- Start of Darkness— The second scene consists entirely of Redcloak's entire family save Right Eye being massacred by the Azure City Paladins. No wonder he hates paladins so much.
- Start of Darkness — when the wizard Dorukan rages against Xykon for his imprisoning the soul of Lirian within a magic stone. Of course Xykon ends up kicking his ass and imprisoning him within the very same stone, where Dorukan's soul meets up with Lirian's.Lirian: Dory? Dory, is that you?
Dorukan: Yes, my love. I've failed. It looks as if I am to share your prison forever now...
Lirian: No, no... not a prison anymore. (they embrace)
- As they are together, you can also interpret it as a Heartwarming Moment, though.
- The climax of Start of Darkness, particularly Right-Eye's last words. "Goodbye, Brother." "Goodbye... Redcloak." Major Downer Ending.
- Especially since he called him Brother or Big Brother throughout Start of Darkness. Until he lies dying as a result of his betrayal. Then it's just "Redcloak".
- Also because throughout the story, Right-Eye criticizes Redcloak for not correcting Xykon on his name, since he considered the nickname to be a demeaning sign of domination.
- Lampshaded in #84 — although it doesn't show on the page, the title of the comic is: "Saddest. Comic. Ever."
- While it's not dwelt on much, Soon Kim losing Mijung qualifies. According to the Giant, he grieves her until his own death, and it appears that insulting her memory is what ticked him off almost enough to attack his own party members (sure, there was probably a lot more built-up stuff, but that might have been the straw that broke the camel's back). Soon really loved his wife.
- It gets worse if you remember what happens to the victims of the Snarl: they're Deader Than Dead, completely unmade. Soon cant even hope to meet her again in the afterlife, she's simply gone forever, like she never existed at all. No wonder Soon was willing to bind himself to the Azure City Gate and serve as a last-ditch defence rather than moving on.
- #131. Haley putting on her mask to the world...
- Internal Dialogue:Haley: But I'm a rogue...Haley: ...Hiding is my best skill.
- Also here, with Haley battling with her own sense of self loathing as the countdown comes for Southern Continent New Year, debating whether to risk kissing Elan, and by the time she hesitantly reaches out to him, some random Azurite has already grabbed him. The last line of the strip is in her (at the time) custom cryptogram, but says, "happy new year."
- This comic. Poor Durkon.
- This comic. And then later this.Elan: My evil twin brother is going to kill my— my Haley! And she's all unsuspecting and defenseless and, and, and Haleyish!
- Haley having to helplessly watch as Nale convinces Elan that she is evil. Well, until she gets her voice back, that is.
- After finding himself on the back foot in their duel thanks to Elan's Dashing Swordsman levels, Nale changes tactics and decides to hit both Elan and Haley where it hurts most: the feelings they haven't yet admitted to each other.Nale: Now, Haley! Sneak attack from behind!
Nale: Oh my, you really haven't realized it yet. I would have thought bursting in on the two of us "in flagrante delicto", as it were, would have made it clear.
Elan: Made what clear?
Nale: Don't you see, Elan? Your precious Haley is evil, just like me. She's been working for me all along. She's been my spy, infiltrating the Order of the Stick before you and I even met face-to-face. I learned of you from our father, and Haley and I orchestrated events to destroy you on every possible level.
Elan: That's silly. You can't really expect me to believe something so-
Nale: "Needlessly complicated?"
Elan: Oh. Right.
Haley: Des'ql rew we il obuupmr al. Lgfm, des'xl mew isdpmr wypv, fxl des???Cryptogram
Nale: No, darling, no point in hiding our relationship now.
Elan: You can understand her?
Nale: Of course! That's Infernal she's been speaking—the language of the devils. Naturally, we've been lovers for years. That kiss was merely our evil celebration of your demise.
Elan: I... I don't believe you. You're lying!
Nale: Come now, the signs are obvious.
Haley: Ufam vwxfpryw, yl'v gdpmr!Cryptogram
Nale: She can't control her wicked lust for wealth, can she? And that dress! Is that really the dress of someone who's NOT an evil temptress?
Haley: Yl iesryw al wypv uxlvv! Neal em, kesgu FMD keafm NYEEVL we klfx wypv wypmr?Cryptogram
Nale: She let you rot in prison. Shouldn't she have known? Wasn't she the smart one in the party?
Haley: Me! P'a mew! P'a vwsjpu! P'a ve vwsjpu!Cryptogram
Nale: Face it, Brother. This tramp has been playing you for months, you gullible sap.
Elan: Haley... This... isn't true, right? He's just making it up?
Haley: Ec nesxvl mew! Wypv pv fivsxu! P'a Nyfewpn Reeu! ... Pvy!Cryptogram
Nale: Well, I guess you have your answer there on her face. She does not look happy that I'm blowing her cover.
- And just as the doubts take root in Elan's mind, the embodiment of Haley's self-loathing shows up, and Nale just keeps making things worse for her. Until...Haley: Kyd fxl des gpvwlmpnr me ypa?? Yl'v wyl QPGGFPM!Cryptogram
Haley's Self-Loathing: He's listening to Nale because you don't have the ability to raise any objection, you pathetic sack of crap. Should have listened to me when you had the chance.
Nale: And you, dressed up like a little hero to save the day. Too bad your princess here has been laughing at you behind your back all along.
Nale: Oh yes. Laughing at you, not with you.
Haley: Me, P yfqpl'm!Cryptogram
Haley's Self-Loathing: Look at him, using that Bluff skill to turn Elan against us. Hey, don't you have ranks in Bluff? It's been so long, I barely remember.
