• Member Since 4th Nov, 2014
  • offline last seen Last Thursday


The eternally in-progress writer



This story is a sequel to Feedback

A terrible loss has been averted, but even that has a price.

Between the disappearance of several hundred ponies from around the world, strange portals leading to alternate versions of Equestria, an unknown alicorn frequenting Ponyville for secretive reasons, and the arrival of a new race of ponies bringing some ulterior motives, the pieces sowed by Twilight’s fight with the Nameless are set to crash back down.

What happens when friendship fails? Who will take Twilight’s place within the grave?

Feedback - Substitute - Divergence

The Crystal Ball Trilogy is a series of stories which deal with time travel, parallel universes, and other manipulations of time and space. Substitute is the middle story; it is preceded by Feedback and is succeeded by Divergence.

Digital pdf version here
Print book version here

Featured on 7/19/2016!
Goodreads entry~

Ask Me Anything 10/22/16
Ask Me Anything 1/18/17

Edited (with varying degress of contribution) by
sourichan, Kuairu, Thought Prism, Orion Caelum, Corejo, and AlicornPriest

Chapters (17)
Comments ( 127 )

Well, it begins! :pinkiehappy:

7197809 kinda hard to feel any real tension in this because no matter how op an enemy is Starlight can just remove them from the time / alter reality like in the season 5 finale, the only reason Twilight is still a princess is because Starlight let Twilight follow her in to the past to see her get revenge, if not for that mistake Twilight wouldn't have been able to talk Starlight out of making the change stick.

Time travel / Re-writing reality is a hack.

It's here!

I was wondering how you were planning on reconciling The Cutie Re-Mark with the first story. Turns out that's the plot! I'm looking forward to this. :pinkiehappy:

Man, Sunset and Starlight are so awkward together...

Excellent start, can't wait for more.

So this brings all that alternate timeline stuff back again huh. Except for a repeating one with minor differences its an entirely different one altogether.

I really look forward to your next chapter.

7197921 You say that but with this chapter it seems to me that starlight never really did any re-writing of history. It looks more like she connected two timelines together.

7198558 The blurb for this says "strange portals leading to alternate versions of Equestria", so it looks like _all_ of Starlight's alt-TLs are going to show up.

My personal theory? Of course one can meddle with the past, as long as everything ends up just the same at the end. Starlight was able to chance the future "temporarily" because it was inevitable that Twilight would win at the end.

However, the other TLs aren't cleanly erased, because they have pasts of their own that can't be unwritten once created. Instead, once they "caught up" to the future point at which the time travel to create them "started", they began to collapse and _merge_ with the main timeline. They're all leaking into the original reality, and in turn Ponies and things from said reality are leaking into them...

(Now as to whether that means we are going to end up with multiple versions of the Mane Six running around or if they somehow join into one pony with their counterparts, I won't venture a guess. Nor will I guess as to what exactly happens to Ponies born in timeline A but not in timeline B due to the circumstances of war/chaos/butterflies from no sonic Rainboom/etc.)

7199157 Would be interesting to see if anything comes from the 'everything is dead' timeline.

I'm patiently awaiting that as the climax of the story. Here's to hoping for some seriously dark shenanigans to go down.

Let's go for another mystery! But I'm scared of that tragedy tag...



"Wait a minute...this isn't dust! It's instant muffin mix!!" :derpyderp1:

Oh hey, so there's a sequel! Nice!

Oh, if you ever need an editor again (I was Monsieur Connoisseur) I'm available again to help!


For now~ :trollestia:

As you should be~

Of course! Right now my editing situation is pretty decent so I'm not actively looking, but if you're ready and willing, send me a PM. I'd be happy to take you on as an editor again!

It's an interesting hypothesis. It's divergence at the rainboom and then bleeding convergence later. That's what I read off of that. This would preserve the immutability implied (but not necessarily postulated) by It's About Time as well as Feedback while still allowing room for Cutie Re-Mark and what we've seen in Substitute thus far. Which is good!

There are some other things that I would like to say about it, but I will save those for later. :twilightsmile:

Huh. I just finished Feedback a couple of nights ago, finally, and now a sequel is updating. I'll probably read it as I usually do: when complete, I download the epub to my iPhone to read in iBooks. Looking forward to reading it someday.

I like this beginning.

At last! 3rd chapter!

It was then Starlight found a nameless dread in the pit of her stomach.

Nameles, eh? Do we finally find out who the guy was that killed Twilight?

The plot thickens... like a good stew. As opposed to unstew, which thins out. :trollestia:


7199200 It's interesting because I imagine something like that would happen if the Nameless got out. Or worse. Kinda wonder if it is the Nameless timeline....

A mysterious alicorn, thieves from alternate universes, and another crystal ball. This story is going to throw a lot of questions at us before it even begins giving any answers, ain't it?

