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Webcomic / Order of Tales

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"My business is not to know the truth of stories."

Order of Tales is a surreal fantasy webcomic by Evan Dahm. The story is set in Overside, several centuries prior to Dahm's other webcomic, Rice Boy. However, Order is more of a side story than a direct prequel. The comic completed July, 2010, and Dahm has since started a third webcomic, Vattu.

Koark (pronounced Ko-ark) is the last Teller of the Order of Tales. He barely escaped the destruction of his hometown with nothing but a book of stories, his mount Potok, and the instructions of his father to find an ancient and powerful story: "The Ascent of the Bone Ziggurat". Fifteen years later, Koark has a chance run-in with a Machine Man named The One Electronic, and his first good lead to finding the tale of the Ziggurat... and his travels get him mixed up with a very pissed-off Damsel in Distress, made of glass and known only as Bottle Woman.

This webcomic provides examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Koark may have had the training of a Teller, but he grows into this role.
  • All Myths Are True: Played with to such an extent that the story is one step away from going meta, especially in the climactic fight with Gerrah, who attempts to fulfill his own version of the Obilik myth, dryly noting that the hero, Koark, dies in the tale. In the end, all myths are subverted. TOE puts it best at the beginning:
    TOE: An absurd simplification of the actual events.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Extranji, the potionmaker of Tenshells. He's mortally wounded when Koark arrives at his house, and survives just long enough to warn that the Bottle Woman has been taken and, "They must... not... bring her east."
  • Art Shift: Used as Koark tells the stories, going from the usual art-style to elaborate calligraphy with illustrations in the margins.
  • Big Bad: Gerráh, the man who murdered Koark's parents at the beginning, is behind almost all the strife in the story.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Koark manages to survive the whole plot, but his trusted mount and his doomed new love have both died.
  • Black Swords Are Better: Obilik's sword, the legendary weapon indestructible by anything save a special alchemical concoction, is black.
  • The Blank: T-O-E's face is just a blank TV screen. Unlike in Rice Boy, there aren't even any images on his face-screen in this comic.
  • Book Ends: The first and last chapters both feature Koark picking flowers as a child and then as a grown man, though the last chapter isn't nearly as happy.
  • Character Development: Subtle and off-screen, but heartwarming. When Koark is a boy, he treats Potok with disdain for being scrawny and grey, favoring joyrides on his father's mount instead. After the fifteen year Time Skip to Chapter Two, he is quite affectionate with Potok. Which means it really, really sucks when Potok dies.
  • Chiaroscuro: A given, since the comic is in black and white.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Unfortunately, Koark did not and it's a Tear Jerker.
  • Doomed Hometown: Played straight with Koark's home; slightly subverted with Stone Palm: although the town got burned, most of its inhabitants were perfectly safe underground.
  • Enemy Civil War: Some of Rog's followers chafe under his rule, and rebel against him as soon as they get the opportunity. Aethirus is trying to obtain the Bottle Woman specifically to defeat Rog with it, and eventually joins T-O-E's party outright. Later, a troop of blackbirds mistake Koark for the second coming of Obilik, and they almost immediately throw their support behind his attempt to overthrow Rog.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Koark's sleeves. The left one is puffy and striped while the right one is plain.
  • Fetch Quest: When Koark and T-O-E first meet, the latter indicates he knows something about "The Ascent of the Bone Ziggurat", but he makes Koark first delivery a message to Extranji before he'll answer any questions. Then Extranji turns out to be mortally wounded, and he implores Koark to rescue the recently kidnapped Bottle Woman. This mission has several more twists and turns before Koark finally meets up with T-O-E again.
  • Heroic BSoD: Koark experiences a brief one after Potok dies. He's definitely traumatized in the ending after his recent battle, and grieving the deaths of Potok and the Bottle Woman.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Bottle Woman sacrifices herself in order to stop the Big Bad. Koark is noticeably not pleased about this.