Nale: The switch was Haley's idea, you know. She told me she couldn't stand to be near your incessant idiocy for one more day. [Elan looks crestfallen]
Haley: [in tears of growing panic] Des yfql we ilgplql al! Yl'v gdpmr!Cryptogram
Haley's Self-Loathing: Well, looks like this is it. The end. The curtain falls on your schoolgirl delusions of romance. Any hope of him loving you is shriveling up as we speak. Well, as I speak, at least.
Nale: Doesn't that just make you so... angry? [casts...] (Suggestion.)
Elan: [as the spell takes effect] Actually, yeah! It does! I went through all this to save you, and you were a bad guy the whole time!
Haley: [horrified] Kyfw?? Me! ME!!Cryptogram
Haley's Self-Loathing: Yup, listen to that. He's buying it. He thinks you're evil now. Told. You. So.
Nale: Very, very angry...
Haley's Self-Loathing: He'll never forgive you.
Elan: You're worse than Nale is!
Haley: [tears streaming down her cheeks] P nfm'w...Cryptogram
Haley's Self-Loathing: He'll learn to hate you.
Haley: ... wypmo...Cryptogram
Elan: I never want to see you—
Haley's Self-Loathing: And then he'll leave.
Haley: P nfm'w gevl ypa... P—P wyesryw...Cryptogram
Haley's Self-Loathing: Just like everyone else—
Nale: Angry enough to kill, even...
Haley: P wyesryw—Cryptogram I THOUGHT HE WAS YOU! [with a "snap!", the Suggestion spell breaks] I'M IN LOVE WITH YOU AND I THOUGHT I WAS KISSING YOU!!
[Haley covers her mouth as Elan stands in open-mouthed amazement]
- After finding himself on the back foot in their duel thanks to Elan's Dashing Swordsman levels, Nale changes tactics and decides to hit both Elan and Haley where it hurts most: the feelings they haven't yet admitted to each other.
- Played straight in #443. The line "Wait— why do I feel like we were supposed to be somewhere?" in the last panel of #444 just hammers it home.
- Three Words: "Oh Buddy Roy". Appropriately set to one of the most heartbreaking folk songs in human history.
- "Oh Buddy Roy" is even more tear jerking if you read it while listening to this video. Read along with the flute that starts out at about 1:18. It's heartbreaking.
- One of the forumites is an operatic tenor, and he recorded a rendition of the song which he posted on the site. It was gorgeous.
- Here's a rendition.
- Miko Miyazaki's last moments. Notably, this is one of only a handful of strips that doesn't have any jokes in it.
- These three strips. The Order left Haley and Belkar in Azure City, which is now under the control of Team Evil, and Roy is still dead. And that's the end of the third book.
- Also a Heartwarming Moment: Roy meeting his younger brother, who'd died very young, and playing blocks with himEric: Hi Roy! wanna play blocks with me?
Roy: (a tear running down his face) More than anything.
- Then you find out that they made the block castle 34 times without Roy noticing because he was enjoying it THAT much.
- Here, when Roy demands that his father never visit mom should he finally be allowed to enter the Lawful Good afterlife, Eugene agrees, easily.Roy: I don't know what's more depressing: That you agreed to that so easily, or that I knew that you would when I proposed it.
- At first, this strip just looks like a gag involving Roy being frustrated as he tries to communicate with Haley. But then you think about it, and about how normal she treats the whole scenario, and you realize that for months, she's been fighting and struggling on her own, and keeping herself going by talking to all that remains of her former leader and friend, because she cares about him that much, misses him that much, and needs him that badly. It's kind of sweet and kind of horribly sad.
- "Sweet Dreams, Monster-san." Extra bit of sadness on this page: the Monster in the Darkness specifically mentions Right-Eye as one of his friends, and that he hasn't seen him for a while. The MitD has no idea that one of the people he considers a friend is dead, and that the other people he considers friends are responsible.
- Therkla pays the ultimate price, and Elan is powerless to stop it.Elan: [tipping a potion into Therkla's mouth] Here, drink this potion of Heroism, it'll give you a bonus to your save. I just hope it'll be enough.
Therkla: Elan... Elan, wait, I need to say... something... I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I screwed everything up. I shoulda just... just stuck with you and attacked Kubota right away. I tried to have it both ways... to keep both you and him safe... but I should know by now... I should know that I'm not even allowed to have it ONE way. Not how my life works.
Elan: [singing] Resist, resist, resist, resist the deadly poison!
Therkla: [smiling] Hey, your music is green... like me. I never noticed... It was sort of worth it, though. I mean... I managed to get your arms around me, didn't I? Heh. That's all I really... all I really wanted...
Elan: Therkla? THERKLA? Therkla, listen to me. Durkon can bring you back. If you die, Durkon can raise you from the dead!
Therkla: ... Yeah? If he raises me from the dead... will you dump your girlfriend and be with me?
[Elan opens his mouth to speak, but his sorrowful expression says it all: he could never do that to Haley]
Therkla: No thanks, then... I'll take my chances that the Afterlife... won't have any punishment worse... than not being with you.
[her eyes close, and she sinks back to the floor, dead... just as Daigo returns with a double armload of now-useless clerical potions and scrolls]
- After Kubota's disintegration at the hands of Vaarsuvius, Elan reveals the details of Therkla's death and how he feels personally responsible. But Vaarsuvius doesn't care about it, and criticizes Elan for forgetting about Haley, which infuriates him. Commentary in the hardback books reveals that, while Elan may not have approved of V killing Kubota, he probably would have gotten over it because the man was evil. But V's treatment of Therkla appalls Elan and makes Elan, who once dressed up as a wizard because Vaarsuvius was so cool, want nothing more to do with the elf. Worse, when he tells V that he will inform Hinjo of what he did, the wizard threatens to kill Elan. While the implication is lost on Elan, the bard covers for V anyways.
