Elan is a major character in the webcomic, The Order of the Stick, written and drawn by Rich Burlew. Originally a Bard, he has now taken a level as a Dashing Swordsman, an obscure prestige class (made up specifically for the webcomic). His name is also possibly a French pun as elan means spirit.
After becoming a bard, Elan spent some time working as assistant to a paladin named Sir Francois, a job which he was quite spectacularly bad at, to the point where Sir Francois ultimately abandoned him by telling him to close his eyes and count to 100, then riding away as fast as feasibly possible. Elan's reaction ("Awww, not again") strongly implies that this was not the first association to end in such a manner.
Elan's life took an unexpected turn when he stopped to assist a passing adventurer, Roy Greenhilt, who was attempting to recruit adventurers for a quest and was going about it in precisely the wrong way. Elan, with his detailed knowledge of genre conventions, told him to dress in a mysterious fashion and sit quietly in a bar. Despite Roy's considerable misgivings, he complied, and was surprised to find many adventurers waiting to talk to him. After recruiting three adventurers to join him and his dwarf companion Durkon Thundershield, Roy offered the final position in the group to Elan, to thank him for his assistance.
Saved through magical intervention, Elan fought his brother, only to ultimately save his life when Nale tried to flee across a broken bridge that crumbled beneath him, an act that Nale found utterly incomprehensible. With the Guild defeated and Nale taken off to prison, the Order continued onwards, not realising that they'd accidentally left their cleric, Durkon, behind. When this was finally realised, Elan offered to take his place as team cleric, having made up his own deity to worship in the form of Banjo the Clown, God of Puppets (who was, indeed, a hand-puppet). Elan did his best to recruit other worshippers, but the Church of Banjo fell apart quickly and the whole idea was rendered moot when Durkon returned, and Banjo was replaced (using an illusion spell) by a hand puppet with a Mind Flayer/Cthulhu head, differently colored clothes, but still retaining a clown hat, who Elan called "Banjhulhu".
Finally reaching their destination, the Order confronted Xykon on the lowest level of the dungeon, in front of a mysterious gate. Acting on Roy's orders, Elan made his way to the gate, believing that touching it would disrupt Xykon's plan. Fortunately for the Order, Elan was stopped at the last minute by Haley Starshine, who had discovered that touching the gate would actually complete the lich's plan, rather than prevent it. Ultimately, Roy defeated Xykon, but the Order's subsequent search for loot was cut drastically short by Elan's revelation that he had activated a self-destruct mechanism that he'd found located nearby. The Order left as swiftly as possible, although Elan's devotion to theatrics required him to leap clear just as the explosion went off. Despite this apparently risky move, in true theatrical style, everybody escaped unharmed.
The group were next accosted by Miko Miyazaki, a paladin from Azure City, who was under orders to bring them in to stand trial for Elan's destruction of the Gate. The Order ultimately agreed to accompany her, although, after an incident at an inn en route, where Elan was instrumental in saving Roy's life from assassins (by disguising him using the Girdle of Masculinity/Femininity, and then luring innocent civilians away from the inn with promises of pudding), the group elected to stop obeying her. They attempted to stand up to her, but were overpowered and ended up in Azure City on trial anyway, where they were eventually found not guilty, the trial having been a set-up to get them to the city right from the start. Elan was presented with a gift certificate for one favour from Lord Shojo, which he later redeemed to have the Linear Guild imprisoned indefinitely within Azure City's antimagic cell block.
Deciding to spend New Year in Azure City, Elan spent quite a while out on the town, which he enjoyed immensely. Learning of a local custom that friends would dine together on New Year's Eve, Elan proposed that the Order should eat together, only to be pre-empted by Haley, who decided that she and Elan would find somewhere themselves. The 'date' did not go particularly well, as Elan still seemed largely oblivious to her feelings for him (further complicated by the fact that Haley was suffering from trauma-induced aphasia and could only speak in cryptograms, so every attempt to tell Elan her true feelings came out as gibberish). Date problems aside, Elan did seem to expect that they would kiss as the year ended. Haley, however, hesitated too long at the last minute, and one of the locals kissed him instead, leaving Haley miserable.
The Order moved on to visit the Oracle of Sunken Valley to determine where Xykon could be found. Each member of the Order was given the opportunity to ask a question - Elan simply asked whether their story would have a happy ending, to be told that it would for him, suggesting that some of the Order wouldn't have a happy ending. Leaving the Oracle to continue their quest, the Order were surprised to be contacted by Nale, who informed Roy that he had taken Roy's younger sister Julia hostage and was awaiting the Order in the city of Cliffport.
