The Order of the Stick has several Heartwarming Moments (all of which are quite spoiler-y, so if that worries you, don't click!)
- Eugene Greenhilt, amazingly enough, gets one in Start of Darkness. When Right-Eye gives him the first lead on Xykon he's ever had, he refuses to go after the lich. Why?Eugene: I'm married now. I have a son, Roy. He's almost 8 years old.
Right-Eye: So? It's not like I'm asking you to bring him along.
Eugene: So if this assassination thing you're so eager to set up goes south, my son is an orphan and his mother, a widow. Or worse, Xykon finds out about them and kills them too, just for fun. The risk isn't worth the reward anymore.
- Made more fascinating by the fact that earlier in the book (but later chronologically), Eugene lied to Roy, saying he never had another lead on Xykon, and if he had he would have walked out on them in a second.
- Eugene's stated concern for his family is undercut shortly after when it's shown he's missing Roy's soccer game. On the other hand, he tells Right-Eye to settle down and forget about revenge — advice Right-Eye apparently takes to heart.
- Even though his oath denies him entry until Xykon is destroyed, Eugene is waiting at the door of the Lawful Good afterlife, not the Lawful Neutral one. Might be there's a reason for that...
- All but confirmed when Roy dies and is allowed entry into the afterlife despite not fulfilling the oath - the Deva explicitly states that they judge souls by INTENT, not just by action. While Eugene did wrong in abandoning his quest and thus passing the responsibility to his children, he wouldn't be allowed in the Good afterlife at all if he didn't love his family. Roy narrowly avoided getting tossed into the Neutral afterlife for almost abandoning Elan after he was kidnapped by bandits, and only got absolved because he changed his mind after some soul searching.
- Subverted in Xykon's first appearance; we first see him as a four year old crying over his dead dog Barky; when his sorcerer powers activate and he reanimates Barky, he is completely overjoyed. The subversion comes when the newly zombified Barky eats a bird's brains, which entertains Xykon, cluing the reader into his psychopathic tendencies. That said, the fact that Xykon used to genuinely care for someone, anyone, remains heartwarming.
- The hug Redcloak gets from his mom when we first see them.
- Dorukan and Lirian's final reunion.Dorukan: It looks as if I am to share your prison forever now...Lirian: No, no (embraces him)... Not a prison anymore.
- Even though she plans on taking 10% of his future income, there is something sweet about Haley dropping everything when she gets the letter about her father, Ian.
- Roy tells his first adventuring group off, both for killing first and asking questions later and for the way they treat Durkon, whom he concedes is "surly and unpleasant" but doesn't deserve suicide mission after suicide mission. After storming off, Durkon goes after Roy, and Roy assumes Durkon's going to "give [him] a parting shot of all-purpose grumpiness." Instead:Durkon: Thank ye for what ye said back there... In all the years I've been in da human lands, yer tha first I ever saw who'd use 'is head when 'is sword was handy. An' ye saved me life, too. I guess I ne'er met a non-dwarf who gave a flying damn about me either. Have ye ever thought aboot forming yer own team? Cuz if ye do, ye can count me in.
- Elan's elation when, for the first time in his life, he's told he was right about something, and is invited to join Roy on his quest. Even Roy's snarky comments as Elan's celebrating don't dim the mood.
- The whole scene with V and Elan in the beginning when Elan wants to take a level of Wizard. Reinforced subtly in several subsequent strips that suggest that since that time V has been teaching Elan how to use his arcane magic more effectively.
- How does Haley eventually manage to best an Amazing-quality lock? "I believe in you." And again. Bonus points for hinting that V is a Shipper on Deck for Haley and Elan.Vaarsuvius: Although... perhaps a more mundane method might succeed in bolstering her sagging confidence...
Elan: Huh? What do you mean?
Vaarsuvius: Try simply speaking to Miss Starshine, Elan. Tell her how much faith you have in her rogue abilities.
Elan: Oh! OK! So, Haley, uh, I just wanted to say how much we're all counting on you. We really don't want to go to trial, so we really need to get out of this dumb jail, like, right away.
Haley: [scowling] Qbb, exfdir, dp nubrrzub exbub.Cryptogram
Elan: And even though that lock is, like, really hard, I know you can do it. You can do anything. Because you're smart, and sneaky, and good at stuff...
Haley: Wfld ce! PNBD!Cryptogram
Elan: And... I believe in you.
[Haley looks at Elan, her frustration evaporating instantly at his words... and the lock opens with a "click!"]
Elan: Woooo! Haley, you did it!
Haley: C fl epefggj cd gpyb hcex jpz.Cryptogram
Vaarsuvius: [smiling] Love makes the world go round. And has been known to provide a +2 circumstance bonus to certain skill checks.
- Durkon's reaction to learning he'll be able to return to Dwarven lands.Roy: You are a very strange little bearded man, Durkon.Durkon: Aye, lad. Aye.
- The fourth and third last panels of Roy and Julia's goodbye to each other. Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other
- Haley getting her voice back. Followed by Wanna make out?
- "thog not want to hurt not-nale." It looks like Thog's Odd Friendship with Elan held out. Before that, he expresses genuine happiness to be back with his old friends.
- I had a... change of priorities.
- Redcloak's My God, What Have I Done? speech belongs here. (Aside from being a Moment of Awesome in its own right).
- When Miko dies, she is told she has not been forgiven for her sins, but she will at least be reunited with Windstriker.
- Haley and Elan saying goodbye, followed by the two Nameless Soldiersnote agreeing to go on a date. Them reuniting almost two hundred strips later.
- The deva's speech about how important it is to keep trying to be good. "It's easy for a being of pure Law and Good to live up to these ideals, but you're a mortal. What matters is that when you blow it, you get back up on the horse and try again."
- Roy reuniting with his little brother in the afterlife.
- A lesser moment is when he muses over what class he thinks Eric would have been if he lived long enough to become one. He then says bard, without a hint of shame or disappointment. After previously decrying both Elan and his class as The Load, it seems like he's finally warming up to him.