- "To Say a Few Words". Elan's speech to Therkla. Particularly her tombstone.Elan: [standing by Therkla's grave] So, uh... I don't really know what I'm supposed to say here. Something about a dozen gods, I think, but I'm not sure. Right before you died, you said you were sorry. I'm sorry, too. I'm sorry that... I don't even know. That I led you to this somehow. Even more, I'm sorry that I couldn't save you. I just—I wanted to, but... ... No, there's no excuse. It's my fault. A real hero would have saved you. Roy would have saved you. I'm not a hero... I just play one in a comic strip. [smiles] I just realized that you don't know who Roy is, but he's awesome. You'd like him, he was big on loyalty and stuff. He's dead, too, so you guys have that in common. I miss him. A lot. [his smile fades] Everything is so confusing now. Ever since we left Azure City, I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing. I try to think about what Roy would do, but... I don't know, it doesn't always work. What would Roy do about Vaarsuvius? I don't know! I'm not smart enough to figure it out! Anyway, sorry again. You were nice, and you deserved a lot better. At least I could give you a totally kickass headstone.
[the view pulls back to reveal that Elan has used the giant petrified devil Qarr summoned as a headstone; in the final panel, we see the inscription Elan carved on the stone]
Therkla's Headstone: Here lies THERKLA ????-1184 She would have made a pretty cool girlfriend, too.
- And later, what Elan did in response.
- "To Say a Few Words". Elan's speech to Therkla. Particularly her tombstone.
- The Black Dragon may be Evil, but listen to her grievances against Vaarsuvius, and you can't help but think she had a point.The Black Dragon: My son was gone, along with our hoard! I later found out his very ashes had dissolved into the swamp. I had nothing left of him! And he himself was all that I had left of his father, who was lost to adventurers just like you - his skin made into armor for the party leader to wear.
- Vaarsuvius keeping the soul splice and leaving Inkyrius and their children behind to try and fix everything else.
- Inkyrius' words before Vaarsuvius leaves, aka the last words they speak to one another.Inkyrius: I think that we both know that this? This thing that you've become? This is always what you really wanted. More than you ever wanted me.
- Or just before. V remembers being invisible and unable to cast spells, bumping into terrified, fleeing soldiers on the way to the ship, and being forced to watch as they pleaded for V to help before getting torn apart by the horde of Hobgoblins...
- And later not contesting Inkyrius's request for a divorce to "let them live the peaceful life of a baker's family" rather than put them in danger.
- Inkyrius' words before Vaarsuvius leaves, aka the last words they speak to one another.
- O-Chul's final conversation with the Monster in the Darkness. And O-Chul's escape from Xykon's prison, and MITD's reaction, finally calling him by his name.O-Chul: You may not know exactly what you are, but I do.MITD: You do? Really? Then what am I?O-Chul: A good man. Farewell, my gentle friend.MITD: Wait, Mr. Stiffly! Come back! Mr. Stiffly! MR. STIFFLY! O-CHUL!!
- When O-Chul escapes, he takes out Redcloak's right eye. As punishment for his failure, Xykon forbids him from using Regenerate to restore his eye. So now he's got an eyepatch over his right eye and one working, left eye. In one comic, just before he gives a big speech, he is seen looking in a mirror. His reflection shows his face reversed, so he sees Right-Eye. His brother. And it dawns on you that that's who he'll see every time he looks at his own reflection. He just stands there looking at the mirror for a panel or two, and says, simply, "It'll all be worth it. You'll see."
- Xykon told Tsukiko to call Redloak "Wrong-Eye" whenever he stepped out of line, just to rub it in further.
- Elan's one-two revelation that his father is not only evil, but also highly savvy. Even worse, he's taking the rules of drama that Elan loves so much and twisting them to the evilest applications imaginable. The worst part is his last line, "we're going to tell the best story EVER!" Because, going by the rules, it's 100% true.
- Haley's reunion with her father Ian starts well, but then descends into letting his trust issues split them into separate ways.
- Also, the death scene of Haley's mother that started the guilt complex of her father in failing to save an important life.
- The last 3 panels of this page."No, Dad. I didn't mean what I said. You raised me well."
- The potion only works on lies.
- "What the hell is wrong with you, you stupid oaf? You moron! Kill me already!" Even Roy admits how wrong the scene is... and then Tarquin ends it.
- "Enor... don't you see? It has to be you. It has to be. You have the Victory String." Remember that 6 strips prior to this, Gannji had given him the very same string so Enor would have the bravery to face his opponent. Little did either of them know that they would face each other.
- And a little while later, it's revealed that even Belkar, the Order's Token Evil Teammate, was affected by it. Specifically, he released the arena's previously-featured dinosaur to disrupt the fight (which allowed Enor and Gannji to escape) because he heard Roy say that watching the two fight was like watching someone be forced to duel his own puppy. Cue Belkar's point of view, where he sees Enor's face replaced by Mr. Scruffy's head and his own head replacing Gannji's.
- Thanh and Niu during the fall of the Resistance.Niu: ...You're the bravest man I've ever met.Thanh: And you're the slowest woman. Run!
- Tsukiko may be an evil creepy murdering bitch, and probably did deserve what happened to her, but it's no less horrible to watch.Tsukiko: No! Stop! You don't have to do this, little ones! He just wants you to think you have to! You can- AAAGH!!- You can fight back! Resist! No! NO!! Don't you- AAAGH!!- Don't you understand? I love you all! I love you! I love you! Why don't... you love... me?