After Nale dressed Elan in his clothing and glued his goatee on Elan's chin, there remained no other distinguishing features between the two brothers. Elan was placed under arrest along with Thog by the Cliffport police, who believed him to be Nale, who was by this point responsible for setting Thog on a series of massacres in the town, resulting in Elan and Thog being charged with "417 accounts of murder and 1 account of intent to summon a demon" (although the latter was simply a theatrical trick by Nale). Due to their local laws prohibiting the use of magic in investigations, his case was unlikely to come to trial for at least six months. Nale, in the meantime, had taken Elan's place within the Order and was planning to murder his teammates as soon as he could get each one alone.
Elan, however, managed to free himself from custody after only forty minutes by persuading Thog that Nale needed his help. The half-orc tore the cell bars apart, then Elan crafted an illusion to persuade the guards that he was the warden and was relocating Thog, allowing the pair to walk straight out of the building. Elan then got some new clothes by robbing a tailor twice and took an airship to Azure City with Thog, dressed as Final Fantasy VI characters (Locke and Mog, respectively). When the other passengers (Terra Branford and Edgar Roni Figaro) found out he wasn't Locke (Elan mistakenly uses the term Resurrect rather than Fenix Down, and Thog has no idea what a "fenix" is,) he and Thog were thrown off before liftoff. He then managed to secure transportation by accident while attempting to get a corkscrew from a bar as part of a largely unrevealed plan, apparently of considerable complexity, involving Thog wearing a leprechaun costume and stuffing potato salad into a giant wooden alpaca. A nearby patron heard his request and asked why he wanted the corkscrew, and, on hearing the story, revealed himself to be Julio Scoundrél, world-famous sky pirate and airship captain. Julio, who thought Elan was considerably like the sky pirate himself was in his younger years, agreed to give him a ride. On the way to Azure City, Julio, concerned that Elan would be at a distinct disadvantage against his brother, gave the bard an old sourcebook, pointing out the Dashing Swordsman prestige class that he himself was a member of, which allows a person to substitute his charisma bonus instead of his strength bonus to damage when wielding a rapier, as long as he spouts a witty pun or catchphrase while doing so. Elan realized that this would give him the advantage needed to defeat Nale, and, trained by Scoundrél en route, took his first level in the prestige class. To commemorate this, Scoundrél gave the new Dashing Swordsman a magical +3 Keen rapier that Scoundrél himself had used on some of his adventures. Elan was then able to locate where he needed to be by focusing on his dramatic instincts; as Scoundrél put it, the 'scene' would call out to him, asking him to arrive in the nick of time.
Elan duly arrived at the dramatically appropriate moment, swinging in through the window of Haley's room, just as Nale was about to stab her in mid-kiss. He fought Nale and, much to his brother's surprise, quickly won. Nale then used his Bluff skill to trick Elan into believing that Haley and Nale were lovers, stating that Haley's crypto-speak was really the language Infernal and that they'd been working together all along. Elan prepared to attack/dump her, too, pushed by a suggestion spell from Nale. However, at the last minute, Haley was finally able to break through her speech problem, abruptly shouting out she was in love with him and that she'd been kissing Nale because she thought he was Elan. This revelation stunned Elan, breaking Nale's hold on him. The brothers continued to fight, with Haley, Sabine and Thog now entering the fray, until the arrival of Vaarsuvius and Durkon. Faced with the identical brothers, Vaarsuvius dealt with the situation easily by insulting Nale's intelligence. Nale was unable to remain silent after the insult and gave himself away; Vaarsuvius immediately hit him with a lightning bolt. After managing to subdue all three present Linear Guild members, the group decided to use Elan's gift certificate from Lord Shojo to have the Guild members put in the Sapphire Guard's anti-magic cells. After Vaarsuvius and Durkon left the room with the Guild members, Haley began to downplay her love confession on the premise that she was afraid he would not return said feelings; Elan then approached Haley and kissed her in mid-sentence, effectively demonstrating that he loved her as well. With that, the two continued to make out for the rest of the evening.
