• Member Since 4th Nov, 2014
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The eternally in-progress writer


This story is a sequel to Substitute

A great evil is destroyed and its wards are so too. But now a fragment of that evil is on the loose and is unchecked.

Between an awakened seal threatening to soak up Equestria's magic, a long-dormant thorn now budding, and changes to once well-understood rules, the final pieces of a partially solved puzzle are in place and are ready to be filled in.

The greatest trials may produce the biggest revelations, transform the tightest bonds, and perhaps even lead to salvation. The cost, however, is first the breaking of everything.

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. Divergence is the last story; it is preceded by Feedback and Substitute.

Digital pdf version here
Print book version here

Featured on 2/6/19!

Edited by James Fire

Chapters (18)
Comments ( 131 )

Could you please write a refresher blog or something so I and others don't have to go reread the first two books? It's been a while since Substitute ended.

Well this isn't good. Sunset seems to be the tether this time too.

Hoo boy. Our actors are in place (including Tempest, who was surely written in for a purpose), the stakes are higher than ever, and the show begins. Good to know that somebody realizes the full implications of an Equestria without magic. (S8 Finale Spoilers) Because the show writers sure don't.

Dang this is off to a great start.

No please, not another roller coaster. Just when I thought we were done, ya sucked me right back in. Why are these so good?

That was stupid of both Princesses. This is going to damage their relationships with Sunset for a long time.

However I think we now know why the orbs are showing the wrong time. The temporal slip from going through the portal.


Something is wrong with Sunset...there's a missing Nameless fragment...

Nah, I'm sure it's nothing.

Twi's got the best of intentions, but last I checked, those went to bad places sometimes.

Sunset was kind of being a whiny brat. If they had a good reason it should come out eventually.

And why wouldn't they tell her? It's her home as well. She has people she loves and she has been a huge part of this in the past.

And doing this was the single biggest way to get her to do the exact opposite of what they want. Both should know that. So unless they need Sunset to do something stupid and are planning on it, they where stupid to treat her this way.

And, provided they survive this, it will damage how she thinks of them, and how she thinks they think if her, for some time.

Ah, I'd missed this particular brand of dimension-bending madness.

Sunset being the host is the obvious answer here, but that feels too straightforward. Presumably Twilight at least thinks that's the answer and shoved her through the mirror to insulate her from the problem, but that doesn't fix anything, and it's never that simple anyway. Hmm.

Yikes. Things are spiraling even further into worse territory here, and I don't like it.

Comment posted by Thought Prism deleted Oct 24th, 2018

Okay. I have a theory as to what's going on here. A good one, I think. There's no way I could have come up with this if I wasn't already so well-read in terms of sci-fi stories, namely the Hyperion Cantos.

The crystal ball, and all the sealing chambers, were built in the future, and are moving backwards through time. This explains the vocabulary issue and the timeline split issue, since both those things already happened when the chambers were built. With future magitech, such a complex system would be feasible for Twilight herself to have constructed. As for the ball, in typical cases, crystal balls peer into the future. But if it's moving backwards in time, and was only charged up with magic in the past, it stands to reason that the thing would look back in time instead. The desynch is due to the ball's charge simply running out.

About the Nameless fragment and the Unponies, I’m not as sure. Maybe the Nameless is from the future too, and this fragment is actually when it first appeared. Maybe the Unponies are similar, and can only survive linked to the seal or eating weird inverted food because they age in reverse. Have we seen Unpony foals or elders? I can’t recall.



We did see some unpony foals in Reflections. Obviously, though, Reflections is not canon to Substitute (although the latter is canon to the former), but it does tell us the necessary state of unpony society in that unponies can look like foals.

What I'm saying is that they aren't mentioned in Substitute proper. But, obviously, I am getting that story ready for book-form publication and will probably slip some mentions of them in the story.

It's an interesting theory, definitely. Just so am sure, what you would say is that, as the crystal ball loses charge, the time seperation decreases (as the ball is running faster than real space and is thus catching up), with the view in the ball being present with reality as opposed to looking back in time at the moment the charge runs out?

Ah, right, Reflections. Interesting. And you've got the right idea with my thoughts on the ball.

An addendum: In this case, the seal couldn't actually suck all the magic out of all the worlds, it's just a message designed to get everypony to perform the actions necessary to maintain the continuity of events that leads to the seal's construction in the first place. Because then reality would collapse completely.