- Then a couple of comics later when Xykon's rounding up Team Evil to go after the next Gate he casually asks where "what's her name, the chick with the pig tails" is. No matter how colossally misguided it was, she did love him, and it's a little heart-wrenching to realize how little he thought of her. Especially as it happened because she was trying to provide him with concrete proof of two things that he really, really, really, would have wanted to know; A: that the Snarl won't give him the power he desires, and, B: that Redcloak is manipulating him. And she only did it because she genuinely loves him. Alas, Poor Villain.
- And when the rest of Team Evil finds out what happened to her, the only one actually upset about it is the Monster in the Darkness. When one of the Demon Roaches asks him why he's upset, he explains how sad it is that Tsukiko really just wanted to be loved. It's also possibly a bit of the You Bastard! to people who disliked her "thinks she's in a romance novel" character.Demon Roach: So what? Who cares?
MitD: Exactly. That's why I'm sad.
- While Elan is trying to figure out how to feel about his father:Elan: I thought it was tough to figure out how to feel about Nale, you know?
Roy: What's so tough? He's a villainous jackass!
Elan: But he's still my brother!
Roy: I think you're overemphasizing the importance of biological ties, Elan. Nale has tried to kill you three times!
Elan: I know that! But sometimes when I was little, I would walk in on my Mom crying about having lost a nail. And now, I don't think she was upset about missing hardware at all!
- Looking back since the last time we saw him, it's painful to revisit Thog's Type III Villainous Friendship with Nale and Sabine. Thog was the Linear Guild's humanising agent; most ancillary members basically thrived on their own evilness (with Nale in particular enjoying being petty and disproportionate in his revenge), and Nale and Sabine's relationship was based at least in part on murder and bloodletting, but Thog's constant childish and humorous antics prevented them from becoming serious villains. No doubt in part because of this, Nale and Sabine kept Thog around only as a meat-shield, when he genuinely considered them his friends. When Thog thought Nale was in danger, he tore his own prison cell apart to escape so he could rescue him; when Thog really was in danger, Nale abandoned him. Asshole. In fact, Nale was apparently too selfish to inconvenience himself to save an ally. The fact that Elan did is what tipped off Tarquin that he wasn't Nale.
- The consequences of the Familicide spell Dark Vaarsuvius used finally catch up with the Order: "The propensity of both dragons and humans to breed outside their species is well documented." The entire Draketooth family was related to a Black Dragon. Which will now prevent the Order of the Stick from directly finding the Gate. Even worse than that, Familicide did not only kill the Draketooths. It killed anyone that was related to them by blood. And the Draketooths happened to be scoundrels who propagated by seducing random bystanders and absconding with the resulting children. All those bystanders are now dead - along with every living member of their families! And there is no reason to believe that they're an isolated case. What really sells it is V's expression. The Order may forgive him/her, but s/he never will.
- And throughout V's explanation of why Familicide was so awful, we see a montage of several bystanders and their families being slain by it.
- When else have we ever seen V cry? Not when Inkyrius was threatened, not upon being served with divorce papers, not when seeing Inkyrius crucified on a tree as their children's legs were broken, and their house burned down. Not when the dragon said she would kill V's children or described exactly how she would do it, not as V reached the pinnacle of desperation trying to figure out how to stop it from happening. This hit Vaarsuvius hard.
- Then in #857, one of the mummified Draketooths gets caught in the pit trap that V is in. Since the last thing it heard was Nale telling Sabine that her trapfinding skill eroding wasn't her fault, the corpse falls on V and says, "Your fault".
- Failing her save against a Holy Word, Sabine apologizes to Nale and gives him some last advice, along with "I love you... forever." However, Nale was deafened by the same attack and can't hear her, so he doesn't understand what's happening.
- She also warns him not to do anything rash - and not to trust his father and cohorts. Foreshadowing as Nale decides to kill Malack.
- Even sadder since these are the last words she says to him while he's alive... and he can't hear them.
- While it's outside of the strip, Rich's injured hand and the responses people have given wishing him well.
- Mr. Scruffy's useless attempts to stop Malack from killing/vamping Belkar.
Malack: I suppose I always knew it would come to this.
- On a related note, Malack's desperate attempt to preserve his friendship and form a truce with Durkon, only to get rebuffed, partly due to his vampirism and partly due to the fact that Durkon refuses to stick to non-interference should his friends be endangered.
- Durkon's death. Belkar's gonna be pissed.
- Made either better or worse by the fact that he died happy, because it meant he was finally going home... as a vampire. What makes it especially sad is that he died mainly because he refused to compromise and he put his faith in the wrong people: Malack, who betrayed him but was willing to walk away, and Thor, who he worships wholeheartedly but who wasn't even paying attention when he died.
- In the aftermath of that, Belkar trying to rush off and warn the others, only to get vertigo due to his injuries. So he starts crawling.
- His shocked disbelief that he is still alive while Durkon is turned into a vampire. Deep down it really seems like he thinks his life is worth less than Durkon's.
- Before his fight with Malack, Belkar said that he had something to live for, which is why he will survive. Durkon's last wish before he died was for Malack to not harm his friends because they have more to live for than him.
- The strip also stands out as just the second in the comic's run with no jokes in it.
- Right afterwards: Belkar, barely alive, crawling back to the rest of the Order and breaking the news — and Roy almost attacking him, thinking it was another one of his tasteless jokes.
- Made worse on Belkar's side by the fact that Roy only comes around to believing him when Haley points out that she doesn't think he COULD make up a story of heroic sacrifice. Harsh.
- Made worse if you believe that Roy's anger isn't due to it being, well, Belkar, but due to his desperate attempt to deny what has happened to his best friend.
- As it is the first comic in which Durkon is absent ever since he showed up to save Belkar, it will also be the first one that will make you cry seeing the joint "Thanks, everyone" message from Roy, Haley, Elan and Durkon at the very end of the page (if it didn't start happening at the latter's actual death, that is).
