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Splinter

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Splinter
Spren.jpeg
Related to Shards
Universe Cosmere

I am a god. [...] A little piece of one. Very, very little.

A Splinter is the term for a specific type of fragment of Investiture that is ultimately derived from Adonalsium.[2] These Splinters can be composed of a single Shard's power or the Investiture of multiple Shards. They are present in many worlds of the cosmere, sometimes in abundant quantities[3] or with self-aware personalities,[4] while other times they are absent altogether or exist simply as a chunk of raw power guided by something else. These Splinters often possess abilities themselves or are capable of granting abilities by bonding with people.[3] Splinters are generally ageless and difficult to kill or destroy.[5] The spren of Roshar[3] and the seons of Sel[4] are some of the most well-known, although many species of Splinters can be found throughout the cosmere. The Shards Honor,[3] Ambition,[6] Devotion, and Dominion[4] have been Splintered, and therefore large portions of their power exist as Splinters.

Nature[edit]

At its core, a Splinter is a significant measure of a Shard's power that has been separated from the main body of Investiture. There is a notable difference between a physical manifestation of Investiture such as atium and lerasium or a perpendicularity, and a Splinter. While a Shard's power is never truly separated from itself, as it is all connected through the Spiritual Realm,[7] Splinters represent power that has been released or removed by a Shard.[8] Splinters tend to not have much in the way of a Physical aspect. As a chunk of Investiture they tend to be more rooted in the Cognitive and Spiritual Realms.[9] While many Splinters are composed of the Investiture of a single Shard, in the case of some Splinters they may actually be composed of the Investiture of two or more Shards.[10]

One distinguishing factor of a Splinter is that it may often have an intent of its own, separate from that of its parent Shard.[11] Splinters are often sentient and have an associated personality,[fn 1] although that personality may be destroyed[12] or its body tortured.[13] However, they do not necessarily need a personality to be considered a Splinter. Generally speaking, a Splinter has never been a person.[14] Therefore, by the strictest definition, a Cognitive Shadow may not be considered a Splinter, by some. However, there is an argument to be made that a Cognitive Shadow is just an imprint of a once-living being on Investiture,[15] and has therefore never truly been human.[6] Generally speaking, most would consider a Cognitive Shadow to be a type of Splinter.[16] Nevertheless, Splinters and Cognitive Shadows operate by similar rules and many Cognitive Shadows may be made of an amount of Investiture equivalent or potentially even greater than a typical Splinter. Whether or not an avatar of a Shard should considered a Splinter is also a subject of some debate.[17] While some would disagree, many people in the cosmere would be comfortable terming avatars Splinters.

It is certain that all Splinters do not contain the exact same quantity of Investiture, as a Splinter may be Splintered yet again into smaller fragments.[18][19] However, it is likely that there exists some threshold below which a quantity of Investiture is not considered to be a Splinter. For instance, a divine Breath is considered to be a Splinter,[20] but there is no indication that the lesser Breath possessed by normal people is considered to be one. In fact, the small amount of Investiture present in sapient beings, known as Innate Investiture, is also distinct from Splinters.[21]

Formation[edit]

I have always existed. We are not 'born' as men are, and we cannot truly die as men do. Patterns are eternal, as is fire, as is the wind. As are all spren.

Pattern explaining to Shallan the nature of spren.[22]

There are a few common ways for a Splinter to come into existence, and most require the will of a Shard on some level. Perhaps the most common is that a Shard creates a Splinter by intentionally separating a bit of its power from itself.[23] This may be done for the purpose of creating some sort of synthetic race, such as the spren or seons. Another reason to create a Splinter is if a Shard wishes to prevent a soul from passing on to the Beyond. They may make it into a Cognitive Shadow by either merging the Splinter with the soul or imprinting the soul upon the power, as is the case with the Fused[24] and the Returned.[25] They could create an avatar of their Shard by using their Investiture and some would call that a Splinter.[17]

A Shard may also Splinter another Shard, tearing off one or many chunks of its power, typically for the purpose of diminishing it. This is a process that transcends the three realms[26] and if a Shard is completely destroyed in this way it is said to be Splintered. Most commonly, a Splintering may happen as one titanic event that kills the Vessel and disperses its power.[27] Less frequently, a Vessel may be killed and then their Shard subsequently Splintered.[28] The Splintering of a Shard may also have serious consequences in the Physical Realm. The power of a Splintered Shard may ravage a planet uncontrollably if its Investiture is not contained.[4] There may be other physical effects of a Splintering, such as the formation of an asteroid belt in the system.[29] The process of Splintering is somewhat similar to the process by which Preservation stole a piece of Ruin's body to hide from him.[30]