- Rich's tribute to E. Gary Gygax. Many other writers simply did a single lip-service strip that said one panel of "In Memory", but Rich went out of his way to show his gratitude to Gary Gygax, and it shows, in a speech by Roy that could have been read at Gygax's funeral. Goes to Funny Moment when Roy's Archon warns him there are tons of adventurers in the Hall of Characters That Died Without a Saving Throw who are still pissed off about Tomb of Horrors, the "Orb of Annihilation in the statue's mouth" trap in particular.Gary Gygax: Heh heh, oh man. That never got old.
- His tribute to the other half of D&D, Dave Arneson, is up there, too.
- Therkla's parents. Yes, they're a single-panel cameo and played for laughs when a flashback shows them as Sickeningly Sweethearts, but the fact that they're a clearly very happy and loving Interspecies Romance, when orcs in the setting suffer just as much from the assumption of Always Chaotic Evil as the goblins and even another orc immediately assumes that the only way an orc/human hybrid could come about is as a Child by Rape, is really quite touching. Alternatively, Always Chaotic Evil creatures are particularly grossed out by Sickeningly Sweethearts.
- "Sweet dreams, Monster-san." O-Chul and the Monster in the Darkness have a lot of these:
- You can do it, Mr. Stiffly! I believe in you!
- Mr. Stiffly! MR. STIFFLY! O-CHUL!! The Monster in the Darkness may not know exactly what he is, but O-Chul does. "A good man."
- "What if I -- uh, I mean, someone -- teleported him into the ocean? Or into a wall?"
- Until then, I hope wherever you are, the rain is helping you sleep. It doesn't make sense until you go back to this comic and read the last bit of the strip. But then it makes sense. And is really sweet.
- The reunion of the Order after a very long time, and all the events that come with it. First, getting Roy back. Then, Roy and Haley have a nice, friendly, peaceful moment together as Roy cleans his armor and they overlook the sunset on the ocean. Then, after having a strained relationship for months, Durkon and Vaarsuvius reconcile in a truly heartwarming way; made all the more impressive in that it's combined with a great deal of character growth for both of them and ends on a horrifyingly ominous note. Finally, Elan chooses honesty over drama. "How are we supposed to get a happy ending if we can't be honest?" And Haley reciprocates.
- Vaarsuvius summons their familiar and apologizes for having been a somewhat subpar master. The ending of the book is nice as well. For the first time in a while, an arc's ending has a peaceful feel to it, looking forward to the future. Everyone's together again, at rest, as the ship sails off on its journey. And later on, Blackwing acting as V's conscience to the point that the next time they fight the Linear Guild... well, Qarr says that if Blackwing kills himself, Qarr will make sure V is kept alive after the battle. Blackwing reasons through this by pointing out that he's really only the elf's conscience right now... and if Qarr's so desperate to get him out of the way, it must be working, and Blackwing reaffirms his duty to be there for Vaarsuvius no matter what. Their relationship has come a long way from "Screw this, mammal! You're on your own!"
- Elan asks Haley why she can't use the Glibness effect (which gives her an insane bonus to Bluff) to convince her father that Elan's a good guy. The potion only works on things that aren't true. It becomes a Tear Jerker when you remember what she said just seconds before...
- A very silly but cute one. During their search in the desert for Girard's Gate, we see a montage of them looking in various ways. One panel inexplicably shows Elan with his sword drawn, apparently ready to duel a cactus to the death. Next panel is Elan and Haley sleeping together. Elan has needles sticking in him, and Haley has a smile and the flower that was on top of the cactus in her hand. D'AAAWWWW.
- Elan's relationship with Roy is beyond heartwarming, culminating in an Imagine Spot in which his father Tarquin, says that he will adopt Roy, and that he and Elan are now "for real" brothers (and they both get puppies). It's silly, but the cheerfulness of the whole thing is really cute.
- Tarquin finally gets tired of Malack's whining about his dead children, and tells him to suck it up. He does, but later, Tarquin showboats around in order to test Elan's skills—something that is very much a tactical liability. Malack yells at him, telling him he's not going to put Tarquin's family over his own, Sabine gets ready to watch them fight... and Tarquin genuinely apologizes for his actions. Yes, they're evil, but they're still friends.
- Belkar and Mr. Scruffy's relationship in general. This is a good moment. Additionally, in that strip, Belkar entrusting Vaarsuvius (of all people) with his cat - after all of their fighting and not-quite-making-up - is awfully sweet.
- Even The Linear Guild gets its Heartwarming moments. In #804 Qarr makes not-so-veiled threats against Sabine for being loyal to Nale and not The Directors, who are her bosses. When Nale returns after Qarr leaves, Sabine makes her Undying Loyalty plain:Nale: C'mon, babe. Elan ran this way. If we can catch him, we can turn this thing around.Sabine: Right behind you, honey. (Melodramatic Pause) All the way.
- Penelope's story, overlaps with Tear Jerker, but it's very touching. As a girl, she was caught in a whirlwind romance with an illusionist, a relationship that made a baby girl. The father (Orrin Draketooth) skipped town with the baby. For fifteen years, Penelope never stopped trying to find her little girl, even hiring Zz'dtri to divine the location. She would have succeded were it not for V's Familicide spell.
- This exchange between Malack and Durkon, during their battle in the pyramid.Durkon: Surrender, Malack.Malack: So you can destroy me?Durkon: So I can resurrect ye.
- When confronted with the prospect of finding a vampire and killing him on his own, Durkon realizes Thor can't and won't help him and puts his faith in the man he respects the most.Durkon: What would Roy do?
- Even though he's the one who killed Durkon, Malack still puts Durkon's body in a respectful pose, with his hands crossed over his holy symbol. Though this may be diminished somewhat by the vampirification of said body that happens almost immediately after.
- He also honors Durkon's last wish, in a way, by letting Belkar live and telling him to get the rest of the Order out of there.
- How about going out of his way NOT to hurt Mr. Scruffy?
- Even after realizing that the Order is hiding behind an illusionary wall, he chooses to continue honoring that wish by not calling attention to them.