- "He just walked in there and saved my life and got straight up murdered for it." Talk about tearjerkers...
- "This is it, isn't it? This is us losing. This is what us losing looks like."
- After Durkon dies, Roy is not pulling his punches. Elan's expression right after this exchange is especially heartrending:Roy: And as of now, we don't even have any spellcasters!Elan: Roy, I'm a spellcaster.Roy: YOU DON'T COUNT!!
- More unlikely Belkar tearjerkery action: Belkar acknowledges his own limitations and sociopathy, even seeming to lament them. This one line of dialogue almost lends a smidgeon of tragedy to Belkar's character."Hurting people is the only thing I'm good at."
- The reason he had to say such hurtful things? Durkon getting turned into a vampire crushed Roy's resolve. Roy, who was willing to keep going despite the insane odds, was ready to give up. That's how badly he was hurting. And the only way to keep him going was to hurt him again.
- Qarr taunting Vaarsuvius with the horrific consequences of his Familicide, using the term "history's worst mass murderer" as V is curled up in a ball sobbing. Blackwing isn't any help either since the only rebuttal he gives is that "history isn't over yet", which means that Blackwing technically agrees with Qarr. From the same comic, Vaarsuvius casually mentioning that "Master Thundershield" should have Raised one of the Draketooths by now. Cringe-inducing since we know how sad V will be upon finding out about Durkon. Possibly to the point of another Heroic BSoD if it occurs to V that it might not have happened had the Draketooths still been alive when the Order & the LG arrived at the pyramid, or if V had been present for Durkon's fight with Malack.
- It's clear from #885 that Roy is really guilt-tripping over Durkon's death.
- #887. Everything has gone wrong. Durkon's dead, V is lost, Tarquin and Nale are winning, and Xykon is on his way. The Order is surrounded on all sides, and there's no where left to run except unknowingly into a happy ending created by an illusion.
- The happy ending illusion itself. First, long-dead secondary characters are alive and well, due to the Order members not knowing that they're dead. Second, it's pretty obvious that the person (or someone if it's collective) whose illusion is shown would have preferred Durkon to be alive and Belkar to be dead rather than the other way around.
- Everybody under the spell gets their happy ending. Haley is shown rolling in gold and helping her father take over the Thieves' Guild, which Roy wouldn't know anything about. Elan makes peace with his family, something the other two don't see as a happy ending. Roy gets to rub his swords-are-better-than-magic philosophy in his sister's face, something the other two wouldn't know would be a part of his happy ending. Clearly, there is no one point of view; everybody under the spell gets their happy ending. Belkar is dead, but he's happily chilling out in Fluffy Cloud Heaven cooking yummies for Lord Shojo, who's giving tummy rubs to Mr. Scruffy.
- At Belkar's funeral, Roy and Varsuuvius are walking away. They don't care enough even to stay as long as Elan has.
- In the wedding scene, notice the crowd. That green-skinned baldy in a purple suit? That's Thog! The only explanation is that Elan and Thog's Odd Friendship held out long enough that one of Elan's wishes is that he stays alive. In reality, it seems at that point that he's dead. In fact, a good portion of the Linear Guild is there, including Zzt'dri, Sabine, Leeky, and one of the various Kobolds.
- Even Varsuuvius gets a happy ending and seems to be reunited with his/her mate at the wedding.
- And Belkar's "happy ending" possibly cuts the deepest; He was Lord Shojo's cook. Not only is it a peaceful life for a man who seems utterly devoted to meaningless violence, it's not possible even as an afterlife - Shojo is Chaotic Good, Belkar is Chaotic Evil; incompatible afterlives. And Roy unknowingly rubs it in, declaring he doesn't want to hear about Belkar's fantasies about "stabbing and whores, and whores stabbing whores who stab whores." It could be taken that even Belkar didn't know what he really wanted until that precise moment.
- What's even worse; NONE OF THIS CAN EVER HAPPEN! It's been shown multiple times in the comic that the Unspoken Plan Guarantee is almost a law of nature. The only plans that have a chance of happening, are the ones the audience doesn't know about until it's too late. This spell means none of what we see has a chance of happening. They won't be able to hold Redcloak down so Roy can fight Xykon. They can't throw Xykon's phylactery into the ocean/lava.
- In #888 is somehow both tearjerking and hilarious, as we see that Elan thinks it might be a good thing if his parents got back together... the imagery and dialogue are just hilarious, but the implications make you want to cry.
- In #889, Elan breaks the party out of the illusion by admitting the truth that he's been hiding from. He can never fix his family, his dad and brother are irredeemable and his dream of his family being together again will never happen.
- Belkar's and Mr. Scruffy's dream: the two of them and Shojo are living happily together, with Belkar cooking meals for them.
- A small but very gut-wrenching one as Roy sees the vampire Durkon for the first time. Another gut-punch as the newly freed from thralldom Durkon goes to heal Roy like he usually would in a situation like that... and ends up hurting him instead. Ouch.
- Small, and short, but Nale is horrified, angered, and hurt when Vampire Durkon just casually gives Zz'dtri a Neck Snap. The two were actually friends. Just a shame he didn't feel the same way about Thog.
- "Independent" sees the end of the line for Nale, and gives us a heartbreaking Alas, Poor Villain moment.
- Nale's monologue right before Tarquin stabs him to death. He only wanted to be free from his father's shadow. And as for Tarquin, you don't notice it at first due to his professionalism, but he takes a moment to confirm Nale's motives before resigning himself to killing Nale to avenge Malack. In fact, Tarquin explained to Nale that the arc was his chance to prove himself. Tarquin didn't want to go through with it, but he couldn't ignore Malack's death. It can also be read as Tarquin realising that Nale will never be his pawn and no longer holds any use for him. It doesn't really matter what interpretation you choose, both are definite tear jerkers. Finally, there's Elan's reaction...Tarquin: Do you care to explain yourself?