A Splintered Shard cannot have a Vessel while it remains in such a state, but its Splinters may be reconstituted into a full Shard via an unknown process,[31] although it will not restore the original Vessel.[32] This is not known to have occurred yet in the cosmere.[33] If a Splinter's parent Shard is itself completely Splintered, there may be some impact on any extant Splinters.[34] Whether or not a Shard can Splinter another Shard is dependent upon the amount of raw Investiture that Shard is able to make use at the time,[35] as well as its ability to leverage said power, and its knowledge of the Splintering process.[27][36] There are more and less efficient ways to Splinter a Shard, and it may grow easier with practice.[37][36] Even a successful Splintering is taxing on the Shard performing it and may require some recovery by the Shard afterward.[38] In some cases, whether or not a Shard is Splintered may be somewhat vague.[39] A Shard left on its own without a Vessel may also Splinter of its own accord, although that is not the only possibility.[40]

Vulnerabilities[edit]

Mayalaran, a damaged Splinter, and Adolin

As Splinters are fragments of energy and energy is conserved in the cosmere,[41] they ultimately cannot be reduced to true nothingness.[22] They may be damaged sufficiently to destroy their minds, if they are self-aware in the first place. It seems one source of vulnerability of a Splinter is in any bonds it may have formed with other beings. One of the primary examples of this are the deadeyes of the Knights Radiant who betray their oaths. These spren are effectively immortal, as their essence cannot be destroyed,[22] but they suffer physical disfigurement in the Cognitive Realm,[42] as well as some sort of state of agony when drawn as a Blade,[12] and other reduced functionalities. This betrayal of the Nahel bond rips out a portion of their soul, which does not seem to be easily replaceable.[43]

A bond between a human and a seon, another type of Splinter, can also be a vulnerability for the seon. Following the Reod in the ten years before the restoration of Elantris, seons were in danger if their master was taken by the Shaod. The incorrect Aon acting on the human would disrupt their bonded seon as well, causing gaps to appear in their Aon, as well as a loss of any apparent sentience.[44] These damaged seons were known to stay close to their former masters that still lived, but apart from this they were seemingly totally unaware. Their minds were returned to them when Raoden repaired the Aon Rao in Elantris.[45]

Other vulnerabilities of Splinters appear to exist, but are less well understood. It seems apparent that if their Spiritweb is directly damaged by something like a Shardblade they may be killed,[46] or if their Investiture is consumed and fully corrupted by something like Nightblood,[47] as is the case with the Fused.[48] Even if it is not fatal, corruption of any sort by a foreign type of Investiture can cause serious changes to a Splinter, as is the case with Glys, a corrupted true spren.[49] Another possible vulnerability of Splinters is their ability to be trapped, perhaps most particularly those Splinters that lack a substantial physical aspect. Due to their connection to their parent Shard, Splinters often struggle to leave the location where they were created or the system that their parent Shard inhabits.[16] However, some Splinters can be even further trapped under certain conditions, such as spren inside of gemstones.[50] It is uncertain if all Splinters may be similarly trapped under the correct conditions.

Abilities[edit]

The abilities of a Splinter depend heavily on the conditions of their formation and the purpose or lack thereof that they were created with, although Splinters may learn to behave in ways other than was originally intended.[12] As previously mentioned, many Splinters may become self-aware or were self-aware from the moment of their creation,[51] but some do not and it is not a requirement to be a Splinter.[52] Splinters may posses an inherent understanding of Realmatic Theory.[53] One notable ability associated with Splinters is the ability to get a sense of what the future may hold.[54] This is visible across a number of different Splinters, from the visions granted by the divine Breath to the Returned[55] to the brief flashes of the future associated with Odium's Unmade.[56] Splinters, in many cases, may form bonds with other sapient beings. Sometimes these bonds are capable of granting access to Invested Arts, such as is the case with the Nahel bond in spren, but they may be a much more simple connection, as is the case with seons.[57]

Ultimately, the full extent of abilities a Splinter may have remain unknown. They are often associated with Fortune and precognitive abilities.[54] A Splinter may be able to replicate Preservation's imprisonment of Ruin on a much smaller scale.[58] Splinters may serve as a sort of release valve on the power of a Splintered Shard, potentially making it less dangerous.[59] It remains an open question whether or not a Splinter may take up a full Shard itself[60] or if it would just become subsumed within that Shard.[61] Kelsier's time spent holding the Shard Preservation may give some insight into the ability of a Splinter to serve as Vessel to a Shard.[62]

Known Splinters[edit]

Rosharan System[edit]

Sylphrena, a Splinter, fights deathspren

Spren are . . . power . . . shattered power. Power given thought by the perceptions of men. Honor, Cultivation, and . . . and another. Fragments broken off.

