The Baufrin are an insectoid space-faring people with mandibles, six eyes, and five pairs of mobile limbs. They are, in many respects, a human nightmare scuttling along on the six lower legs, which they use for movement. Their head and thorax are connected to their abdomen at an upward-bending right angle so they take on a centaur- or KessRith-like appearance. The upper two pairs of limbs function like hands - the upper pair being used for delicate close work while the longer, lower pair is used for work requiring strength. Their 3 pairs of eyes are each sensitive to a different range of light, so they can see better than humans, but their ear sacs are less developed, so their hearing is poorer than human hearing.
Baufrin are the second race encountered by humans in their exploration of the galaxy.
The Baufrin are the strangest form of life found in the galaxy. Mankind's first meeting with them, in the year 3000, was heralded by many as the first meeting of Mankind with the forces of Satan. While not quite looking like a traditional demon, the insectoid Baufrin certainly did qualify as the rulers of Mankind's worst nightmares. To the surprise of everyone, the Baufrin also proved to be reasonable, intelligent, and as willing to avoid combat as any other rational species. Yet despite Mankind's long alliance with the Baufrin, they still are almost as mysterious as they were when we first met them.
The Baufrin are most easily described as centaur-like spidermen. Six legs extend down from their abdomen and their thorax is held up at a 90° angle to the ground. Their thorax has four arms. The upper pair is used for delicate and precise actions and the lower, longer pair is used for things that require strength. Baufrin stand about 1 meter tall and weigh in at 60 kilos - most of that coming in the chitinous exoskeleton that covers their body.
Baufrin have a quadruple set of mandibles and three pairs of eyes. Each of their eye pairs sees light in a slightly different range, so they have sight that is considered much sharper than human sight. Two hornlike protrusions from the sides of their heads are used to conduct sound to their ear sacs, but do not function that well and make them somewhat deaf by human standards.
The Baufrin exoskeleton is generally an emerald green color, but it tends to deepen and take on blue shades as a Baufrin ages. The intricate striping on the exoskeleton varies and is thought to reflect something about the individual the Baufrin was before his last molt. The Baufrin continue to grow throughout their 50-year life span and molt every 8 years. This molting process is traumatic and occurs after the Baufrin enters a period of fertile, sexual frenzy. During this sexually fertile period the male and female Baufrin exoskeletons become a bright, livid red.
The Baufrin remain virtually asexual until the time of mating, and then require three sexes for reproduction: male, female and mother. A Baufrin may assume either the male or female role at the time of mating - it's believed that the mother produces pheromones that help sexual determination. The male and female deposit sperm and ova within the mother. The mother gives birth to a clutch of eggs that are attached to her abdomen within a clear mucus film. Each mating produces anywhere from 50 to 150 eggs, of which 5 to 10% prove viable. Each Baufrin reaches maturity by its second molt.
Molting presents certain problems for the Baufrin. It is believed that as they age, the exoskeleton becomes thicker and prevents ultraviolet light from getting through the skeleton. UV light is necessary for the production of an enzyme that helps deal with blood toxicity. When too many toxins build up, the exoskeleton turns red, and the Baufrin mate and then shed their exoskeleton. Their new flesh is soft for 12 to 24 hours, and many of the blood toxins ooze through it to help strengthen and stiffen the new exoskeleton. The exoskeleton works as well as Lorica armor (AF 3) mainly because it can provide both shock and ablative protection without hurting the Baufrin.
The molting does more than just change the outside of the Bauffin; it also creates radical personality shifts. In many cases the Baufrin totally forget who they were and seek out new relationships. Because they have an affinity for tasks they once performed, and are very adept at recovering these skills almost immediately after molting, it is believed their brain is not "wiped clean" during the change. Instead, researchers believe, their former personality retreats into their brain and a new personality is allowed to appear. The Baufrin do not acknowledge this human theory - treating it as if it were blasphemous - but certain studies indicate that it might be true.
The ultraviolet light theory was confirmed during a very unusual incident. An independent trader had a Baufrin navigator who began to get a pinkish tint to his exoskeleton. The medical officer drilled two holes in the exoskeleton and circulated the Baufrin equivalent of blood through a clear tube that he subjected to very strong UV light. This treatment delayed the onset of molt for 3 months, with treatment requiring "illumination" 3 hours a day for the entire time.