- Also, Belkar trying to rush off and tell Roy about what just happened even though most of his blood has been drained, and he's too weak to stand. So instead he starts crawling.
- And his reaction to Durkon dying and being raised as a vampire after Hold Person wears off. He's freaking the fuck out about it.
- In its own way, Belkar telling Roy what happened qualifies for this trope, since it's clear he takes it entirely seriously."How could this possibly be a joke? Where's the punchline? (...) But trust me, there's nothing funny about it. He just walked in there and saved my life and got straight up murdered for it."
- Strip #887. Even knowing it's All Just a Dream, it is full of heartwarming moments, such as Durkon being resurrected, Elan and Nale making peace while their father looks happily, Roy's dad finally entering heaven, Elan being with Haley and Roy with Celia....
- Strip #888, "Dream Wedding", somehow manages to be this, Tear Jerker, and a Funny Moment all at the same time. Elan just really wants his family to be happy together. That even includes Nale and the rest of the Linear Guild.
- The exact moment crossing over into both funny and heartwarming is the panel revealing that Tarquin is the one getting married and not Elan. It makes the fact that he was comforting Elan for three panels even more heartwarming than it already was.
- For pure heartwarming, notice that the person right next to Vaarsuvius is Inkyrius, their recently divorced mate.
- Belkar's and Mr. Scruffy's shared fantasy, while assumed by Roy to feature stabbing, whores and whores stabbing whores who stab whores, was Belkar preparing fish for Mr. Scruffy, while Lord Shojo pets him. Proof that Belkar's undergone so much Character Development that all he really wants is to be a real person.
- Elan managing to get the team out of their slump with good old fashioned hope.
- "And Elan? Good job. And I'm sorry I snapped at you earlier."
- What's even better is that before this, everyone was worried that the because of the whole Unspoken Plan Guarantee the comic tends to lean towards, the story was going to have a total Downer Ending. Elan isn't just assuring his team that things will work out, he's assuring the fans.
- Zz'dtri helps Nale come to his senses despite Malack telling the Drow to abandon him after he falls victim to the Lotus-Eater Machine.
- 901. The Monster in the Darkness saves the four remaining Order members from certain doom tricking Redcloak and Xykon to their faces with a Genre Savvy sounding dose of Blatant Lies. Why? They're pals with O-Chul. And so is he.
- Despite now being evil and thus it not working properly, Durkon still goes instinctively to heal an injured Roy. Daww...
- Nale's reaction to Durkon injuring and subsequently killing Z is to try and force Durkon off of him and furiously demand that he doesn't suck his blood. While this is what get Z killed, it's touching to know that, like his father, Nale does care for his longtime friends and employees. Just before this, there's another moment of heartwarming, in which Nale and Z offer friendship to Vampire Durkon as well as employment.
- Elan mourned his brother's death, even after all Nale had done. Sabine's reaction to Nale's death as well.
- "I'm not the leader of my team, Dad. Roy is, and he's the best hero EVER."
- Vaarsuvius shaking theirself out of their Heroic BSoD to help their friends. And the simple fact that Vaarsuvius refers to the Order of the Stick as friends in the first place. Not to mention including Blackwing in there.
- Unlike Tarquin's raising of Nale, Laurin is shown to deeply care for her plumber daughter, and works with Tarquin mostly for her sake, so she can have a normal life.
- Elan stating that if Tarquin wants to get at Roy, he'll have to go through Elan. Sadly, Tarquin was all too willing to do so...
- In #932, Julio offhandedly reveals that he's crashed the wedding and stolen Tarquin's wives so many times he's running out of new ideas how. Given who Tarquin is, that's really sweet of him. The revelation of the connection between Tarquin and Julio makes for a retroactive one. Julio noticed Elan's physical similarity to Tarquin the moment they met, and given the captain's own level of Genre Savviness, he probably at least suspected that he'd get drawn back into Tarquin's business if he helped Elan. And he still took the kid under his wing anyways.
- Belkar, of all people, asking Vaarsuvius to save the polymorphed allosaurus solely out of concern for its safety. And before that, V ensuring that Mr. Scruffy gets rescued.
- After their battle with Laurin, the first thing V does is ask if Blackwing (who got zapped for attacking Laurin's face) is all right, and then gently picking him up when he admits to them that he's hurt.
- Roy promising Elan that they're going to come up with a plan to deal with Tarquin after dealing with Xykon. ...Then Elan ruins the moment by "mentally workshopping" sequel titles.
- When Roy learns that Durkon needs to feed on blood at least once a night, he suggests that Durkon prepares at least one Restoration spell each night, so that he can feed on someone and then heal them, and volunteers to be fed on by his friend. And then Haley and Elan volunteer to pitch in as well.
- During a stopover in Tyrania, Haley attempts to convince her father to leave the continent with the Order due to the bounty placed on his head. Ian refuses, not wanting to be a burden, instead accompanying Amon-Zora's resistance against Tarquin.
- As they prepare to part ways:Ian: You've got your own path to follow now. Your own chance at being better. Go make your mother proud.
Haley: But what about you?
Ian: [smiling] Go make me proud too.
- Also how Elan shares with Ian his plan to take down Tarquin, and he is genuinely impressed. In fact, he finally compliments him and is starting to see that Elan isn't as bad as he first believed.Ian: Not bad, kid. Maybe you're not a diabolical sleeper agent out to infiltrate my family and destroy everything I've worked for.
Elan: Truly, that's all any man can hope to hear from his girlfriend's father.
- As they prepare to part ways:
- When V shares with Roy everything about the Familicide, Roy draws a comparison with his own situation when his little brother died and tells V the same thing someone else once told him: that when you screw up, especially when you know you have screwed up, trying to make it right still counts. Roy admits to being uncomfortable with giving V any advice regarding the morality of V's actions, as he's a Fighter. By his very nature, Roy's at home fighting battles and coming up with combat tactics, not dealing with philosophical issues. V states point blank, "I respect your integrity. I would thus still value your opinion." Those two sentences show clearly how far the formerly arrogant elf has come.