Nale: Not to you.
Tarquin: What the hell is wrong with you? Putting aside the years of friendship, do you have any idea how valuable an asset he was?
Nale: More valuable than me, right? That's why you were going to let him kill me.
Tarquin: No! OK, yes, I led Malack to believe that, but I told you before I left to collect the army: This was your chance to impress me. If you'd outmaneuvered your brother and secured the Gate, I would've had something to show the rest of the gang. I could've convinced them your rebellious days were in the past and you were too useful to let Malack kill you over petty revenge. He'd have had no choice but to accept their judgment, and this whole ridiculous feud would have been over.
Nale: So this was all another one of your cruel tests.
Tarquin: Are you even listening to me? I'm saying that I came out to this miserable desert for you. To give my son a second chance. [extends his hand toward Nale] Now come on, I'm sure I can smooth things over with Laurin. We'll have you up and running as part of the team in no time.
Nale: [smacking Tarquin's hand away] I don't want your handouts!
Tarquin: You'd rather I had just stood by and let Malack hunt you down?
Nale: YES! Malack was my problem, not yours! And I solved it my way, without your help!
Tarquin: [putting his hand to his forehead in exasperation] That makes no—I swear, Nale, I don't even know what you want from me anymore.
Nale: [livid] NOTHING! I want NOTHING from you! I am my own man, not some cog in your latest oh-so-clever scheme! I don't want your nepotism or your charity or your pity! I want NOTHING!
Tarquin: Is that really how you feel?
Tarquin: *sigh* As you wish, son. [the view pulls back to reveal that Tarquin has stabbed Nale in the heart; Tarquin's expression darkens as Nale falls to the ground] 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.
Elan: [horrified] NALE!!!
[Tarquin stands impassively over Nale's dead body]
- Also consider what Tarquin's last words to Nale are: "You would have been dead years ago, if not for my protection." All his life, Nale wanted to escape his father's shadow, and for those to be the last words he ever hears, a reinforcement (true or false) that he was never his own man, it's gotta hurt.
- Tarquin made a Freudian slip when told by Nale that his father and Malack were going to kill him anyway. In #849, Tarquin reassures Malack by telling him to look forward to the end of the mission. He was going to off Nale no matter what. His telling Nale that he was only appeasing Malack and was going to convince him to let Nale live later on was a lie, if this is true, though. In #914 Tarquin goes on about how Nale was just a B-class villain and that Elan had outgrown him, a sign that he has well and truly snapped. Tarquin's indifference to killing his own son makes it even more of a tear jerker.
- An additional component of this, and one that may or may not affect the sympathy of Nale's death, is that in the end his death was of his own making. As Tarquin tells Elan, the big reasons Nale fell short as a villain were his arrogance and predisposition to gloat. It was never enough for him to simply succeed and get away; he simply HAD to rub his victory in everyone's faces, even at the risk of undoing said victory. And the events leading up to his death were a textbook demonstration of that. He could have spun a plausible narrative that blamed Elan and co for Malack's death, which we know he's good at, but his pride simply demanded that he boast about it to Tarquin and his friends, with no thought given to how they would respond to his gloating or what happened next — as lampshaded by Tarquin, a world-class act of stupidity. And even when Tarquin flagellated himself trying to give Nale a way out of his impending demise, he refused it for no other reason than his ego wouldn't allow him to accept help from his father. Nale's worse instincts made his life needlessly painful all the way to the end, just like Tarquin said they would.
- Nale's monologue right before Tarquin stabs him to death. He only wanted to be free from his father's shadow. And as for Tarquin, you don't notice it at first due to his professionalism, but he takes a moment to confirm Nale's motives before resigning himself to killing Nale to avenge Malack. In fact, Tarquin explained to Nale that the arc was his chance to prove himself. Tarquin didn't want to go through with it, but he couldn't ignore Malack's death. It can also be read as Tarquin realising that Nale will never be his pawn and no longer holds any use for him. It doesn't really matter what interpretation you choose, both are definite tear jerkers. Finally, there's Elan's reaction...
- "Last in the Coffin" continues to twist the knife.Laurin: Good riddance.
Tarquin: Laurin, please. Give them a chance for some melodrama.
Elan: [as he and Haley run toward Nale's dead body] Nale! Come on, get up! Don't you want to hurt me or something? Look, my throat is all exposed! [kneels next to Nale's body] I know now that we were never going to be a family, but... he didn't deserve this!
Haley: Elan, he... kinda did. He was a terrible human being.
Elan: Yeah, but—how can I be made at him? What if it had been me? Raised here? Would I be the jerk and he be the hero?
Haley: I... don't know. [turns to glare at Tarquin] I do know your father is an ass for killing your twin brother in front of you.
Tarquin: Oh, please. I tried my best but he was never more than a B-list recurring villain and frankly, Elan's outgrown him.
Laurin: Eye for an eye. Malack's never returning. Neither's his killer. [disintegrates Nale's corpse, to Elan and Haley's shock]
Elan: *gasp!* [grasps hopelessly at Nale's ashes as they scatter in the wind] No! NO! Come back!
- To add to that, Tarquin saying that Elan would be the only one who didn't desire Nale's death... Cue the last panel showing a very pissed off Sabine who just witnessed her lover's death through the IFCC's TV set and apparently threw the sofa at the Teevo, destroying it.
Sabine: Knock 'em dead, elf.
- And later on, when Vaarsuvius' soul returns to their body:
- Sabine was banished downstairs earlier to Durkon's Holy Word, and her last words to Nale before she went was her screaming that she loved him but he was deafened by the same Holy Word. Those ended up being her last words to him... and he never even heard them. It doesn't help that Qarr hangs up on her when she calls and he never relays her words to him either.
