That's Why It's Called a Running Gag
Order of the Stick comic
Comic no. 680
Date published 21 September 2009
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Haley and Elan learn about the mercurial political boundaries of the Western Continent.

Cast Edit

Transcript Edit

Panel 1

Haley: About two years ago, I received a letter—from the government of a kingdom called Tyrinaria—that my father Ian was being held ransom.
Haley: Now, after many adventures, I've sold the loot I collected from the defeat of my rival and finally earned enough money to buy his freedom—

Panel 2

Haley: —So why the heck can't I find the friggin' country in a tent full of maps?!?
Elan: Maybe it's in one of the big blue parts...
Haley: The blue parts are oceans, Elan.
Elan: Ohhhhh. Neat!

Panel 3

Haley: Hey, cartographer chick. Why can't I find the country I'm looking for on any of your maps?
Cartographer: It probably doesn't exist anymore.
Haley: Come again?

Panel 4

Cartographer: See, the elves have the forested north half of the whole continent sealed up, and most of the rest is desert.
Cartographer: The humans and the lizard races have been fighting over the livable scraps that are left for 500 years.

Panel 5

Flashback to Tarquin's Conquered's Conquered holding the head of Tarquin's Conquered's Conquered's Conquered's head on a sword.
Cartographer (inset): Every year, half a dozen new hotshot military "geniuses" raise an army each and conquer themselves a new kingdom.

Panel 6

Flashback to one year later, when Tarquin's Conquored holds Tarquin's Conquored's Conquered's head on a sword.
Cartographer (inset): Within a year, most of them've been assassinated, or had their country steamrolled by THAT year's new conquerers.

Panel 7

Cut back to the cartographer's shop.
Cartographer: That's why cartography is such a hot business for me. People always need new maps!
Haley: But don't you keep the old ones?
Cartographer: Why bother? "Two years ago" is ancient history around here. Customers want what's fresh, and I need to keep a light inventory.

Panel 8

Haley: And you don't remember a country called "Tyrinaria"?
Cartographer: Eh, all the would-be emperors have cheesy names like that.
Cartographer: Right now, there's a Dictatoria, a Cruelvania, and two Despotonias.
Elan: Two?
Cartographer: East and West.

Panel 9

Cartographer: But it might be worth asking around in this new place that's—
Belkar (off-panel): Geez, if you wanted a mapmaker, why didn't you just say so?
Haley: That's Belkar! And ROY! Hide!
Elan: Huh?

Panel 10

Voice (off-panel): No, sir, the Jazz Club is three blocks down.
Roy (off-panel): I said "sextant" not "sax tent"!
Elan (whispering): Psssst! Why are we hiding?
Haley (whispering): I don't want the others to know about my dad.
Elan (whispering): Oh! Is that why we ditched Durkon!

Panel 11

Flashback to a few minutes ago. Haley, Elan and Durkon stand near a palm tree.
Haley: Look, Durkon! An advance scout for the arboreal army!
Durkon: They musta allied wit' Xykon! Ye warn tha others, I'll hold it off!

Panel 12

Cut back to the shop.
Haley: Look, I'm not proud of what I did—
Haley: —but I needed an easy recurring joke to cover my getaway and there were no flumphs available, OK?

Trivia Edit

  • The kingdom that the Cartographer was about to mention in Panel 9 ends up becoming very significant to the Order of the Stick in future strips.
  • The running gag referred to in the title and the comic is Durkon's irrational fear and hatred of trees.
  • As Haley notes, there is also a running gag which revolves around characters landing on the Flumphs
  • This is the first appearance of Tarquin's Conquered, the humans with white caps and face masks who conquer the previous rulers.
  • Once again, Roy has to deal with someone mis-hearing him, the Cartographer he was talking with thinking he said "sax tent".

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