- In the end, what did Laurin cash her favor from Tarquin in for? The rift left over from Girard's Gate, which she saw as a portal to a plane full of water. It would allow her to set up a new city (recall she's angry that the elves have all the habitable land on the continent, forcing the humans and lizardfolk to fight over the scraps), and give her daughter the job of a lifetime.
- When the tentacles that may be the Snarl break through the rift, what does Miron do first? Try to pull Laurin to safety.
- While kept prisoner in his vampire body's mind, what does Durkon do? Remember his mom. It becomes a tearjerker in hindsight, because when she holds onto a dwarf dangling over a cliff, she says "Di. Nae. Le. Go" — an In-Universe Call-Back to her never letting go of her husband, which is how she lost her arm.
- In the first panel of #950, Mr. Scruffy and Bloodfeast are asleep, snuggling together. D'awwww. Later, in #1012, all of the pets are sleeping together: Mr. Scruffy is asleep leaning on Little Whiskers, with Bloodfest dozing at his paws, while Blackwing had been sleeping atop him. When Blackwing is Blown Across the Room by the Exarch, Bloodfeast is concernedly nudging him to see if he's okay.
- Belkar's continued insistence that the vampire they're dealing with isn't really Durkon is quite sweet. He's not taking the easy road and just going with it as if nothing's changed (and as the only Evil member of the team he's probably the only one who really gets it), instead he's willing to fight for the friend that died for him even when it makes the other members of the Order think he's lost his mind or is just being stubborn and unhelpful. For someone who's been working so hard to fake character development to get in their good graces and stay alive, that says something. Belkar realizes that he's been faking Hidden Depths so much that he's actually developed them.Belkar: People don't just change who they are inside in an instant. It doesn't work like that. It takes time, so you don't even know you're changing. Until one day, you're just a little different than you used to be and you can't even tell what the hell happened.
- V giving Belkar the Psionic dagger is a small moment diluted by a Funny Moment.
- Comic #969 looks to be another piece of evidence in the "Belkar's fake Character Development is turning real" arc. When browsing a female gnome's goods for something to give him shielding against those pesky Dominate Person spells he's so awful at resisting, she gives him a clasp enchanted to cast Protection from Evil, which, naturally, inflicts considerable pain on him. Rather than let her throw away the "defective" clasp, he buys it from her for half-price, something that she is extremely grateful for, as it costs thousands of gold pieces to make a single version of the clasp she was offering him. In her gratitude, she invites him on a dinner date, which he turns down. Compare that to his casually sexist treatment of the human bard towards the end of the Greysky City mini-arc. When you think about it this becomes heartwarming for a different reason. Belkar offered to buy the 'defective' clasp for half price not because he was being nice but because the gnome woman was going to get more to try, which would lead her to realize that the original wasn't defective and that Belkar was of Evil alignment. His defensive speech to Mr. Scruffy reveals that the reason he turned down her offer of a meal was because her grateful offer made him feel guilty over how he'd tricked her. Character Development indeed.
- Comic #976 has the one appearance married gnome couple get the happy ending they needed despite being on hard times thanks to Haley and Bandana needing adamantine weapons.
- When Haley tells Golem!Crystal about her relationship with Elan, her response is a surprisingly genuine, malice-free, "(HE) SEEMED NICE." Quite possibly the kindest thing to come out of her mouth.
- Why did Durkon originally start studying to become a cleric? He wanted to learn how to heal his mother's lost hand.
- In strip 990, V defends Belkar's distrust of Vampire!Durkon to Roy, pointing out the hypocrisy of him disregarding Belkar's logical argument in favor of Roy's gut feeling.
- There's something heartwarming about Roy having Belkar coming along in #993, in that as much as Roy thinks Belkar is full of it in his suspicions, he's not going to dismiss his fears and have him come along (thanks to V earlier). Also, all the animal companions resting in a room together.
- Belkar, formerly someone who had trouble with the concept of killing people being a bad thing, at the very least claims to be worried for the safety of other people that aren't part of the Order of the Stick.
- Given the whole conflict started with the goblins pulling a Rage Against The Heaven it's nice to see that most gods avert being Jerkass Gods during the Godsmoot, especially Thor who says they owe it to their followers to give them a chance at saving the world. Even those in favor of the Shoot the Dog are doing it more out of necessity than malice (aside from those who are are just lazy).
- In Strip #1000 Roy isn't mad because Durkon is now a cleric of Hel. He is mad because Durkon tricked him. Even if he knew Durkon was a cleric of an evil god, Roy would still support him. He also admits that Belkar was right. Not only that, but deep down Roy knew he was right the whole time and couldn't admit it to himself.
- In #1009 Roy has a moment where he's able to tell that Durkon isn't Durkon and breaks the hypnotism being used against him. Why? Because he knows Durkon better than the entity with full access to all of Durkon's memories.
- In Strip 1013, when Blackwing is blasted back by another dwarf vampire cleric, Bloodfeast comes over to see if he is okay.
- Likewise, Strip 1014 has Bloodfeast saving Little Whiskers from the same cleric as well as Blackwing's concern for his safety.
- Three more in Strip 1021 where, instead of being upset at Blackwing for causing one of V's scrolls to violently explode, V is both happy Blackwing is okay and proud of his creative problem-solving skills. In the same strip, Mr. Scruffy and Bloodfeast both check to make sure the other is okay, and Blackwing convinces V to get Little Whiskers help.
- The character of Wrecan was created as tribute to a late user of the Giant in the Playground forums. #1025, which will likely be his final appearance, gives him a nice sendoff, including a nod to the "number of appearances per character" thread that he started.
- His Rousing Speech is particularly heartwarming (with a bit funny on the end):Wrecan: It's up to all of us to save the world, right? I can't come with you, so this is how I can help.
Roy: I'm...I wish there had been more time. To get to know you better.
Wrecan: There's never enough time. Every day, one after another, until we wake up and it turns out that's the day our world ends. You have to do what you can, when you can —- because who knows if tomorrow is even happening, you know? Now get on your flying boat and stop a crazy dwarf vampire from committing election fraud!