More and more mysteries, but no answers.

But what I'm suddenly most concerned about is pre-FF Wallflower running around. That girl is trouble.

What inspired you to write the Crystal Ball trilogy?


Interestingly enough, the Half Life remake Black Mesa, which had a music track called Inbound, prompted me to write Feedback. Substitute owes itself to the Vs. Zinnia theme from Pokemon. And this story owes itself to Severus and Lily from Harry Potter.

Music has moved a lot of my writing. This trilogy owes itself to those pieces of music, then.

Welp, story's over guys. The end is nigh.

Early access to chapters is fun!

...egads that was heart-wrenching.

Knew it was coming, still hurts. After all Sunset's name was "known" to the unPonys just like Twilights was, even if they didn't know why.

Hope there is a way out of this. Sunset ascending, provided it does destroy the old body a d make a new one, might work. If they can do it to her inside the chamber and get her soul out.

Not sure HOW that's possible, but I'm grasping at straws here.

Wait, didn't Celestia just find out that Sunset was never physically close enough to be tethered?


A point, though, the unponies knew about everypony who was in that seal including those captured by Adamantine very closely. They knew about Sunset and Starlight on account of Twilight knowing them and she was in that seal at some point.

We’ll see what happens to Sunset, that’s for sure~

No, Sunset was close enough. The circumstances of Sunset’s time travel were slightly different, but she nonetheless went back, met Twilight, and got tethered. Some thinking of layers is somewhat required here but the end result is the same.

Will have to go back and re-read. I remember being very worried when they talked about knowing Sunset, "from the beginning" I think was used.

Seemed to be a rather forboding foreshadow, but perhaps I am misremembering.

Oof, that was a doozy. Poor Sunset; she really has just resigned to her fate, now.

And then Twilight groaned and slammed the papers onto the floor. She cradled her head in her hands and sighed.

Is human magic suddenly leaking into Equestria now? :rainbowlaugh:


...Oops. Tis been fixed.

Oof. Ten thousand words of tears.

I saw this coming a mile away, but damn if the execution isn't emotional as all hell.

...dang that was heartwrenching.

I must say, you're a very talented writer, and one of the best I've had the pleasure of editing for. Keep it up!


Ah, but we can't forget the people who are willing to look at this dreck at its worst and figuratively write all over it in red pen. So right back at ya! :yay:

You're getting better about it. So there's that. And sometimes it's literally all over.

Whaddya mean this is "Incomplete"? Oh no. I call tell this is going to be agony while I wait for new chapters. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

This prologue has me ridiculously hooked.

I'm also a little concerned about the lack of a Starlight tag...

Oh good, there's Starlight.

Oh man. Sunset's the tether, isn't she? :unsuresweetie:

Something isn’t right.

No kiddin'

“Wallflower Blush,” she said, shaking Sunset’s hand. Her expression remained unchanged

Uh oh. I had hoped the mention of the school was just a cameo, and I could keep going, but this seals it. I haven't watched Season 8 yet, and I haven't seen anything EQG since Mirror Magic. I'm woefully behind :raritycry:

I'll be back to finish this chapter once I've caught up.

Comment posted by RQK deleted Dec 26th, 2018

Don’t let that be three years later :rainbowlaugh:

If you want to go that route, you could get by on the first two episodes of season 8; the school exists but is not at all important to the story. And you can watch Forgotton Friendship for context if you really want to, but, if you look closely, you’ll see that that has not happened in this universe, and probably will not come to pass. Wallflower will have a role to play, and that’ll be given full context in the story once it gets around to it.

Yeah, those are the only episodes of season 8 I've seen right now. I enjoyed them, but wanted to see the rest of the season all at once. It's been a pretty good method of viewing pony these past couple seasons, but I just haven't gotten to it yet.

But I'm a stickler for this sort of thing. Gotta do things in their proper order. On the bright side, I'm much more motivated to get caught up on season 8 and EQG than I was yesterday. So I don't think it'll take three years this time :duck:

I return from Forgotten Friendship

Excuse me one moment.


Luna tilted her head and asked, “So… why is it that this thousands of years-old chamber refers to it by that modern-day name?”

:unsuresweetie: :unsuresweetie: :unsuresweetie: :unsuresweetie:

I hate being right.


This was a mistake. I have to wait for chapters instead of just moving on to the next one? Pure agony.

You're the worst.

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