- Reread "Happy Ending" and "Dream Wedding" knowing all this will happen.
- To add to that, Tarquin saying that Elan would be the only one who didn't desire Nale's death... Cue the last panel showing a very pissed off Sabine who just witnessed her lover's death through the IFCC's TV set and apparently threw the sofa at the Teevo, destroying it.
- "I'm not a twin anymore."
- Remarkably, Tarquin's attempts to salvage the situation seem genuinely pitiful. When he's barely clinging to the side of the airship, he offers to effectively bankroll the Order's entire mission. Roy would be in charge of an entire army, Elan would be the head of a small team (at which point Elan would be the Cowboy Cop to Roy's angry-black-captain), and they could deal with Tarquin in one of a few ways (one of which being to take him captive and effectively make him into Hannibal Lecter). Towards the end of it, it seems abundantly clear that Tarquin might actually care more about the 'story' than he does for his own life. He's not trying to convince Elan to join him, or to weasel his way out of a death he probably deserves. He genuinely believes in the life-as-a-story thing that Nale dismissed as an old man's eccentricity. He killed Nale because Nale valued his own selfish interests over the 'greater narrative good,' and he's horrified that Elan would effectively reject the role of protagonist.
- Following that interpretation, Tarquin is pathetic. He has no identity outside of his role, losing that is an attack on his entire worldview. He doesn't just want to be Elan's Archnemesis Dad, he needs to be Elan's Archnemesis Dad. It's a little sad that Tarquin, utter bastard that he is, is so completely dysfunctional.
- When Roy and Vaarsuvius are discussing the details and moral ramifications of V's Deal with the Devil and subsequent actions, Roy relates an anecdote about another wizard who got too reckless with his experiments. Putting two and two together, he is referring to the time his father accidentally killed his brother. The conversation also reveals that Roy blames himself for Durkon's vampirism.
- Durkon is not really the vampire - he's been trapped inside the whole time, watching the vampiric personality play his friends like fiddles while serving Hel. And Roy has no idea he's working with his friend's jailer towards the destruction of his friend's home!
- While Crystal was always a character that was easy to hate, getting brought back as a flesh golem that is constantly in pain instead of simply resurrected because Bozzok found out she'd be less easily distracted this way is enough to make one Cry for the Devil. And then Haley luring her out onto a trapdoor over a lava pit, and Bandana dumping her into the lava. There's absolutely no denying it was necessary, but it still hurts.
- The High Priest of Hel manipulating Roy into thinking he's really just evil-Durkon, not a dark spirit possessing Durkon all just for the of chance it might make Roy hold back in the fight. And then we discover the High Priest, from his perspective, isn't being entirely deceptive. As it turns out, vampiric spirits first absorb the worst moments of their hosts when they first spawn, so in a sense, the High Priest is how Durkon feels about the way he was when he got kicked out of the Dwarven lands for no reason he could understand. He tells this to Durkon, sending the poor guy into a Heroic BSoD and letting the High Priest focus fully on killing Roy. It's also the first time we see Durkon crying in frustration.Durkon: Well, ta Hel wit ye, Hurak! Ta Hel wit all o' ye! Thor as my witness, ta Hel wit e'ry last one o' ye!!High Priest: Well. Let it never be said that the multiverse doesn't grant wishes.
- Roy's Heroic Breakdown after realizing the High Priest isn't Durkon: His grief and rage are so potent he actually breaks HPOH's Domination on him.
- The next page:Roy: I don't know whether you started out as Durkon and turned into this, or you're just squatting in his corpse - but I was stupid to think it even matters! How many different levels of denial was I in anyway?!? I am going to stop you, and if that means I never get my friend back because he was twisted into you - then I will be sad - but you will be DEAD!
- On page 1023, Roy has a quick chat with Veldrina, telling her to contact him with a Sending if the final verdict of the Godsmoot's vote is to not destroy the world. That way, he'll know the fight for the world is still on.Veldrina: What if the result is a Yes?
Roy: Then nothing I'm doing will matter. Use those last few minutes to contact someone you care about before it's too late.
Veldrina: Wow, that's... kinda heavy.
- Page 1025 is one long Leaning on the Fourth Wall to Wrecan, referring to how the Real Life Wrecan passed away some time back and noting his love of chronicling how often each character appeared in the comic. Quite a fitting memorial, indeed. The last panel even has Wrecan waving at Roy (and the reader) from within the temple slightly obscured by what looks like mist, as though he's saying goodbye from the other side.Roy: I'm... I wish there had been more time. To get to know you better.Wrecan: There's never enough time.
- Page 1046 "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 more study?"
- Page 1096 The Order finally learns the story behind Durkon's exile. Roy's commentary simply drives the point home.Roy: Durkon always wondered why him- what he did to deserve being cast out instead of some other dwarf. And now it turns out the answer is "nothing." His life was exactly as unfair as he always feared it was.
- Even Belkar is visibly discomforted; everyone else is flat-out horrified.
- Page 1098: Both a Heartwarming Moment and a Tearjerker but the Order talking about just how much Durkon did for them and all the good memories they've had with Belkar refusing to name any at all. But then he whispers: "... he didn't blame me."
- Page 1113 Hilgya might be petty and self-serving but consider her situation: she (and all other dwarves) have to act and think a certain way and die in battle or else they'll be Hel's slaves for all eternity, even if a dwarf doesn't like the dwarven definition of honor. Even Elan seems upset about it.Elan (looking morose): That doesn't sound fair.Hilgya: Exactly! It's not. It's not fair at all. It's a totally bogus deal we didn't choose, and it shapes everything about our lives and culture.