Roy: Yes sir!
- Even more touching: the poster's real name was Mark. The strip was titled "Mark Of Distinction."
- His Rousing Speech is particularly heartwarming (with a bit funny on the end):
- "Trust me." "Always."
- Oona seems to genuinely like The Monster In the Darkness, giving him some advice and even saying that if the rest of Team Evil die, she could take him as a new animal companion. She even compliments his new umbrella. In hindsight, the fact that her worg, Greyview, is such a sour pessimist, makes the fact that he breaks his scowl, closes his eyes, and wags his tail when she hugs him rather sweet too.
- Monster in the Darkness returns the friendly feelings, with a bonus extremely rare Pet the Dog from Xykon.Xykon: Is anyone feeling especially lucky tonight?
Monster: I'm feeling lucky to have new friends like Oona and Greyview, does that count?
Xykon: Close enough!
- Monster in the Darkness returns the friendly feelings, with a bonus extremely rare Pet the Dog from Xykon.
- Strip 1041. Here we see just how much The Monster in the Darkness values his friendship with O-Chul and the lessons he taught him. Not only has The Monster in the Darkness saved the Order of the Stick because they were O-Chul's friends, now he's begun to actively sabotage the efforts of Team Evil.
- Strip 1042. O-Chul bought a set of Go stones, in hope that he'd be able to play against the Monster in the Darkness again.
- Strip 1046: Eugene Greenhilt is being his usual pessimistic apathetic self, claiming that he should have done something more productive like research spells or kill Xykon than have a family. Meanwhile, Vaarsuvius is looking longingly at a picture of Inkyrius, immediately proving Eugene wrong.Eugene: What wizard worth his or her salt could look back and conclude that all that relationship stuff wasn't a huge waste of time that would've been better off devoted to study?Vaarsuvius: (is doing exactly that)
- Strip 1089: On the day of her son's ordainment, Sigdi plays the part of a proud mother, but she's also worried. Her friend Shirra had purchased a dress for Sigdi to wear to the party, and Sigdi intends to repay her for it. Shirra immediately insists it's a gift, and invokes dwarven honor note for Sigdi to accept it as such.
- Strip 1096: When the Order hears the true reason why Durkon was exiled from his homeland, even Vaarsuvius looks shocked.
Roy: You've met Durkon! I'm pretty sure if you'd told him it would help innocent people, he'd break his leg trying to boot his own ass out the door!
- There's also Roy's reasoning on how pointless it was that Durkon was never told the reason why he'd been exiled.
- Strip 1098: Despite being a Naytheist who believes the gods don't collectively prioritize the interests of mortals, Roy still gives Odin the benefit of the doubt in his intentions and deduces why exactly Durkon of all people was brought to their group, and everyone adds something... even Belkar.Belkar: I'm not going to say something poignant, so don't ask. (under his breath)... He didn't blame me.
- Strip 1114: As much as she wants revenge on Durkon for using her and throwing her away (as she sees it), Hilgya's nr 1 priority has always been her infant son. She went out of her way to create an independent life for herself, allowing her to raise Kudzu while also continuing her mission. She even avoided Chaotic Evil solutions to her problems, normally condoned with glee by her patron God Loki, because the side effects might harm the vulnerable Kudzu.
- Strip 1123 has a slightly subtle one: when dominated by Vampire!Durkon, Belkar immediately follows his previously-given order of "protect V" (although, thanks to the domination, he was actually attacking a cleric trying to heal V). Bear in mind, this is Belkar, who for almost the entire strip, has hated (or at least not gotten along with) V, and even under domination, he's still trying to protect him/her. The vampire who dominated him even notes that he barely needed a push to carry out the order!
- The last memory Durkon shows to the High Priest of Hel, told over the course of several strips (starting from Strip 1121). On his first day of work, Durkon saw his mother Sigdi's name on the list of donors who made large contributions to the Temple. That evening at dinner, Durkon asks Sigdi about this, considering that they're currently going through financial troubles. It turns out, that after the encounter with the dragon-blooded troll that took Durkon's father and Sigdi's arm, one of the soldiers managed to nab a treasure chest full of gemstones and gave it to Sigdi while she was recuperating. Later, a poison gas leak occurs, killing several dwarves, five in particular having died with no family to claim the bodies and all bound for Hel due to a dishonorable death. Sigdi, despite not even knowing these five dwarves, donates all the gemstones so that they can be raised from the dead. These five dwarves would later become Durkon's honorary family (as seen in all the previous flashbacks). This story is what inspires Durkon's belief in honor and duty, even when you don't enjoy it.
- I ne'er let go.
- There's also what Tenrin's doing in his final moments. Rather than panicking or trying in vain to save himself, he is simply smiling lovingly at his wife before the end.
- One of Sigdi's reasons for choosing not to resurrect Tenrin is the fact that, since he died a hero, he is currently in Valhalla with Thor. She couldn't bear to rip her beloved husband out of paradise, even if that meant living without him and raising their son alone.
- Strip 1130 has Durkon weaponizing a lifetime of Heartwarming Moments against the High Priest of Hel, by unleashing all the complex feelings he has had since learning his mother's secret, how he draws strength from the memory of his mother using the worst day of her life to make it the best day of five other lives, and how he has since used his worst day to ensure that the world is safe from monsters like the Priest, proving once and for all that he has and always will be the faithful, wise, compassionate cleric we have loved all this time.Durkon: TAKE 'EM ALL! B'cause it took me whole life ta unnerstand tha moment - an' I still have mixed feelin's aboot it some days! So take ev'ry moment o' happiness! Ev'ry moment o' peace an' belongin' an' contentment! Ev'ry moment spent wit a family who loved me, a family who woulnae even exist witout her pain!But be careful. B'cause ye know wha ye are if'n ye haf me body an' all me joys an' sorrows?Durkon and the Priest simultaneously: Yer me.
- Look really close at the torrent of memories; the upper-right-most memory is Durkon officiating a marriage for his Honorary Uncle Hoskin, as he'd jokingly mentioned back in strip #1086.