—Syl on spren[63]

Splinters are perhaps most populous in the Rosharan system, residing in the form of spren and Cognitive Shadows on at least two of the planets there.[3] On Roshar, Splinters most commonly take the form of spren, comprised often of some mixture between the Investiture of both Honor and Cultivation.[10] The Shard Honor has actually been Splintered entirely.[64] While these two Shards are most common on Roshar, self-aware Splinters left by Adonalsium remain on the planet.[2] Spren are more properly known as transformative cognitive entities,[65] concepts from the Cognitive Realm that have gained power and sentience as people have personified them.[66] Notably powerful Splinters range in power from the true spren capable of forming Nahel bonds, such as the honorspren,[67] to massive spren of larger importance such as the Stormfather[68] and the Nightwatcher.[69] Certain objects created directly by the local Shards, including the Honorblades, may also be Splinters.[70] While the flashiest bonds may belong to Surgebinders, the Splinters of this world form symbiotic relationships with many species of creatures,[3] including the Ryshadium[71] and the Tai-na.[72] Splinters are also made use of in devices known as fabrials, which require trapping a Splinter in order to create some sort of Invested device with a specific power.[50] The ten Cognitive Shadows known as Heralds could be considered Splinters as well, most likely created from Honor's Investiture.

Splinters of Odium are also present on that world, such as the Unmade,[73] and other Voidspren.[74] The Cognitive Shadows of ancient long-dead singers, known as the Fused, are also considered to be Splinters.[75] Historically, these Splinters have been confined by the Oathpact to Braize, a planet inhabited solely[76] by an entire ecosystem of self-aware Splinters,[3] except during Desolations.[77] However, following the True Desolation and the appearance of the Everstorm on Roshar, they are present on both Braize and Roshar. It is unknown if any Splinters are present on Ashyn, the third inhabited planet in the Rosharan system.[3] Splinters in this system are particularly vulnerable to the Unmade Sja-anat, who is capable of corrupting Splinters with Odium's Investiture.[78]

Nalthian System[edit]

I just wish I knew if there is really something spiritual about the Returns, or if it’s all just cosmic happenstance.”

Vasher on the Returned[79]

The only known Splinters present on Nalthis are the divine Breaths[20] granted to the Returned by the Shard Endowment.[25] These Splinters of Endowment are intentionally granted to the recently deceased by the Shard. Before they move to the Beyond, their souls are given a vision of the future[80] and an opportunity to return as a Cognitive Shadow[81] to influence future events.[82] If they agree, it seems likely that a person's soul either merges with[83] or imprints on[6] the divine Breath that returns them to life. The Splinter grants them a whole host of other abilities as well, including unnaturally long life[84] the ability to see fragments of the future when viewing art,[55] and the ability to give away their divine Breath to perform an act of healing.[85]

It is worth noting that while he may appear as such, Nightblood himself is not actually a Splinter,[86] nor is he powerful enough to Splinter a Shard.[87] In fact, Nightblood corrupts Investiture,[47] which is a completely different process than Splintering.[88]

Selish System[edit]

The seon Ien, a known Splinter

Brief mention should be given to the entities known as the seons and the skaze, Splinters of self-aware Investiture who have developed humanlike mannerisms.

Khriss's notes on Sel[4]

In the distant past, both Shards native to Sel, Devotion and Dominion were Splintered by Odium.[89][4] As a result the beings known as seons and skaze were formed from their Splinters; although their exact origin and manner of creation is something that is currently uncertain. The seons are considered to be Splinters of Devotion,[68] and more specifically it may be the Aons at the heart of the seons that are the actual Splinters.[90]. Seons appear as glowing balls of light with an Aon at their center.[91] Skaze on the other hand are formed from Splinters of Dominion.[92] They are visible as dark spheres that seem to draw in light, with a ring of misty symbols around its circumference.[93] The general nature of the seons and skaze are very much in keeping with their respective Shards. Seons appear to generally have the attitude of a devoted servant to their masters and view them with great affection,[44] while the skaze have much more control within the confines of the Fjordell Empire[94] and are a group of some importance to the Dakhor.[95] While there are some similarities to Rosharan spren, seons and skaze are far less numerous.[59] It is noteworthy while there are many Splinters of Devotion and Dominion on this world, Odium left none of his power behind on Sel when he moved on to a different system.

