead, it's Malack and Tarquin who are calling the shots.
  • Ridiculously Small Wings: Despite being the draconic equivalent of morbidly obese and her wings being tiny in comparison to the rest of her body, she is capable of flight.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Among other things over-inflated, there's her opinion of herself.
    Empress of Blood: If anyone needs me, I will be up here on my throne, being awesome.
  • Speech Bubbles: Her speech bubbles are a reddish-orange.
  • Stout Strength: Sure, she's roughly the size of a blimp now, but she's still a red dragon, and in the comic with a flashback of two years earlier, she was fighting well against the Linear Guild. She probably hasn't lost the ability to hold her own if need be.
  • Villainous Glutton: Due to confusion over how draconic power works, she stuffs herself to the gills to gain more power.
  • Unwitting Pawn: She's a figurehead for Tarquin and Malack.



"As a reptile, I've gotten through my whole life without sucking on a teat, I'm not about to start with the government's."

Race: Lizardfolk
Gender: Male
Class: Rogue
Alignment: True Neutral

A green lizardfolk who's wishing he'd never have crossed path with the Order of the Stick, or with Tarquin. The brains of his and Enor's bounty hunter duo.

  • Big Guy, Little Guy: With Enor as the big guy; he's the smarter of the pair.
  • Bounty Hunter: He makes a living bringing in criminals, and he's quite up-to-date on the relevant paperwork a Lawful Evil nation requires.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: He's not exactly evil, but he's definitely a jerk. Despite this, he was willing to sacrifice himself to give Enor a chance of survival.
  • Everyone Has Standards: He makes a living beating people unconscious and dragging them across international boundaries for their bounties, but it's still an honest living. He brings the people on the wanted poster and no-one else; petty fraud is beneath him.
  • Exotic Equipment: Not seen onscreen, but he invites a guard to "look up 'hemipenes' because you can suck both of my—"
  • Fantastic Racism: He frequently quips something demeaning toward mammals.
  • Fight Scene Failure: In-universe example: When he's forced to fight Enor in the gladiator arena, he tries to fake a fight while he stalls to think up an escape plan. Tarquin sees right through it, saying not only is it staged, but poorly staged.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Lizardfolk have the same racial intelligence penalty as orcs, but while orcs exclusively talk in Hulk Speak, Gannji seems, if not smart, then at least eloquent.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: "I don't need your standard-issue loincloth, I've been walking around without pants this entire time!"
  • Heel–Face Turn: After narrowly escaping from the arena, he and Enor join up with Amun-Zora to get some revenge on the Empire. He describes it as "pro bono work with the goal of settling some outstanding debts".
  • It's Personal: Joins Amun-Zora with her La Résistance despite being a Punch-Clock Villain because Tarquin not only went back on his word, but also had him fight his best friend to the death. He also apologizes to Haley, and smoothly takes her threat to turn him into a handbag if anything happens to her father as "we cool".
  • Jerkass: He's not the nicest of lizardfolk to be around, especially if you're a mammal. But he makes the transition to Jerkass Woobie by being forced to fight Enor. He tries to force Enor into killing him so Enor has a chance to survive, and just maybe revive him at a later date. Roy puts it plainly:
    Roy: Jeez, that lizardfolk is a jackass, but he still doesn't deserve this. It's like forcing someone to duel their own puppy.
  • Lizard Folk: Technically, Greenscale lizardfolk are supposed to be small-sized, but he's still medium.
  • Pet the Dog: He may be a real jerk (at least to mammals), but has a genuine, touching affection for Enor. Additionally, after he and Enor perform a Heel–Face Turn by siding with Amun-Zora against Tarquin, he apologizes to Haley for "the whole kidnapping thing".
  • Shorter Means Smarter: He's half the size of his partner and does the thinking for the both of them.
  • "Yes"/"No" Answer Interpretation: During an exchange with Haley:
    Gannji: So, no hard feelings on the whole kidnapping thing?
    Haley: If anything happens to [my father], you'll make a very stylish handbag.
    Gannji: I'm going to choose to hear that as, "We cool."


"Well, we screwed up and got yummies anyway. We should do that more often."

Race: Half-dragon (blue) half-ogre
Gender: Male
Class: Unknown (probably Fighter)
Alignment: True Neutral

A towering half-ogre, half-blue dragon hybrid. The muscle of the bounty hunter duo.