- You can also see other happy moments like Durkon's birth (second from top left), being given a piggyback by Kandro and giving a piggyback to what might be Shirra's twin children, playing with his friend Logann, meeting with Logann and his daughter, learning to play an instrument with Thirden... it truly gives the feeling that the five people his mother saved were family.
- Strip 1133. Minrah is dead, and Belkar has staked vampire Durkon, releasing his spirit to the afterlife, where he meets Minrah, who notes that she died the first time she encountered something more dangerous than a kobold, and didn't contribute much to the fight. But Durkon notes that she indeed distinguished herself, having Jumped at the Call on short notice in the middle of the night. It's enough to cause this dour and distrusting woman to smile.
- The two also discuss the possibility of Durkon being resurrected. They acknowledge the improbability of the scenario given the circumstances of his death, but it still gives a glimmer of hope to the many readers worried that he was Killed Off for Real.
- Durkon saying he primarily wants to come back not because the world is at stake but because he doesn't want his son to grow up without knowing him, realizing that's probably what his own father would have done if Sigdi tried resurrecting him.
- Thor finally getting a chance to converse with Durkon after the latter rages about the Snarl (since he couldn't talk to Durkon about the Snarl without him knowing about it).Thor: Oh, good. I'm so glad to hear you say that, Durkon. Because seriously, dude, we need to talk.
- Thor appears to know every last one of his followers by name. He also recognizes their individual achievements, knows what they've been worried about, is willing to keep quiet about things they'd rather not discuss before their fellow dwarvesnote , is astonishingly casual around his followers, and when speaking to them, shrinks down to the size of an adult human rather than maintain a towering size or even just a mildly giant figure.Minrah: ...This is the best thing that's ever happened to me.
- The fact that he takes care to not embarrass Minrah especially stands out. The rest isn't so much of a surprise, we already knew he was easy-going and open-minded - but that Thor of all people is capable of being tactful? That's worth an extra "awwwwwwww!"
- He then tells Durkon that he needs him to fight one last battle for him - but that he didn't consider asking until he heard him wish to go back. Minrah and Durkon point out that, seeing that they are his servants, Thor could have ordered him to do so, but he says he would have felt horrible. And he also pre-clears Minrah to enter Valhalla whenever she's ready, including a drink ticket for being killed by a follower of Loki.
- In 1137, a brief line that's almost too cute but still heartwarming.Minrah: (on riding Thor's back as he flies) I have literally had this dream at least a dozen times!
- In 1139 "To Remember Them By" we see that the current world is not the second world that the Gods created, as readers were previously lead to believe, but merely another one in a countless series of worlds, with a gravestone marking each one's passing. So many worlds have either been consumed by the Snarl or destroyed by the Gods before the former could happen, that the gravestones blot out the sky, and quickly become indistinguishable from each other. And yet, the Gods created a gravestone for each one, and Thor notes that the first world even had a memorial dedicated to it, implying that they hold one for each world that gets destroyed.
- The Gods didn't just make a gravestone for each world; they never stopped making new ones. Even with billions of reminders of their failures literally hanging over their heads, they never gave up on the hope that the next world could be the one that lasts. The Order of the Stick only exists in the first place because their entire world was built on hope, as was every world before.
- In "Better Left in the Past", Durkon becomes overwhelmed by the recent revelations and seems ready to pass the Despair Event Horizon, accepting the destruction of the world as inevitable. Thor responds by saying that in actuality, there's actually a chance now to break the pattern, and that he'd never tell Durkon all this if it really were hopeless, citing that he's not a Jerkass God.
Thor: Your time was too short, Laser-Snail.
- Thor remembers every single one of those dead worlds, and each of those who worshiped him. He even names a few of them.
- Thor giving Durkon the ultimate mission to convince Redcloak to help the gods' cause. Durkon initially refused saying he's not much a diplomat, but Thor gives him some much needed encouragement with a smile.Thor: Oh? The guy who just talked a vampire into a nonexistence thinks he's bad at persuasion?Durkon: Och, tha were a special circumstance.Thor: Good news! This is literally the single most special circumstance ever. You'll do fine.
- Durkon finally learns the reason for his exile. And while the rest of the Order was horrified and disgusted, Durkon is ecstatic to learn that his forced departure from home wasn't just a random whim.note Durkon: Fer twenty years, I been worried Hurak had picked me by chance— an' now at least I know thar were some logic ta 'is callous incompetence! Ha ha ha!
- When Odin is reminded of his plan to get Durkon exiled, setting him up for his destiny, he's confused, stating that a plan like that "Sounds kind of mean, honestly." When Thor insists that it did happen, Odin states that he trusts his son. His memory may be going, but this Odin seems to be much nicer and more caring than other interpretations.
- Although Thor can't do anything to help Durkon directly, he does tell him something that his people had forgotten a few generations ago... Which turns out to be code for "I'm gonna let you borrow Mjolnir for a while."
- Minrah turns back from Valhalla, deciding she's not done with the fight, or done living. Thor letting her knock back a few while waiting just reinforces her faith in him.Minrah: You are the best god.
- Durkon's entire heartfelt apology to Hilgya, culminating in a marriage proposal, is incredibly sweet from beginning to end and shows that Durkon has indeed undergone more Character Development since the comic's inception than is commonly appreciated.
- When Hilgya kills Durkon (intending to resurrect him again), Belkar is the most pissed off. Talk about Character Development.
- Durkon calls Kudzu a "beautiful little boy", and reaches out to him — Kudzu reaches back, with a fascinated expression on his face. When Hilgya slaps his hand back, Kudzu looks annoyed.
- #1150: After being deceased, vampirized, and imprisoned in his own head for over five years in real life time, Durkon is finally alive again and the Order of the Stick is completely reunited for the first time since they visited Girard's Pyramid.
- The next strip has Durkon thank Belkar for giving him the idea to feed the vampire key moments to force him to Go Mad from the Revelation, at which point Belkar asks (albeit obliquely) about shifting from evil to good.Belkar: Those weak posers can't handle intense hardcore introspection.