Looking forward to it!

So the alicorn princesses are fine with having their strings obviously pulled?
Someone is working from the shadows to get something done, and they needed to be alone in Twi's castle to do it otherwise Tia/Luna could have delivered the ball to ponyville quicker and easier than the circuit Starlight and Sunset were pulled into.

I really wonder where the unponies are from.

Interesting story, but on that 4th chapter, you made a mistake authors tend to make sometimes. You wrote "feet" instead of "hooves".

7328448 Yeah and what's with the sudden alicorn and why no pony cares about that strange sudden occurrence.

Hopefully later chapters explain that.

I feel like Sunset at least should know a wider variety of combat spells. Last I checked, Sleep is easy to master, and nonlethal.


7329718 Maybe she does know a lot more and just doesn't use them. Maybe she's forgotten them all on account of being in the human world for so many years. Maybe she didn't have a lot of time between finding out she'd have to fight and actually fighting to remember what she had up her sleeve.

Or maybe I didn't have enough imagination! In fairness though, it's still quite a step up from the show which is nothing but beam wars! :rainbowwild:

7329393 For that second part, chapter one already answered that, but I'll recap here: she appeared a month before the events of the story, so suddenness has worn off a little. She's still pretty strange though!

“You really need to work on your aim!” Starlight cried, shooting a blast of her own.


Man, I love time travel. I admit I'm not a big fan of action, so the beginning of the train fight didn't grip me, but once they started screwing with causality to gain an advantage in the fight I was hooked again. When I think about it, the crystal ball is a really fantastic narrative device for a time travel story because it perfectly justifies San Dimas Time. Even with a time machine you can still be too late.

Great as always!

This chapter was fun to read. This story seems to have more action. I like it.

Oh. Shit.

I feel really bad for Adamantine now.

Oh dear. Oh dear god.


and I guess that's where the title comes from...

The unponies are evil! Slay them all!

“Awww yeah!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed, punching the air. “I can’t wait to kick some bad guy butt!”
Pinkie Pie laughed. “Oh, we’re gunna get them good! We have the Rainbow Power now, after all!”
Twilight cleared her throat. “I… heh, never thought I would say this, but… yeah! Tirek will be really easy, at least. King Sombra will also probably be a pushover.”
“I do much enjoy hearing you say that, darling,” Rarity said, giggling. “Especially after all the grief they’ve given us.”


Sorry, I was just reminded of this scene and had to post it.

I think the wasteland is the world where the Nameless/Benefactor wins. I have no idea why that world would be the exception from Benefactor's disappearance, but I think it may be the answer.
At the very least, I think answers can be found to the current problems if they find out what killed that world.

I like how you show that Princess Luna And Discord have clone full circle in olunderstanding that friendship is magic upon meeting their alternates. I do wonder what will happen in Queen Chrysalis, Tired and Flim and Flam??? Those guys aren't actually reformed....

Wait a minute. How will you defeat Tirek? Chrysalis sounds like you just need to do something, Sombra needs... the Heart... the Flim Flam, they're nuts.

I really want to read Sunset's conversation, you better not skip out on it.

Dash's sonic rainboom is as close as you can get to kicking a bee hive without actually kicking a bee hive.

I assume there's eventually going to be an explanation for this, but it still strikes me as odd that they can sort of duplicate the energy emanated by an ancient multiversal entity with a secret combination of herbs and spices.

Can't wait to read the rest of this story:twilightsmile:

Sadly, the Radiant Hope of the Crystal War timeline is most likely dead.

... I take a few months off and someone basically does what I was planning to do within my own fanfiction?! Welp, looks like I have some rewriting to do :twilightsheepish:

Seriously though, it's good!


7638598 Happy to hear that you like it. And certainly, there shouldn't be anything stopping you from putting your own spin on it! (I admittedly don't exactly know what it is but I have a pretty good guess). Hell, maybe you'll end up doing it even more justice than I have. The sky is the limit!

7639114 *Insert Rarity's version of "pffft" here* Yeah, no, I actually need to rework the concept since my original notes for said things were... sadly "misplaced" and such.

Did the nameless cause the wasteland?

Wow. That was something.

Obviously, trying to predict the course this story will take is a nearly futile effort, but I'm gonna try anyway. The best resolution I can think of is this: Starlight takes responsibility and fixes the problem she started by using Starswirl's spell to go far back in time, before the Rainboom. In the past, she attaches a secure enchantment previously prepared by herself and the others to the seal. The enchantment would prevent essences removed from the seal from entering a body to which they do not belong. And since it was placed before the Rainboom, it would exist in all seven realities. Then, when Adamantine's plan doesn't work, all the unponies just die, I guess.

Twilight sucked in a breath and looked back toward the center of the chamber. “Alright then… girls. It looks like… we… have a terrible task ahead of us.”

Ain't that the truth.

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