  • Honey Trap: The original Bottle Woman was created to seduce Obilik and bring him to a trap. It worked.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Koark's father, Themb, has already heard that Gerráh killed Mour, but dismisses it as a rumor—he simply can't accept that a member of the Order of Tales would attack another. Themb invites Gerráh to his home to talk things over, and Gerráh uses that as an opportunity to attack.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Potok, Koark's animal companion. She has clawed feet and a tubular mouth like an aardvark.
  • It's All Junk: After the defeat of Gerráh, at the cost of the Bottle Woman's sacrifice, Koark is distraught at how much death and destruction could be caused by one old story. He takes the book of tales, a gift from his father which he'd carried around for the entire comic, and silently throws it off a cliff.
  • Last of His Kind: Teller Gerráh betrayed the Order and killed the other tellers (including Koark's father), leaving Koark the last member of the Order of Tales.
  • MacGuffin Super-Person: The Bottle Woman. The liquid inside her is the only thing that can destroy Obilik's magical, invincible sword.
  • Meaningful Echo: Koark is introduced in the first chapter as a child, picking flowers for his family’s soon-to-arrive guests, and telling his mount Potok all the stories his father taught him. The last chapter shows now-adult Koark about to head off with TOE and Calabash on another adventure, and he picks the same flowers.
  • Meaningful Name: An unintentional case occurs with Koark and the Bottle Woman (although the former's name in Seen-script shows that it's pronounced Ko-ark, with two syllables).
  • Mistaken for Murderer: Koark is seen leaving Extranji's residence while the latter's corpse is still warm. The local guards arrest him and haul him before the Oceanqueen Slent to be tried for murder.
  • Mythopoeia: Koark's job is to catalog it.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Torchlord, also known as Rog.
  • Nerves of Steel: An early demonstration of Koark's ability to keep his wits about him in the face of danger comes when he has been accused of murder and brought before the Oceanqueen of Tenshells. He is obviously terrified, but speaks easily and eloquently in his own defense nevertheless.
  • Pocket Protector: When the Blackbirds shoot arrows at Koark, they hit his book instead of him.
  • Red Right Hand: The original Rog had a distinctly burnt, blackened appearance—and this new Rog looks similar, which makes his followers think he might really be Rog's second coming. He's really Gerráh, and received those burns during his attack on Themb's home.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • When Koark gets Mistaken for Murderer in Tenshells, the Oceanqueen who presides over his trial is brusque and rather frightening, but figures out quickly that Koark isn't the murderer and orders his release.
    • King Pronomb of Stone Palm recognizes that Koark is an ally, and allows him and the Bottle Woman to use the Horned's secret passages to reach their next destination.
  • The Reveal: Back in Rice Boy, T-O-E was reluctant to return to the Black Teeth because he had a falling-out with the other Machine Men; even if he wanted to go back, he doubted they would let him. In this comic, we see that falling-out directly. T-O-E brought the Bottle Woman to the Black Teeth for safekeeping, but the Machine Elders had already allied with Rog, and tried to hand her off to his forces. T-O-E defied and attacked the Machine Elders in order to rescue the Bottle Woman and escape.
  • Show Within a Show: The audience is treated to several stories from Koark's book of tales—the full text with illustrations in the margins.
  • The Storyteller: The purpose of the Order of Tales is to preserve and tell stories.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: When Koark steps out of the Bone Ziggurat, wearing Obilik's helmet, and gets spotted by a troop of blackbirds:
    Tarrka: Obilik! [drops to a bow] The Ascender of the Ziggurat has returned!
    [beat panel]
    Koark: Y— ...Yes. I, Obilik, have returned from death!
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: How the stablehand saves young Koark's life. Koark manages the same trick after taking a level in badass.
  • Tsundere: The Bottle Woman is understandably a little pissy about being dragged around by people who won't tell her anything. She does, however, warm up to Koark while travelling with him.
  • Walking the Earth: What Koark chooses to do as he travels with TOE and Calabash, crafting a new book along the way.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After Aethirus is separated from the group on the disastrous flying trip, he simple vanishes from the face of the narrative with nary a mention as to his final fate.