Durkon: Och! Aye, aye, they dinnae haf tha guts to face tha mirror!
Belkar: I'm sorry I hit you in the face with a palm tree that one time.
Durkon: Ultimate extreme apology accepted.
- The next strip has Durkon thank Belkar for giving him the idea to feed the vampire key moments to force him to Go Mad from the Revelation, at which point Belkar asks (albeit obliquely) about shifting from evil to good.
- #1152: Durkon and his mom meet face-to-face for the first time since Durkon's banishment. (Face-to-face being the operative word - as Durkon's been contacting his mom through Sending once a week since he learned the spell.)
- Elan: Aww, look at that. Critical hit in the heart!
- Sigdi quickly demonstrates herself to be quite the Doting Grandparent to Kudzu, and in the next breath tells Hilgya that if she ever hurts Durkon again, Sidgi will end her.
- It's notable that Kudzu looks a bit unsettled at being held by a total stranger... then almost immediately reverts to his Cheerful Child persona. He can already tell his grandmother loves him.
- Sigdi (understandably) assumes that Hilgya is Durkon's wife but is perfectly cool with the one night stand, only checking if Durkon "behaved badly" during it. Hilgya, for the first time, does not badmouth Durkon. Instead, she calls it water over the tunnel.
- It's heartwarming mixed with funny when Haley tells Durkon that she wants to be Sidgi when she grows up, due to Sidgi's magnificent Passive-Aggressive Kombat.
- Sigdi quickly demonstrates herself to be quite the Doting Grandparent to Kudzu, and in the next breath tells Hilgya that if she ever hurts Durkon again, Sidgi will end her.
- Strip #1162 perfectly mixes Heartwarming with Awesome; when Durkon and his party attempt to stop Hel's plan, Sigdi asks her friends to help them. Cue at least eighteen dwarves showing up to the fight, armed to the teeth and ready to battle (along with two bards, lutes at the ready and a spellcaster), with Hoskin and Thirden leading the charge. For added heartwarming, their respective lines?
- Hoskin: We got yer message.Thirden: We brought the whole family.
Blackwing: "Dwarves are weird."
- For added icing on the cake?Sigdi: I got all tha hands I'd ev'r need already.
- What is even more touching is that those five friends had no one before Sigdi resurrected them, being unclaimed bodies, and used their second chance at life to start a family of their own the size of a small army. A family that wouldn't even exist if Sigdi didn't sacrifice her treasure as Durkon put it before.
- To add to that, the death of Kandro comes off as a surprise to the Order, but not his family. In fact, they show delight that he was able to die with an axe in hand, battling a monster to save the world. In other words, he earned a golden ticket to Valhalla. He only got the chance to do this because Sigdi gave him one, decades before with the sacrifice of the jewels for his raising. His own family even comments that he 'barely made it' and one states that he was "halfway to pickin' a fight wit' him just so e'd would die wit an axe in i's hand," just to give him a chance at the best Dwarven afterlife. Blackwing's comment?
- In the next strip (#1163), Durkon is greeted by his cousin's brother-in-law's niece's fiance, who mentions it's nice to have a face to put to all the stories. This is firstly heartwarming in that the whole extended family talks about Durkon and passes on the latest news and stories. He hasn't been forgotten. Secondly, Durkon knows exactly whose fiance he's introducing himself as. Durkon knows exactly who his cousin's brother-in-law's niece is. He's even somewhat upset that her previous relationship fell apart (although, as the strip title assures us, they stayed friends).
- #1164: Belkar actually tries (in his own blunt, abrasive way) to convince Gontor's spirit to break free of the vampire spirit's influence. True, there was a magical barrier preventing Belkar from just stabbing him, but the fact that he even thought of trying is a far cry from the halfling we met at the beginning of the comic.
- #1165: Durkon's extended family continue to take the time to say "hello" to him, not having seen him in years and knowing he won't be staying long.
- #1176: Despite (probably) knowing by now that it won't mean a whole lot in her mind, Thyrm takes note when Hel overexerts herself yelling at her father, and advises her to take a rest, maybe do something that doesn't strain her to help take her mind off things.
- The next strip reveals that Loki is genuinely proud of Hel for having taken his bet — which he came up with just to "spice things up" and turned it into a way to overthrow Odin.
Loki: Bottom line: The only reason I'm not on Hel's side is because of the chance - however slim - of ending the threat of the Snarl. So if Hilgya's baby-daddy screws this up and that chance slips away? I will switch sides so fast you'll think it's halftime. And if it's too late and she starves before the next creation? The only thing you'll know for sure is that you'll never see me coming.
- He also shows his Papa Wolf side, stating that he should be on her side, and he's quite put off by the fact he's betting her life on the plan to permanently seal the Snarl.
- #1180: As Minrah decides to join the party and needs to pack and say goodbye Belkar and Roy decides to kill time getting drunk together. Given Roy still has the "he'll die under a year anyway" view of Belkar it's nice to see him go along with the halfling's idea.
- "Hold Up A Minute", where Hilgya and Durkon finally have something of a heart to heart, and it ends with a silent panel of Durkon happily holding his son for the first time.Kudzu: gla!
- Durkon doesn't even have to ask to hold Kudzu. Hilgya offers, albeit with an obligatory potshot at his deity. It is suspiciously tsundere.
- Insulting each other's deity, in this context, is basically using petnames for each other.
- Every time Kudzu looks in Durkon's direction, he has a happy expression.
- "You Can't Miss It": Vaarsuvius notes that technically, not only did everyone survive, they had -1 party deaths, as Durkon is restored. You can practically hear a certain Doctor shout, "Just this once, Everybody Lives!"
- "Somewhere Between Super and Mega": After Roy gives a rambling drunken speech and goes to sleep, Elan quickly puts a positive spin on it by pointing out that there was a time when Roy wouldn't have trusted them all enough to leave them to their own devices for an extended period of time. The fact that he's willing to do it now is a sign of how far they've all come.
- Afterwards, Haley states how proud she is of Elan for fixing the situation for Roy.