One uncertainty on Sel is the exact nature of the Dor. While the skaze and seons represent a small portion of the Splinters of Dominion and Devotion,[96] the vast majority of their power is contained within Shadesmar as the Dor.[4] While it is known to be composed of the combined Investiture of Splintered Shards,[4] it is still uncertain whether the Dor itself is made up of discrete Splinters or just a generalized mix of Investiture.

Scadrian System[edit]

So a slow death. Ati doesn’t know how to Splinter another Shard? Or he hasn’t the strength? Hmm . . .

—Khriss on Ruin killing Preservation

During the time of the Final Empire, both Ruin and Preservation had no Splinters of themselves on Scadrial.[14] This signifies that their god metals, lerasium and atium--despite existing as condensed Investiture of their respective Shards[97]--are not Splinters.[14] In fact, there are no Splinters of Ruin and Preservation in existence.[98] Three and a half centuries after the Catacendre, Harmony still does not have any Splinters, but that does not preclude the possibility that one day he may have Splinters of his own.[99] Any potential Splinters present on Scadrial would have to be brought there from another world,[98] a notoriously tricky process.[16] However, in the event that Ruin had been successful in defeating Preservation and destroying Scadrial, he would have Splintered Preservation.[28] Somehow, Rosharan spren have entered and are wandering around in Scadrial's Cognitive Realm.[100]

Elsewhere in the Cosmere[edit]

There are other places where Splinters must exist that we know less about, as of yet. The Shard Ambition is known to have been Splintered by Odium,[6] so it stands to reason that Splinters of that Shard exist somewhere in the cosmere. A few may exist even in the Threnodite system, as we know that chunks of Ambition's power were torn off there. Additionally, the Cognitive Shadows on Threnody, locally referred to as shades, may be Splinters. Another open ended question is whether or not the weak Cognitive Shadows known to manifest on Threnody contain a Splinter or not. It is debatable whether the various avatars of the Shard Autonomy, located on First of the Sun and Obrodai among other worlds, are considered to be Splinters.[17] There are some planets that only have Splinters present on the world,[101] as in the past Shards have gone to planets within the cosmere and left behind a Splinter before leaving.[102] Adonalsium also left behind Splinters on various worlds before its death.[2]

Notes[edit]