- Made worse if you know WHY this problem exists at all: Loki created it during the creation of the present world, tricking a drunken, despondent Thor into agreeing with it as part of an experiment. Hel wasn't nearly this nasty during the last incarnation of the world, but with only souls who died "dishonorable deaths", and no active Worship to sustain her divinity, she's grown increasingly unhinged and cruel.
- It was hardly a secret that Belkar felt guilty over Durkon's demise, but Strip 1115 shows us just how far it goes. He is wholly aware of how much of a jerk he was. The idea that someone would be so selfless to save him, dying in the process, yet not blame him is such an overwhelming prospect for him that Belkar is very upset about it and he has no idea how to confront that sort of kindness done for him, to where the only thing he could do was try and downplay Durkon's deed with rationalization and or suppress the emotions through violence though it's clear that he is cracking. And reminding yourself what kind of character Belkar was only makes this worse by proving his point.
- "Throwing Shade" has a mind-controlled Belkar casually stabbing Blackwing, who had tried to block Vampire!Durkon's dominate by putting sunglasses on him. What really sells it is that Mr. Scruffy is upset as Blackwing lays dying.Blackwing: When will I learn... everything I touch... only gets more... funktastic...
- This is only the start, as things get worse and worse for the Order through the next couple of strips, until Strip 1128 ends with them all lying defeated. Even worse is that Haley and Elan were dominated, and Roy had to knock out his own teammates. Sure, we know it's not going to end here, but that last panel packs a mighty punch.
- #1129: We found out how Sigdi, Durkon's mother, lost her arm.Sigdi: I NEVER LET GO!(flashback to Sigdi, struggling to pull Tenrin out)Sigdi(narration): I ne'er let go.
- That panel that shows her not letting go? There's a very big and very sharp piece of debris right over her hand. That was the last moment she ever saw her husband... and had two hands.
- #1131. Durkon, in full control of himself for a precious few moments after having overwhelmed the High Priest, hands off his son, bares his heart, and allows Belkar to stake him.
- #1139. After the Snarl destroyed the first world, the gods built a grave for it, to remember the countless lives that were lost due to the gods' mistakes. Marduk cried uncontrollably at the dedication ceremony, and even the jolly Thor looks visibly regretful as he retells this story to Durkon and Minrah. Then, after building the grave, the gods set about creating a new world... and when the Snarl destroyed that one too, the gods built another grave and started again. And again, and again, and again, and again...
Thor: So many existences lost forever. Because we couldn't play nice.
- Unlike gods like Dvalin or the Dark One, whom have ascended fairly recently after the current world was created, gods like Thor, Marduk, and the Twelve have been there from the beginning. They have seen all those worlds fall - and worse, are ultimately the cause of that, too.
- And how did all this immeasurable loss and tragedy begin? Because of a heated argument between the deities over the finer details of the new world, an argument countless RPG gaming groups can relate to.note A quarter of the gods are gone forever and all their creations are doomed to be consumed by an Eldritch Abomination, all because of a petty spat.
- It also suddenly throws the apathetic attitude of the yes-voting gods on the subject of destroying the world into stark relief; they aren't petty. They're numb.
- Thor's comment on the loss of Zeus and the rest of the Eastern Pantheon, and how their Color (Green) "disappeared from the multiverse long ago", leaving the raging Snarl as the most real being in existence because it's the only entity in all creation who consists of all four divine colors instead of just three. The Eastern Gods were exterminated to the last God when the Snarl originally broke free countless eons ago with Zeus being the last slain, as shown in a flashback during the Azure City trial. The Eastern Pantheon might not have been the nicest bunch if they were anything like the Greek originals (or some of the Jerkass Gods from the other pantheons), but... no one deserves what the Snarl did to them. As Shojo said back in #274:Shojo: Malevolent and powerful, it wanted nothing but destruction. It slew Ares and Apollo outright in the first round of combat. Then it systematically executed the remainder of the Eastern Gods: Hades, Poseidon, even gentle Demeter and fair Aphrodite. All of them. Wise Zeus died last, still wondering what happened.
- The crayon drawing scene makes this far, far worse: Ares, Apollo, Aphrodite, and Hades on the floor torn to pieces, the Snarl clawing Poseidon and Demeter in half, and the worst of all, Zeus, pierced through the chest by yet another clawed tendril, saying "Why?"
- The following strip just compounds this, as Thor notes that as a god, he is able to perfectly remember each and every world the gods created, and each and every person to ever worship him. Which means he remembers with total clarity each of several million worlds that the Snarl has destroyed, able to point out the grave for each one and describe what it was like. No wonder he looks so beaten down as he relates this to Durkon. He also outright states that if the gods destroy the world and take the souls of everyone in it to the afterlife, it's not the first time they've done so, and makes clear that it's the closest the gods can come to saving them.
- The reveal that Odin's inconstant behavior is due to the divine equivalent of a (recovering) brain injury due to poisoning is sad. Besides it coming off as a somewhat senile old man who can't process the world around him on a bad day, how many prophecies were due to Odin spouting deific nonsense when not lucid? Durkon's fate could have been due to little more than a priest misinterpreting Odin's idle rambling as symbolic prose. (His behavior is reminiscent of Adept Havelock, who was trapped inside his own head, having turned into an insane loon but was still The Chessmaster who struggled to make his plans understood through very very brief moments of lucidity.) It also ruins the handful of Funny moments he's had throughout the series run, revealing that he's not your typical Scatterbrained Elder, he's genuinely senile and effectively a divine child on bad days.
- At least mitigated somewhat by the reveal that the damage is reversing itself due to the current incarnation of the world providing the correct worship. Hopefully he'll be okay eventually.
Tear Jerker / The Order of the Stick