Vaarsuvius asked the Oracle in Strip 331 "How will I achieve complete and total ultimate arcane power?" and was answered with "By saying the right four words to the right being at the right time for all the wrong reasons."

I think this has now come to pass, in gaining the soul splicing. But I'm confused as to which four words did the trick.

Was it "I cannot fail again!" from the fourth panel of Strip 631? Or perhaps "I...I must succeed." from the last speaking panel of Strip 634? 634 seems a stretch, given that it isn't to an actual being and a stutter doesn't seem like a valid way of counting words, but the title of that strip is "The Wrong Reasons".

Those are the only two possibilities I know of, but I'm open to others if they exist. If you think the prediction has not yet come to pass it would need an awfully good explanation.

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    It doesn't look, in later strips, that Vaarsuvius has "complete and total ultimate arcane power;" I don't think that the soul splice counts, since it wasn't permanent. I believe that's something still to come; OOTS is rather well-known for setting something up and leaving it hanging for years.
    – DavidW
    Oct 13, 2023 at 17:37
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    The prediction wasn't "complete, total, and permanent ultimate arcane power". Later, after the splices were over, Vaarsuvius contemplated how much could have been done, but wasn't, and wanted to weep. Oct 13, 2023 at 17:54
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    It's certainly 634 strip, even if it's not as well done as one could hope as far as consistency with prophesy goes - motivation (reasons) were important. I would say Oracle's wording was pretty lame, but he's a jerk.
    – Mithoron
    Oct 13, 2023 at 18:51

1 Answer 1


Vaarsuvius gained ultimate arcane power through the Soul Splice. This is detailed in the Order of the Stick book Don't Split the Party in Rich Burlew’s commentary on the page facing strip 623 (titled “Running Away”), and continued after the page containing strip 642 (titled “Choice”).

A fair use excerpt from the book here (emphasis added):

One of the trickier things about using a prophecy as a plot point is that it tells the audience exactly what is going to happen in advance, potentially removing any suspense along the way. The way writers remedy that is usually through prophecies that can be read with multiple meanings, with the least expected meaning being the correct one. So it is with V’s prophecy from the Oracle, as depicted in War and XPs. V asks the kobold “How will I achieve complete and total ultimate arcane power?” The Oracle responds, “By saying the right four words to the right being at the right time for all the wrong reasons.” In this chapter, that prophecy is fulfilled—but not the ways the readers expected.

And just to make it super explicit, Burlew goes on:

…I invented the idea of the Soul Splice to give Vaarsuvius everything he/she ever wished for… V accepted the splices, he/she did have complete and total ultimate arcane power—insofar as he/she contained all three possible Soul Splices (and thus a complete set), and could use all their spells at the same time (accessing the sum total of their magic), and had more total spell levels available than any other spell caster (giving him/her the ultimate selection of arcane powers).

The four words, uttered in strip 634 (titled “The Wrong Reasons”), were “I… I must succeed,” (the Oracle did not say “four different words”, just “the right four words”) and these four words were uttered, per more Burlew commentary, to the actual "being in question? Vaarsuvius him/herself."

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    Lee, Nero, and Cedrik being Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil, and Chaotic Evil is a touch I never would have realized.
    – Exal
    Oct 14, 2023 at 8:14
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    I don't have access to my copy of the book to check the commentary right now, but I remember Burlew explicitly stating that a) Vaarsuvius themself was the "right being" that the four words were spoken to, with V talking to themself to acknowledge and affirm the reason for their decision to accept the Soul Splices, and b) the pronoun "I" was specifically emphasized, and that emphasis was significant. It was important to the scene, and to subsequent developments, that V wanted to be personally responsible for saving the day.
    – Douglas
    Oct 15, 2023 at 0:24
  • I think the yellow fiend is Chaotic Evil, because they have Sabine working for them (as a succubus, she is almost certainly Chaotic Evil and most likely to be working for a demon lord). In addition, the sorcerer's soul, outlined in yellow, urges V to "tear down creation just to see if you can," which is a very classically Chaotic Evil motivation. Not to mention their focus on flexibility over preparation. The orange fiend has a soul that was a feared conquerer and urges V to oppress everyone: classic Lawful Evil.
    – Adamant
    Oct 15, 2023 at 0:37
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    @Douglas Ah! I missed that in Burlew's commentary. Thank you! (Edited my answer to reflect.) While I stand by Director Lee still being Vaarsuvius' primary interlocutor before, during, and after the fatal four words, Burlew's obviously got the strongest bead on interpreting the Oracle's prophecy.
    – Lexible
    Oct 15, 2023 at 6:00
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    @Adamant From Don't Split the Party, commentary page following strip 642 "For the record, the devil is Lee (yellow), the daemon is Nero (purple), and the demon is orange (Cedrik). Don't put too much stock in their dialog as an indicator of alignment and thus which fiend is which. " (Emphasis added)
    – Lexible
    Oct 15, 2023 at 6:08

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