The Baufrin claim they only have a 50-year life span, but aside from color variation in the exoskeleton, physiologists cannot detect any loss of abilities from one molt to another. Because no one has ever seen an infant or juvenile of the mother sex, and no one has ever seen an Independent Elder, a strange theory has cropped up among Human and Naram researchers. They believe that after the 50 years of "adult" life, some of the Baufrin become mothers, and after yet more time mothers become Independent Elders.
The Baufrin refuse to discuss this theory because mothers and Independent Elders have important positions within their religion. Researchers have theorized each mother cares for two clutches of young for roughly 16 years before they go off and molt or die. Those mothers who molt become Independent Elders and Independent Elders, they believe, undergo a reintegration of their various personalities (with a molt every 8 years or so, that gives an Elder 7 personalities, including the mother personality). These Elders, then, have 7 personalities to provide input on problems.
No one has even begun to guess at the age at which an Elder might die, but references to certain Elders suggest that it might be as much as two centuries.
Very little is known of Baufrin history before Human contact. The Baufrin claim the planet Baufrinos as their homeworld and evidence a steady expansion that suggests they developed T-Space drives while mankind was still exterminating the wooly mammoth. Their galactic exploration managed to avoid any other sentient race until they ran into mankind in the area now known as Shannedam County.
The initial Baufrin/Human contact was hampered by their physiological differences and the inability of Human leaders to locate and speak with Independent Elders. The brief fighting on Shannedam IV showed that the two species were equally competent militarists. Human leaders realized the Baufrin only became aggressive when pressured by attacks, so things cooled to a state of armed neutrality while leaders met.
Human negotiators have indicated that discussions with Baufrin Independent Elders were not easy. The Elders swath themselves in silken robes that many people believe are woven of silk the Elder produces himself (even though none of the other Baufrin sexes/life stages have that ability). The robes vary in color and the intricate patterns woven into the gown are reminiscent of the striations on a Baufrin carapace, but no Baufrin will even hint at what they mean.
Aside from wearing more clothing that others of their race, the Independent Elders have the annoying habit, from a Human point of view, of falling silent for what one man referred to as "internal discussions" before they render a decision. In this state it is virtually impossible to determine if a Baufrin is alive or dead, which caused a number of tense moments until humans became accustomed to the behavior.
Once the two sides reached an agreement to live together, Bau-frin/Human cooperation became legendary. Human settlers often forged a symbiotic relationship with Baufrin neighbors because of humanity's extended life span and ability to remember more than just the last 8 years. Humans would tend to agriculture and the Baufrin would undertake difficult tasks, like mining, that suited them better than Humans.
The Baufrin did not suffer physically from the Snow Plague, but they deeply felt the loss of their Human friends. There were numerous reports of whole Baufrin families entering caverns to induce molting prematurely so they could shed the deep grief they felt over the deaths of their friends. Many moving Baufrin poems were written during that time, and they are often quoted by Baufrin who volunteer for the Commonwealth (or TOG) armed forces.
Because of their differences in size, the larger KessRith had difficulty following Baufrin resistance leaders everywhere they went, so they brought in Ssora mercenaries who were better suited to the job. The Ssora thought nothing of chasing after these spider people and, if Baufrin reports are to be believed, the Ssora even found the Baufrin tasty. As a result of this period, the Baufrin are not very friendly with Ssora in general, and do not trust them in large numbers. [Editor's Note: The Ssora love of strong central government is most likely the root of this conflict, but the more visceral story certainly explains the depth of Baufrin distrust of Ssora.]
The Baufrin appreciated Alexander Trajan's help in the Commonwealth uprising, but felt they had to negotiate a peace with the KessRith because of the tendencies shown by Trajan's government. Based largely on the rise of slavery in New Rome holdings, the Baufrin feared the sort of repressive government that finally did arise under TOG, and they wanted no part of it.
Since the TOG declaration of war against the Commonwealth, the Baufrin have relinquished direct control of the government. Aside from the fact that they dislike a strong government, they realize that the mental longevity of Human, Naram and KessRith make them more suitable leaders. While it is believed that Independent Elders could supply yet greater longevity, to bring them into the government would be profaning the sacred. Even so, In-dependent Elders are not reticent about providing advice for the Regent, or recommending an outstanding Baufrin for consideration as Regent.
The Baufrin culture is based around the triad family unit of male, female and mother. A mother takes care of her clutch of children until they reach maturity, but that will not prevent her from bearing another clutch. After being impregnated, the mother locates a newly molted pair to form a family unit. They help raise the children and later impregnate the mother again. [Editor's Note: Because it is very difficult for a human to distinguish between Baufrin, the possibility that mothers survive forever cannot be discounted. The author is, once again, merely presenting the most recent theory on Baufrin society and biology.]
