Reformed, the Order of the Stick go to Girard's Gate. However, the Western Continent it's hidden on is a tense, unstable place, where the rulership of the many territories frequently changes hands. What's more, the pasts of several Order members, both distant and recent, choose that time to return.
- And Then John Was a Zombie: Once Durkon learns that Malack is a vampire, he is horrified and ends the friendship then and there, leading to a battle, which ends with Malack turning him into a vampire.
- Anti-Climax: Weaponized by Elan to finally sendoff Tarquin, who Elan knows wants a huge climactic father-son battle.Tarquin: "Elan! This arc isn't over yet! Where's the growth? You didn't lose anything! Nothing has changed! YOU GET BACK HERE AND GIVE THIS PLOTLINE A SATISFYING RESOLUTION THIS INSTANT! ELAN!... ELAN, THERE'S NO SENSE OF CLOSURE! ... I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! ... THIS IS A TERRIBLE ENDING!"
- Arc Villain: Tarquin, and his teammates the Vector Legion to a lesser extent. But don't tell Tarquin that.
- Avenging the Villain: Sabine gives Vaarsuvius a full scouting report on the Vector Legion once Tarquin kills Nale.
- Benevolent Boss: The Fiends take Sabine's tantrum in stride and just note that they'll take the damage off her salary, for fiends that's fairly reasonable.
- Bread and Circuses: How the Empire Of Blood operates. Lampshaded on a poster.
- Chekhov's Gun: Malack is a Daywalking Vampire because he has a Protection from Daylight spell, which he always prepares twice every day. When he vampirizes Durkon, he uses up one of his casts on Durkon as Nale watches. This provides the opening that Nale needs to kill Malack once and for all.
- Contrived Coincidence: It turns out that the territory the Order is looking for Girard's Gate in is ruled by Elan's Evil Overlord father, and it's the same dictatorship that's holding Haley's dad for ransom.Durkon: Geez, wha be tha chances o' tha??
Durkon: Och, right. Like, a hunnerd percent, in this comic.
- Dysfunctional Family: Tarquin and his sons, Elan and Nale. Tarquin is a control freak who wants to tell the greatest story ever with himself as the villain, Nale wants to usurp his father and doesn't care for storytelling tropes, and Elan deeply wishes they could all just get along despite knowing that there's little to no chance of it.
- Fatal Flaw: Several.
- Both Haley's father Ian and Girard have the flaw of Mistrust. Ian stays in prison despite Haley giving him a perfect opportunity to escape because she was with Elan (whom he doesn't trust because Elan is Tarquin's son), and Girard complicates the Order's job (finding the gate and thus saving the world) because of his mistrust of paladins.
- Nale's is Pride. His refusal to humble himself and take the chance for forgiveness that Tarquin gave him gets him killed.
- Tarquin's is his total inability to accept that he's not the Big Bad.
- Foreshadowing: Early on, Haley implies that a cousin of hers tried to frame someone for murder. It's written off as a joke, but her father Ian and Uncle Geoff's last scene reveals that it was Geoff who was helping Tarquin's mooks keep Ian from escaping, blackmailed into doing so by Bozzok.
- I Have to Go Iron My Dog:
Elan: Uh, Dad? Haley and I need to go... uh... have sex.
- Early on, Elan and Haley excuse themselves from Tarquin by saying they have to "give their pet orangutan a bath." Tarquin assumes they're just going to have sex.
- Later on, Elan just skips the euphemisms:
Tarquin: Well, you'll miss the big fight, but you do what you need to do.
Haley: Come on, V. And bring the cat, just in case.
- Is That What They're Calling It Now?: Tarquin takes Elan's excuse of him and Haley needing to "give their pet orangutan a bath" as a euphemism for sex. Then he starts in on it himself, saying he, too, can still "Bathe an ape," and asking them if they're done "scrubbing the monkey." By the time he suggests Elan "wash behind the ears," the poor bard is hopelessly confused.
- Killed Off for Real: Nale is killed by Tarquin in retaliation for killing Malack. To ensure he isn't resurrected, Tarquin's psion vaporizes his body. Needless to say, Sabine is pissed.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: One of the traps in Girard's lair is an illusion that traps the victim in their perfect world. ELAN of all people helps the Order break out when he realizes that his idea of a perfect world - his family reunited - is too impossible even for a Manchild like him to believe in.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Combined with I Always Wanted to Say That, when Tarquin reveals himself to Elan. Elan, in turn, says that growing up without a father was Worth It just for the dramatic reveal.
- Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Despite Tarquin's protests at the Anti-Climax, quite a lot changes in this arc:
- Nale is Killed Off for Real and Elan admits his dreams of a happy family with his dad and brother and mother are truly unrealistic, growing as a person.
- Vaarsuvius finally confesses their deal with the fiends to Roy so that Roy has a fuller understanding of the situation surrounding the Snarl, divorces their mate, and improves their relationship with Blackwing considerably.
- Durkon is killed and made a vampire and an agent of Hel while still pretending to be Durkon.
- The Snarl is now coming through a rift in the desert and attacks some people.
- There are strong hints that Belkar's fake character development has led to some genuine development as well.
- Not So Different: Tarquin is as self-absorbed than Nale and is just another Big Bad Wannabe, he can give the Order a challenge but compared to Xykon he is manageable.
- Shoot the Television: In a rage over Tarquin killing Nale, Sabine hurls a couch at the fiends' plasma screen television. They tell her it's coming out of her holiday bonus.
- Signs of Disrepair: Tarquin has a sign of Elan's name made from burning crucified escaped prisoners erected on a hill. The three prisoners at the bottom of the 'E' burn out, leaving to look like 'Flan'.
- Swapped Roles: In a brief gag, the Lawyers swap roles with the Flumphs by acting as a Living Crashpad for one of the characters. The Flumphs are then shown trying to pose as the two lawyers.
- Wham Episode: Plenty. just check this page.
- Wine Is Classy: Tarquin sips wine casually after some brutal acts.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Much of the arc is driven by Tarquin's very sincere belief that he is the main villain because he thinks Elan is the main hero. He does not react well to having this illusion challenged.
- Another good portion of the arc is driven by Girard Draketooth believing that Soon, a paladin, would break his oath, and passing his distrust of anyone outside his family down through said family, both things complicating the Order's mission.
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle!:
- Girard purposely gave Soon Kim, and by extension, the Sapphire Guard and the Order, the wrong coordinates to the Gate because he believed Soon would use the threat of the Snarl as an excuse to invade his home.
- Then subverted, with Girard's final double-bluff — a pillar in the center of the pyramid proclaiming, "Sorry, your gate is in another pyramid." Which turns out to house the gate.