  1. Words of Radiance chapter 16 #
  2. a b c d Steelheart Seattle signing
    Arcanum - 2013-10-14#
  3. a b c d e f g h Arcanum Unbounded - The Rosharan System #
  4. a b c d e f g h i Arcanum Unbounded - The Selish System #
  5. Stormlight Three Update #5
    Arcanum - 2016-11-20#
  6. a b c d Arcanum Unbounded - The Threnodite System #
  7. Oathbringer London signing
    Arcanum - 2017-11-28#
  8. Goodreads: Ask the Author Q&A
    Arcanum - 2014-08-13#
  9. /r/fantasy AMA 2013
    Arcanum - 2013-04-15#
  10. a b LTUE 2020
    Arcanum - 2020-02-15#
  11. West Jordan signing
    Arcanum - 2011-08-04#
  12. a b c Words of Radiance chapter 87 #
  13. Oathbringer chapter 110 #
  14. a b c Vericon 2011
    Arcanum - 2011-03-19#
  15. Oathbringer Houston signing
    Arcanum - 2017-11-18#
  16. a b c Oathbringer Leeds signing
    Arcanum - 2017-12-01#
  17. a b c Starsight Release Party
    Arcanum - 2019-11-26#
  18. Oathbringer chapter 1111 #
  19. Skyward Seattle signing
    Arcanum - 2018-11-10#
  20. a b Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A
    Arcanum - 2010-01-18#
  21. 17th Shard Forum Q&A
    Arcanum - 2012-09-25#
  22. a b c Words of Radiance chapter 75 #
  23. JordanCon 2018
    Arcanum - 2018-04-21#
  24. Oathbringer London signing
    Arcanum - 2017-11-28#
  25. a b Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing
    Arcanum - 2016-12-01#
  26. Words of Radiance Philadelphia signing
    Arcanum - 2014-03-21#
  27. a b Mistborn: Secret History part 3 chapter 2 #
  28. a b Mistborn: Secret History part 6 chapter 4 #
  29. Prague Signing
    Arcanum - 2019-10-26#
  30. Hal-Con 2012
    Arcanum - 2012-10-30#
  31. 17th Shard Forum Q&A
    Arcanum - 2012-09-25#
  32. Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing
    Arcanum - 2016-12-01#
  33. Calamity Seattle signing
    Arcanum - 2016-02-17#
  34. Starsight Release Party
    Arcanum - 2019-11-26#
  35. JordanCon 2018
    Arcanum - 2018-04-22#
  36. a b JordanCon 2018
    Arcanum - 2018-04-20#
  37. JordanCon 2018
    Arcanum - 2018-04-22#
  38. West Jordan signing 2012
    Arcanum - 2012-12-06#
  39. Salt Lake City ComicCon 2017
    Arcanum - 2017-09-21#
  40. FAQFriday 2017
    Arcanum - 2017-06-09#
  41. Words of Radiance Washington, DC signing
    Arcanum - 2014-03-20#
  42. Oathbringer chapter 89 #
  43. Words of Radiance Seattle signing
    Arcanum - 2014-03-08#
  44. a b Elantris chapter 16 #
  45. The Hope of Elantris #
  46. Oathbringer chapter 84 #
  47. a b OdysseyCon 2016
    Arcanum - 2016-04-08#
  48. Idaho Falls signing
    Arcanum - 2018-07-21#
  49. Oathbringer chapter 117 #
  50. a b Oathbringer chapter 33 #
  51. Calamity Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2016-02-22#
  52. Shadows of Self Leeds UK signing
    Arcanum - 2015-10-22#
  53. TWG Posts
    Arcanum - 2010-03-23#
  54. a b Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson
    Arcanum - 2011-01-10#
  55. a b Goodreads Fantasy Book Discussion Warbreaker Q&A
    Arcanum - 2010-01-18#
  56. Oathbringer chapter 101 epigraph#
  57. /r/books AMA 2015
    Arcanum - 2015-06-19#
  58. Salt Lake City Comic-Con 2014
    Arcanum - 2014-09-04#
  59. a b /r/Stormlight_Archive
    Arcanum - 2013-03-11#
  60. /r/books AMA 2015
    Arcanum - 2015-06-24#
  61. Bands of Mourning release party
    Arcanum - 2016-01-25#
  62. Mistborn: Secret History chapter 6 #
  63. Words of Radiance chapter 24 #
  64. Google+ Hangout
    Arcanum - 2012-04-17#
  65. Oathbringer chapter ars #
  66. Words of Radiance chapter 1 #
  67. Steelheart Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2013-10-05#
  68. a b Arcanum Unbounded Seattle signing
    Arcanum - 2016-12-01#
  69. JordanCon 2016
    Arcanum - 2016-04-23#
  70. Calamity Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2016-02-22#
  71. Idaho Falls signing
    Arcanum - 2018-07-21#
  72. Words of Radiance interlude I-3 #
  73. /r/books AMA 2015
    Arcanum - 2015-03-12#
  74. Words of Radiance chapter 3 #
  75. Words of Radiance chapter 34 epigraph#
  76. Arcanum Unbounded - The Drominad System #
  77. Oathbringer chapter 38 #
  78. Oathbringer chapter 97 #
  79. Warbreaker epilogue #
  80. Warbreaker chapter 57 #
  81. Stormlight Three Update #6
    Arcanum - 2017-01-20#
  82. Warbreaker Annotations
    Arcanum - 2011-03-21#
  83. Mistborn: Secret History part 1 chapter 1 #
  84. Warbreaker chapter 3 #
  85. Warbreaker chapter 12 #
  86. /r/books AMA 2015
    Arcanum - 2015-07-25#
  87. Holiday signing
    Arcanum - 2015-12-12#
  88. Stormlight Three Update #5
    Arcanum - 2016-11-20#
  89. The Way of Kings chapter 22 epigraph#
  90. A Memory of Light Signing Milford
    Arcanum - 2013-02-16#
  91. Elantris chapter 2 #
  92. White Sand Volume 1 signing Orem
    Arcanum - 2016-06-29#
  93. Elantris postscript #
  94. Shadows of Self signing Chicago
    Arcanum - 2015-10-12#
  95. Tor.com Q&A with Brandon Sanderson
    Arcanum - 2011-01-10#
  96. Holiday signing
    Arcanum - 2015-12-12#
  97. Hero of Ages Q&A - Time Waster's Guide
    Arcanum - 2008-10-15#
  98. a b Steelheart Chicago signing
    Arcanum - 2013-10-05#
  99. Minicon 2015
    Arcanum - 2015-04-02#
  100. General Twitter 2015
    Arcanum - 2015-12-11#
  101. Alloy of Law York signing
    Arcanum - 2011-11-24#
  102. Oathbringer Leeds signing
    Arcanum - 2017-12-01#
Footnotes
  1. While Brandon has said on one occasion that Splinters must be self-aware,[2] elsewhere he has said differently and has explicitly referred to the divine Breath as a Splinter, despite its lack of self-awareness. That, combined with the fact that Khriss feels the need to specify that seons and skaze are self-aware Splinters,[4] makes it clear that a Splinter need not necessarily be self-aware.
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