(current: to Shard#Introduction)
”The Shards are not God, but they are pieces of God. Ruin, Preservation, Autonomy, Cultivation, Devotion...There are sixteen of them.
Each Shard is a piece of the power of creation with a specific motivation, such as to destroy or to preserve. Those fragments each began their existence with equal level of power; however, over time many have diminised, whether through conflict or by the act of Investing a world -- imbuing it with its Investiture. Each Shard has its own Investiture; while a Shard can co-opt the Investiture of another Shard, that Investiture will become noticeably red.
Investing in a world will produce numerous effects, most notably the creation of a magic system tied to the Shard. While a Shard does not have a complete control over how the magic system functions or what it does, it can manipulate its mechanics to an extent. Moreover, the presence of a Shard leads to the formation of a Perpendicularity, a well of the Shard's investiture that pierces all three Realms, allowing for the existence of worldhopping. The power can also influence the world in other ways, such as by forming atium and lerasium on Scadrial, or Tears of Edgli on Nalthis.
To function properly, a Shard requires a mind controlling it, belonging to a sapient creature from the Physical Realm, like a human -- such an entity is referred to as a Vessel. One doesn't need to be able to use Investiture in order to become a Vessel, but the ability does help. What becoming a Vessel requires above all is Connection to the Shard in question, whether forged artificially or driven by a natural inclination towards the Shard's intent.
The act of becoming a Vessel is called Ascension, and causes the Vessel's body to vaporize, allowing their mind to expand. From then on, the Vessel and the Shard are intertwined; the Vessel gets to set some general course of how the Shard's power is defined, and feeds off the Shard's power to remain alive, but the Shard's power is the driving force between the two. Over centuries, a Vessel's mind begins to change, slowly molding to fit the Shard's intent more perfectly.
The most common way to kill a Shard is to Splinter it, breaking its power down further into smaller pieces, called splinters. The actual death of a Shard, however, can take up to hundreds of years. If the Shard is taken up before the Vessel dies completely, splintering can be prevented; if not, the power will become wild and dangerous. When a Vessel dies, the person's original body rematerializes and falls to the ground as a corpse.
- For the histories of individual Shards, see their respective pages
”I have delved and searched, and have only been able to come up with a single name: Adonalsium. Who, or what, it was, I do not yet know.
It is unknown what precisely Adonalsium was, though it has been referred to numerous times as the power of creation, suggesting it to be the progenitor god of the cosmere. At some point in the distant past, on the planet of Yolen, sixteen people conspired to kill it, and succeeded in an event known as the Shattering of Adonalsium. Some of those people were romantically involved; others were related to each other.
Following the Shattering, the power that comprised Adonalsium broke into sixteen pieces, each polarized to one particular aspect of it, such as Ruin or Endowment. Those pieces, each equal in power, became known as the Shards. The sixteen killers of Adonalsium each took up one of the Shards, Ascending and becoming the first Vessels. Following their Ascension, each of the Vessels departed Yolen for different worlds. Some settled on various planets, henceforth dubbed Shardworlds; others set no roots.
Originally, the Shards made a pact not to settle together on a singe world; however, only a few Shards kept to it. The pact was not, it seems, set in stone, though, as even the Shard of oathkeeping, Honor, felt no qualms about travelling with Cultivation.
Over the millennia, several Shards have passed away, one way or another. The most common cause of death for them were actions of one specific Shard, Odium, who went on a killing spree, splintering Ambition, Devotion, Dominion and Honor before eventually being trapped in the Rosharan system by the remnants of the latter. Preservation passed hands several times before being merged with Ruin into Harmony; by contrast, Autonomy spread, creating avatars to inhabit numerous Shardworlds, including Obrodai and First of the Sun.
At least one of the Vessels regrets taking up their power, though which one that would be is unknown.
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