Because molting can cause radical personality shifts in an individual, they are treated by society as totally new people after the molt. This lack of reliability and constancy has created in the Baufrin a distrust for any organization broader than the family unit, which is seldom larger than 30 individuals, counting offspring, adoptees and surrogate mothers. Mothers dominate the family unit, with the mysterious Independent Elders serving as advisors and the final arbiters of conflict.
Molting also provides a unique form of punishment for those who commit truly heinous crimes. Whereas petty crimes are punished by exile or imprisonment, serious crimes are handled by imprisoning the individual without ultraviolet light. Apparently, in such a place, the individual undergoes multiple moltings and emerges a virtual "blank slate." His former personality has been executed and the new personality rejoins society.
The Independent Elders seem to be a rough cross between traveling circuit judges, prophets and saints. The Baufrin are strong traditionalists and keep copious records both about what they have done and what Independent Elders have said. This has obvious importance in a society where you might "die" every 8 years, and Baufrin who read about their own past exploits in their own diaries assume they are reading about a third party. Elders are keenly aware of what other Elders have said, and do whatever they can to avoid contradicting previous advice and rulings - though offering a per-sonal insight or clarification on a case by case basis is perfectly ac-ceptable.
On the whole the Baufrin are a kind, considerate and deferential people. They quietly admire Humans and Naram for their wild unpredictability (from the Baufrin point of view) and their staunch defense of personal freedom. The Baufrin dislike of TOG stems not so much from a love of freedom - which they equate with being an orphan, a most horrible condition - than from their intense hatred of any autocratic government attempting to force its ideas upon them.
It has been observed that the Baufrin have government by anarchy, but this indicates gross ignorance on the part of the observer. The Baufrin governmental structure strongly parallels the family unit, and each family has been termed a "kinstate" in which the family is seen as its own little nation. Alliances between these kinstates are common and facilitate the exchanging of mothers and parent pairs. Some kinstate alliances take on a more formal structure as they raise and prepare the individuals who dominate particular occupations.
The Independent Elders serve as direct authority over districts and are obeyed without question. There is no appeal from the decision of an Independent Elder, but they rarely issue truly harsh rulings. There is evidence that Independent Elders remain in communication with each other, and some have suggested that Elders have a telepathic link with their peers. No information is available on the number of Elders and whether or not they ever come together to discuss items of great importance.
The difficulty human leadership first encountered with the Baufrin highlights the "hands-off" attitude the Baufrin like to foster. Human envoys consistently requested that they be taken to the Baufrin leader, but each Baufrin simply pointed out the mother of his own family. When the mothers were consulted, each of them indicated a different Independent Elder. Only by comparing the names of the Independent Elders and polling a few of them - after a lengthy search - were Humans able to determine the name of an Elder who seemed to be respected by a fair number of the Baufrin. Despite realizing the apparent need of Humans to converse with a single leader, the Baufrin initially put Humans through this same chase over and over again.
Baufrin philosophy is virtually impossible to organize or quantify in terms that the Human mind can grasp. The Baufrin love of family is incredibly strong. Their respect for the authority of the Independent Elders is unquestioned, but their hatred of strong central authority is nearly pathological in its intensity. How they manage to view the Elders as religious figures worthy of respect, but political leaders as reprobates, is difficult for anyone but Baufrin to reconcile.
They appreciate the selfless bravery of Human, Naram and KessRith heroes who are willing to sacrifice themselves for others, yet few Baufrin are willing to do the same. This reluctance has been seen both as the fear of destroying a family and the fear of sacrificing a potential Elder.
Envy and jealousy do not seem to be emotions the Baufrin recognize or understand. They are aware of the changes that they will undergo when they molt, so they seem to constantly be experiencing and learning as much as they can, yet without the intrusive curiosity of the Vauvusar. They are nearly always well-mannered.
They do have a sense of humor and even chitter/laugh at themselves when they make an error or do something funny. Whereas a Ssora would die of embarrassment at ridicule, a Baufrin might even invite repetition of the occurrence to insure he had gotten it correctly fixed in his mind.
The Baufrin form an interesting counterpart to humanity. They don't seem to struggle as hard against the inevitability of death because of their frequent brushes with psychological oblivion. Their unease with central governments is a necessary touchstone that stops the Commonwealth from becoming too much like the enemy they are seeking to repel.