- "Perpendicular to the Sunlight": While everyone else is checking on the ship, practicing for the next fight etc., Roy is sleeping off his hangover in his bunk. What makes this heartwarming is some of the critters from his Bag of Tricks taking the time to tuck him in after he's passed out.
- Also special mention to Belkar asking Elan if he can get a recap too, slowly deciding to care about the quest beyond the violence he can cause and becoming more of a team player.
- Julia contacts Roy while he's waiting for the scouting party to get back. Turns out, she's working on a Sending improvement that lets the caster hold an actual conversation with the recipient - no taking turns with messages, and no word limit. Roy doesn't miss a beat in congratulating her for the accomplishment; given he knows Durkon was using the existing Sending spell to communicate with his mother, it's highly likely he sees the potential in the spell beyond the immediate tactical uses.
- Belkar and Minrah bonding, with her giving him a You Are Better Than You Think You Are speech, telling him that he can always be a better person if he just tries, regardless of what other people think. It actually works to perk him up, when he was previously despairing at his effectiveness on the team.
- Roy and Julia saying they love each other as they part.
- As the Order prepares to depart the ship, Roy tells Bandanna to leave the area rather than wait for them to return, as he doesn't want the crew caught in the crossfire if anything goes wrong.
- His backup plan for contacting the Mechane if V and Durkon get defeated but everything is otherwise successful? Julia. Not only does Roy trust Julia to pass along important news to the Mechane crew when they dock in Cliffport, but he trusts that Julia will complete her Greater Sending and contact him even after the Blood Oath is resolved.
- When Elan comments that any "long-simmering subplots" with members of the crew should be resolved now, two random crew members have a Love Confession. Elan clarifies that he only meant involving the Order members, before amending his statement and giving his encouragement.
- #1202 shows Haley giving Carol a hug goodbye, harkening back to when Haley said that it seemed like all her interactions with other women had been stereotypically negative Cat Fights (even with Celia), and later admitted she was tired of the trope being played out.
- Redcloak proves himself worth negotiating with as soon as Durkon makes the attempt. Undercut by his murderous attack on an envoy under a flag of truce.
Minrah: Durkon, did you forget to mention the thing with his god not surviving the gap to the next world?!
- First, under the assumption that an ordinary civilian dwarf is here to pay his respects to Kraagor, he gives Durkon the opportunity to run along without a fight.
- Second, once Durkon makes it clear he's not there to fight, Redcloak agrees to negotiate (and doesn't object to negotiating outside when Durkon makes his distrust of relocating clear).
- Third, he proves himself Not So Above It All by engaging in the comic's typical Seinfeldian banter even with a member of his most prominent opposition.
- Fourth, when Durkon asks what he and the goblins want, he's willing to spell out clearly what, exactly, he wants. Also props to Durkon as he intentionally wanted Redcloak to do this so they can both avoid Poor Communication Kills.
- Fifth, he proclaims that, so long as the "so-called demihuman" races address their issues and respect Gobbotopia's borders, the goblinoids will respect their borders in return.
- However, he decides killing one of the magic users in Roy's party is the best solution to his problems, endangering all of the goblins in Azure City/Gobbotopia, something pointed out by Durkon with his (almost) last words.
Durkon: I dinnae think it matter'd one 'e start'd talkin' aboot goblin welfare! How were I suppos'd ta know 'e'd be willin' ta get 'em all kill'd anyway!?
- Redcloak compliments Oona on her tracking skills, to which she is pleased by.
- When the Order arrives to rescue Durkon and Minrah, they have to decide the best way to make what could be their final fight. Every member adds their input, except Elan, who thinks he has no real say in this, only for Roy to ask him what he thinks of the situation as a bard before he makes the call. Minrah lampshades how she loves being part of a team that listens to each other and works together, unaware how far from the original group dynamic it is.
- When Roy thinks that Xykon (who appears to be unable to see the team) is ignoring him and writing him off as not "cool to murder", Belkar notes that with his glowing sword he's definitely cool enough to murder. It's a bit backhanded given the context, but still nice to see Belkar trying to back up one of his teammates.
- Serini reveals the reason for her disfigurement was after Xykon brutally injured her, the trolls she bought blood from helped her survive by dropping their blood on her. She claims it was because the trolls were her friends.
- The last of the strips that Rich did for Dragon Magazine before it switched to an all-web format has one too. After the party breaks the dragon out and saves it from being turned into electricity, we get this exchange:Dragon: Yes! The sweet taste of freedom! Thank you!
Roy: Eh, don't thank us, we just provided a largely symbolic gesture that doesn't actually change anything.
Haley: Yeah, we should be thanking you.
Dragon: For what?
- During one of the bonus strips of "Dungeon Crawlin' Fools", Order takes a break for some rations. Elan is unsatisfied with the rations that Durkon had brought. Belkar actually offers to share his own rations with him. The fact that this is BELKAR who does this makes it surprisingly heartwarming.
- At the end of the book version of Don't Split the Party, Elan welcomes Roy back to the land of the living with a five act rock opera about how much he loves Roy- emphasizing that no matter how much Roy disparages Elan's habits, Elan will always consider him his best friend. Although Roy is clearly annoyed once he finds out how long the play is, he decides to weather the whole thing since Elan spent so much time on it.
- Rich's final words on the Kickstarter book reprint project before fulfilling the rewards starts, from Update #28:Any way you want to analyze it, it's surprising. Certainly, I'm still shocked. There have already been media stories about it, and there will be more now that we've ended. And they'll talk about crowdfunding and what this success means to the future of blah blah blah. You know what? Screw that. This is between me and all of you. This is because you guys love the story I'm writing, and I love writing it. We made this thing together, and no one is going to replicate it, not exactly. Oh, sure, these records won't stand forever. Some won't even last a month. But it doesn't matter, because you didn't pledge money to me so I could beat a meaningless record. You pledged your money to me because you believe in me and my silly stick figure comic. And that is not something that is going to be mentioned in those media articles.
- The "Story Time" wallpaper shows Sigdi reading a bedtime(?) story to little Durkon. Aww.