A Shard is an auxiliary consciousness derived from another, typically that of a Deity.
The Deities of the Pantheon have always had the ability to create offshoots of themselves in order to work inside the physical universe without altering it too much, as would be the case if their complete essences were translated onto the physical plane.
The concept of creating a Shard, as opposed to an Avatar, was originally proposed and tested by Tieria (as is the case in most Pantheon-related experiments). After its success and the subsequent solidification of the aetheric framework used to create it, the concept and implementation of the Shard became available to all those with the capability to use it.
Shards exist in order to overcome what some see as shortcomings to the Avatar; specifically, the amount of constant attention required. Though not a significant burden, some of the less patient Deities prefer to use Shards in order to achieve long-term functions, as waiting around for millenia for something to happen can be quite tedious.
Shards also have a considerably smaller reality-warping effect due to the considerably smaller amount of direct attention they receive from their parent Deity.
Functional analysis Edit
The lifecycle of a Shard can be broken down into four phases: generation, hibernation, activation, and annihilation.
Phase 1, generation Edit
During generation (or creation), the Deity determines the characteristics of the Shard and its guiding directives or instructions. This includes setting the Shard's location (if immobile) or area and range of operation (if mobile) as well as any timers or triggers that initiate the other phases. This phase is one of the few times when the Deity is in full contact with the Shard.
Phase 2, hibernation Edit
Once the first phase is complete, the Deity then cuts the shard loose and effectively ignores it until something triggers it to send a notification. The second phase is little more than waiting for a countdown timer or a trigger event, and is usually the longest of the four phases. For immobile Shards, this involves no further instructions; mobile Shards will simply follow their directives for autonomous movement, which were formed in phase one and require no more direct attention from the Deity. Once the timer counts down or an event triggers a response, hibernation ends and the next phase begins.
Phase 3, activation Edit
The third phase, activation, is when the Shard accomplishes whatever task or tasks were assigned when it was first created. This may be anything from providing information when questions are asked to scouring the surface of a planet of all life.
At this point in the Shard's lifecycle, there are two options. If only a single instance of a single task was intended, the Shard will proceed to the fourth phase. If there are multiple tasks or the task is expected to reoccur (or both), the Shard will instead return to the second phase and wait for another countdown or event.
Phase 4, annihilation Edit
The final phase of a Shard's lifecycle is generally the shortest. Once its purpose is fulfilled, meaning that all its assigned objectives are complete, the Shard will execute its final instructions; these usually involve sending data back to its parent Deity or recording data for pickup at a later time. Once all instructions are fulfilled, the Shard will cease to exist, its matter and energy either dispersed through the surrounding area or returned to the Source.
Shards, like Avatars, vary considerably in their power and frequency of use according to their parent Deity. Rosewood regularly uses powerful Shards in her designs and experiments; Eris does as well, though to a somewhat lesser extent. Of the other Deities, only Tieria uses Shards more than occasionally.
If asked personal questions, Shards are generally directed to refer to themselves by their Deity's name or cherished thing; a Shard of Dio and a Shard of Time come from the same source. This allows for more direct identification than an Avatar, which generally has a name of its own.