I abandoned webcomics posts in the leadup to the election, and now it and RID may be the only two remaining regular features. Go figure.

(From The Order of the Stick. Click for full-sized negotiations.)

I think I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel for these OOTS posts, and I’m going to have to stop making them every month at some point. I’m thinking when I hit the one-year anniversary of when I started making them.

I have basically two left. One I sort of missed the window on because of Tangents, and which I’m not particularly interested in anymore because it was a little convoluted and weak and stupid. The second is the one I’m giving you today, and it too is a little crazy and stupid.

Part of the reason the current book has kind of been pissing a lot of fans off may be, paradoxically, that it is too OOTS-centric.

Honestly, “Team Evil” may be more popular than any single member of the Order. Xykon is downright snarky for an Evil Overlord, Redcloak is something of a tragic figure, the Monster in the Darkness is entertaining, and the demon roaches are always good for a side laugh. Checking in on their happenings used to be a regular feature in the lead-up to the Battle for Azure City. But we’ve only gotten one relatively brief check-in on them since, and O-Chul was the real star of the show there.

That may indicate that Team Evil may be in the process of being de-emphasized as villains, but if so, it’s not at all clear who’ll replace them. The Linear Guild, the only other major villain group (and entertaining in their own right – honestly, the three or four least interesting recurring characters might be members of the Order), have been completely unseen since their escape during the battle, the only real clue as to their remaining plans being Nale’s mention of “sneak[ing] off and capturing another [gate]”. Were it not for that, and the fact that an entire strip like this was dedicated to the Guild’s escape (and a few lingering questions, like just how Sabine is Haley’s opposite), one might think Rich had just written the Guild out of the strip entirely.

Nonetheless, I kind of wonder if the Guild’s influence is in fact being felt in everything going on now, or if we will in fact see them by the time the gang gets back together, and the reason for that is a result of my wild theory:

The Linear Guild is secretly helping the OOTS.

Nale heard of his brother’s existence and decided loyalty to his brother (he is admittedly Lawful) meant assisting the Order’s cause under the guise of opposing them. With Sabine’s help, he tends to know more than any of the Order do at any given time, almost to the point of being omniscient. In fact, maybe Sabine is the real player here trying to help Haley.

Now, there’s actually very little to back up this theory, and at least a little to oppose it, and it’s kind of masturbatory for me to devote an entire post to this. The point of the Linear Guild is that they are a set of Bumbling Villains(tm) whose schemes (unlike, and as opposed to, Team Evil) are never any true, real threat, and always fail spectacularly in an entertaining, comedic fashion. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to note that when Vaarsuvius noted the serendipity of the timing of the Linear Guild’s kidnap-Roy’s-sister plot in making sure the OOTS was in the right place at the right time for the Battle of Azure City, s/he was more right than s/he knew.

(My Latin teacher, incidentially, recently let it known that he absolutely hates constructions like “they” or “him or her” or especially “s/he” in sentences that could describe anyone of either gender, and wishes people would at least pick a gender for each specific instance, if not be consistent with which one. Personally, I pronounce “s/he” as s-he. In any case, I wonder how he’d react to Vaarsuvius…)

Every single thing the Linear Guild has done has ended up helping the OOTS in some way. It’s uncanny. Consider:

  • When the OOTS first “accidentially” met the Linear Guild, in that pivotal 43rd strip, and the Guild roped the Order into their scheme to crack open the Talisman of Dorukan, it nearly resulted in the death of the Order – but instead it introduced them to Celia, who in turn, accelerated their path to Xykon and indirectly may have helped make that “final” confrontation come a lot sooner in other ways. (Remind me to add a discussion of Celia’s present behavior to the OOTS post docket.)
  • As I mentioned in a very, very early OOTS post, when Sabine disguised herself as a blacksmith and sent the OOTS on a quest to find the starmetal, she arguably saved the OOTS from dissolution. And is it possible that she secretly knew the starmetal was real and that the OOTS had the means to succeed where others had failed?
  • As Vaarsuvius mentioned, Nale’s contacting Roy the instant they left the Oracle kept them busy for long enough not to go running halfway around the world while Xykon wiped out the Sapphire Guard and won the game. With a little assist from a drunk wizard, of course. If Shojo still has an able teleporter after the incident the OOTS ends up not having to spend another few days in the City.
  • Haley brought up another example during half the OOTS’ second trip to the Oracle: It’s because of Nale that Haley got her voice back, and that Haley finally got with Elan. Oh, and if Nale doesn’t leave Elan in jail Elan never becomes a Dashing Swordsman.

I could easily see a scenario where whichever gate the Linear Guild captures, between the other two groups Team Evil gets there first in plenty of time, but gets delayed enough trying to dislodge the Guild that the OOTS can show up and foil both their evil plans. If the almost-canon belief of the fans that Elan’s father is holding Haley’s father is true, I could see the meeting of the bunch, engineered by Nale, end up helping Elan, Haley, and the OOTS at the (apparent) expense of Nale and the Guild. I could even see a scenario – and this ties in to the prediction at the start of the discussion – where the eventual reunion of the OOTS happens because of the Linear Guild in some way. And even if my overall prediction is untrue, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Linear Guild and OOTS come together to stop Xykon’s plan at the final battle.

Maybe Elan wasn’t unintentionally ironic when he said, “Meeting the Linear Guild is the best thing that ever happened!!

Okay, so for the delay this was a ridiculously short post. But no worries. The post I have planned for this Tuesday has been in the works for several weeks.

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