  • Big Guy, Little Guy: With Gannji as the little guy; he's the muscle without any occasional good idea.
  • Bounty Hunter: Works as muscle for Gannji in dragging bounties across national boundaries.
  • Breath Weapon: He can breathe lightning.
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: He is a big, muscular half-ogre half-dragon. When Gannji tells Enor to kill him because Enor can stand a better chance in the arena, Enor begins to cry and protest against it.
    Enor: I don't wanna. I don't wanna hurt you. I don't wanna be alone. You kill me instead, Gannji. You're smart, and you're never scared. You'll be better off all by yourself.
  • The Ditz: There's a reason Gannji does most of the thinking for him.
  • Draconic Humanoid: He's half-dragon and looks draconic.
  • Dragon Ancestry: Enor is the son of a half-ogre and a blue dragon.
  • Dumb Muscle: He does the heavy hitting against their marks, and leaves the strategic planning to Gannji.
  • Fight Scene Failure: In-universe example: When he's forced to fight Gannji in the gladiator arena, Gannji tries to fake a fight while he stalls to think up an escape plan. Enor, however, doesn't want to hurt Gannji by accident, so his claws never come close to Gannji. Tarquin sees right through it, saying not only is it staged, but poorly staged.
  • Flight: From his dragon heritage. Although his wings are clipped in the gladiator prison and the arena, preventing escape by flying away.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Along with Gannji, he eventually decides to try to overthrow Tarquin.
  • Horned Humanoid: One big rhino-like horn, as befits his blue dragon heritage.
  • Hybrid Monster: Gannji calls him a "half-dragon ogre", and he responds that he's a half-dragon half-ogre. The distinction is a real one: by D&D rules, Enor likely had one parent who was a dragon, and one parent who was a half-ogre. Enor is 50% dragon, 25% ogre, and 25% human.
  • Lizard Folk: Unlike the other lizardfolk in the comic, that's not his race.
  • Magic Feather: The "Lizardfolk Victory String" Gannji ties around his wrist "so [he] can be brave and win" his gladiatorial match. When they get pitted against each other and Gannji tells him the Victory String is the reason why Enor has to kill him.
  • Morality Pet: Serves as one to Gannji, because without his concern for the big oaf, he'd just be a straight-up jerk.
  • No-Sell: Unaffected by Elan's pun attacks.
    Enor: Puns are for girls.
  • Talk to the Fist: His response to Elan's punny attacks is a morning star to the head.
  • Winged Humanoid: Large-sized half-dragons in Dungeons & Dragons always have wings, and he is no exception.



Race: Human
Gender: Female
Class: Unknown (probably Fighter)
Alignment: Unknown

A captain from the Free City of Doom, she appealed to the Empire of Blood for aid when her home was attacked by the Empire of Tears. However, she learned too late what kind of people (particularly the head general) she was dealing with.

  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Tarquin at one point has her imprisoned so he can force her into marriage. Elan lets her go when he stumbles onto her cell.
  • Crusading Widower: Widow since she's female, but she fulfills the trope to rescue her nation and avenge the death of her husband.
  • Good-Looking Privates: Tarquin hits on her because of her good looks.
  • Happily Married: Until her husband is killed, at least. Also she refuses Tarquin's advances precisely because she is married.
  • Hero of Another Story: She's not part of the Order's battles to protect the Gates because she's too busy retaking the Free City of Doom from conquest.
  • It's Personal: Tarquin made sure that her husband, another soldier, was killed when the Empire of Blood helped the Empire of Tears conquer the Free City of Doom. While Amun-Zora doesn't mention him to Ian Starshine, it's a prime motivator for her.
  • Mistaken Identity: Played for Laughs but also used as a clever plot point. Elan looks into a prison cell, hoping to get help in his fight against Nale. Unfortunately, Amun-Zora believes Elan to be her foe, since he's Tarquin's son. However, Elan uses it to his advantage by freeing Amun-Zora and slipping her a sword, causing her to charge out of her cell straight into Nale, whom she mistakes for Elan, allowing the real one to get away.
  • La Résistance: Begins one to fight back against the Empire of Blood — and Tarquin.

    Ambassador Gourntonk 

Ambassador Gourntonk

Race: Lizard Folk
Gender: Male
Class: Unknown (possibly Aristocrat)
Alignment: Unknown

The Ambassador to the Empire of Blood from the country of Reptilia. The spies of Reptilia have uncovered Tarquin's plot with the three Empires. He goes to warn the Empress of this under the guise of a diplomatic mission.