In the hours leading up Xykon's attack, Elan insisted that it was a Bardic rite of passage that he deliver a rousing pre-battle speech, which Roy opposed for no better reason than thinking Elan and the soldiers would be worse off because of it--which they eventually were, due to Elan's negative rethinking of every positive statement he made. When the attack began, the Order was initially forced to deal with five destructive Titanium Elementals summoned by Redcloak. Hinjo then assigned Elan and Belkar to assist with the defense of the wall, which was being scaled by the hobgoblins. After learning of Roy's demise at the hands of Xykon, Elan was too depressed to come up with any puns for combat; at Haley's suggestion, he sang a heartfelt bard song for Roy, to the tune of "Oh Danny boy", which brought tears even to the eyes of Belkar and the hobgoblins. With the Order under attack by hobgoblin archers, Elan used his increasing proficiency with illusions to create images of the Order and Hinjo dying in a hail of arrows, apparently fooling their opponents completely. He, Hinjo, Durkon, and two soldiers (Kazumi and Daigo) then proceeded through a hidden tunnel to the other side of the city, planning to rendezvous with Hinjo's ship at the docks. Elan stopped long enough to acquire a replacement lute from an abandoned music store, breaking the window and leaving sufficient gold to pay for it. His actions, however, cause a small group of hobgoblins to attack him and his escort, and led to the two grunts being given names
Some time later, he along with Durkon and Daigo are shown on an island running from an Orcish horde chasing after them. Elan attempts to distract them with an illusion, but only succeeds on casting the illusion of another horde chasing after them, though this does convince the orcs to give up on the chase and let the other "orcs" continue the chase. Later they meet up with Vaarsuvius, to whom they explain the details of chase, saying that it originated with the group attempting to ask the Orcs to resupply their ships, with Elan successful in engaging their leader in diplomacy, though when Elan took out Banjo the Clown, the Orcs bowed down in worship and declared Elan not worthy of holding Banjo. They then returned to rescue Lien, who was being offered as a sacrifice to Banjo, though they were soon captured. Therkla, who was there as the orcs were originally cooperating with her and Qarr, then took control of Banjo the handpuppet, stating to the orcs that Elan is his prophet and is not to be harmed. Not noticing that Banjo is being controlled by Therkla, Elan attempts to convince Banjo that he should use his newly gained if marginal power to do good, similar to his own experiences with his newly-gained competence as a Dashing Swordsman. Therkla, as Banjo allows the others to be set free due to her being quite smitten with Elan.
Upon escaping, however, Elan realized that the Orcs were now without a tangible deity, and thus provided them with Banjo's brother, Giggles the Clown, god of slapstick (much to the dismay of Durkon, who had hoped they would accept Thor). It was quickly decided that the two sibling gods were rivals, and that their rivalry must be settled by a pie-eating contest. While Elan lost the contest, the Orcs enjoyed it so much they agreed to trade with Hinjo.
His ideas do occasionally work unexpectedly well and his knowledge of theatrics is second to none; he frequently thinks in terms of what makes a good story and will act accordingly, using genre conventions to his own advantage. He is proficient musically, as befits a bard, and is competent with a blade, and has become more so since becoming a Dashing Swordsman. As a bard, while he possessed a magical rapier to fight with, he usually played music in combat to assist his teammates; with his new ability as a Swordsman and the powerful rapier given to him by his mentor, he participates more directly. He can also ride horses well, much to the surprise of his companions. Elan has on occasion used bardic magic, usually illusions. At first he constructed illusions of the same species (but opposite gender) of his attacker using Silent Image, but later Vaarsuvius taught him to make better illusions (Disguise Self). He also seems proficient at throwing his voice, once doing it well enough to fool an Ogre guard. He was later seen using an illusion of a teletubby to scare Thog and using Mending to fix a door.
The exact details of Elan's new Dashing Swordsman class are as yet unknown. It is known that a feature of the class is the ability to use Charisma in place of Strength for damage when wielding a rapier, as long as the character can make a witty pun or spout a catchphrase when they attack. This increase in his combat ability became quickly apparent when Elan defeated his brother in single combat with considerable ease. He does, however, appear to face the limitation of only being able to use any given pun once in a single battle, giving him problems in longer engagements. Elan has also stated that Dashing Swordsmen are immune to damage from shattered glass, on the grounds that it makes it easier for them to make dramatic entrances through windows. It is also shown that the pun will have no effect if the enemy is too stupid to understand the pun, or if they cannot hear it.
Elan's relationship with the rest of the Order is often marked with frustration, but none of them would consider getting rid of him. Roy was initially tempted not to try to rescue Elan from the bandits (claiming that traveling with Elan is similar to adventuring with syphilis, in that it can be done, but it will be neither easy nor pretty), but realized that such thoughts were unworthy of him and that he would now stand strongly by the bard, no matter how annoying he finds him - even to the point of selflessly taking an arrow for him. Elan, for his part, regards Roy as a positive male role model of sorts and believes them to be very close friends, apparently regarding Roy as a "surrogate big brother." Durkon regards him as being the heart of the team, while Haley loves him and stands up for him as much as possible. Initially, Elan seemed to be mostly oblivious of her feelings, it was eventually shown that he, in fact, reciprocated them on an independent basis and the two are now a couple. Vaarsuvius finds his frivolity quite irritating, and on one occasion became extremely angry with the bard, but now considers Elan to be a friend and comrade-in-arms. Belkar Bitterleaf, despite his general hostility towards practically everything, actually seems to like Elan at times, as the bard makes him laugh; this being Belkar, of course, he still regards Elan as worth killing for experience points.