Resembling slightly-larger-than-average aphids, Sandibari developed the sentience to communicate and build societies, but are unable to build their own technology. Instead, they cooperate with other species, serving as spies or forming a communication network or other such work, in exchange for benefits like rides around the galaxy. It is common in the Nine Systems for ships to be built with a specially designed hull for Sandibari passengers, which is typically mossy, wet, and warm. Many tend not to visit. Their language sounds like the clicking of a keyboard, but with practice one can learn to differentiate the sounds and their meanings. It is, however, next to impossible to speak without mandibles (without sounding silly).
Sandibari are hexapedal (six-legged) organisms whose chitinous exoskeletons are typically green in color to blend in with their surroundings. Males have large, iridescent wings that can sometimes become a size impediment, and a flashy dance of wings accompanied to specific mating calls allows them to attract mates. Females have much more utilitarian wings and are almost double the size of their male counterparts. All Sandibari have complex eyes allowing them to pick out minute details in their surroundings that indicate things like changing weather patterns and possible predators, and a set of mandibles that allows them to both process food, and to speak.
Genetics and Reproduction
Adult female Sandibari lay their eggs in the mulch and soil of the forest floor, where their larvae develop until they reach a stage where they can begin to climb trees. At this stage, when they reach the first leaves they can find, they devour them and then each larva begins to form a chrysalis near the base of the branch. After a period of a couple of weeks, an adult Sandibari emerges from the chrysalis. (Most Sandibari barely remember this time, and those who do describe it as painful and confusing, but look at it as necessary for proper development.)
Growth Rate & Stages
Life for a Sandibari begins in the egg, which is laid in the topsoil and spends a period of roughly three ten-day weeks, consuming the decaying plant matter and other nutrients to be found in the soil. After this period of time, a larva emerges from the soil and climbs the trunk of the nearest tree, seeking out fresh leaves. The larva devours all leaves it can find until it doubles in size, a period typically lasting several days, and settles at the base of the branch, next to the trunk, to fabricate a chrysalis. Two ten-day weeks later, after being emulsified and rearranged, an adult emerges. This is usually considered the first day of conscious life, or the age of memory.
Ecology and Habitats
Sandibari have evolved to prefer temperate climates and deciduous forests or evergreens (although not needled evergreens, as the leaves are too hard to chew). Hulls built to these standards are exceedingly common in Stenza ships and have sections of imperial law devoted to them.
Dietary Needs and Habits
Sandibari are strictly herbivorous, consuming the leaves of the trees around them. Due to their intelligence, they are also known to gather leaves and preserve them in moist storage chambers (often at the tops of trees, closer to the suns) for future consumption. (It is widely known among both species that the first interactions between early Stenza and the Sandibari involved the trading of plant goods; the plant 'Alashaia bears fruit poisonous to the Sandibari. To hear the Stenza tell it, someone took this as a challenge and survived, and so it was agreed that Stenza had rights to the poisonous fruits.)
Like almost all other Mudeweian species, yearly (and otherwise) changes in weather prompt the Sandibari to move all over the forest, either closer to the equator or away from it depending on the disturbance. On average, this is a migratory pattern, although not as strict a one as the patterns of their neighbors to the north.
The basic unit of Sandibari social organization is the "hive" which denotes a group of genetically related individuals that have grown up around, and live in or near, the same tree or small number of trees. A group of hives in a general area is called a "swarm", which is analogous to a tribe or a droga (although Stenza clans tend to be more closely related within themselves than Sandibari swarms). In modern times, the Sandibari population aboard a vessel which can accommodate them views itself as part of the same swarm, excepting larger vessels such as The Lawgiver or ships in that class, where multiple swarms may be housed.
Geographic Origin and Distribution
Sandibari lack the use of tools due mostly to lacking the limbs to use tools, but they are otherwise exceptionally intelligent. They have a rich oral history tradition (which they now back up with help from their Stenza neighbors), and are capable of cooperation, communication, language learning, and some manipulation of their environment (often with leaves).
Civilization and Culture
The Sandibari treat their various ethnicities as distinct political units, which often disagree (for example, Althusian Sandibari with, well, everyone else, or the Albarian Sandibari and Muxteran Sandibari situation). Inside each ethnic group are any number of swarms, which maintain cultural traditions and oral histories, including important navigational information, coded messages, and legends from their old territories. Inside each swarm is a generally small number of hives, family units that may maintain their own customs independent of other hives within the same swarm. Swarms are governed and minded by the eldest members of each hive within the swarm, and are generally held to be self-sufficient and responsible for their own affairs. Periodically swarms may send representatives to other swarms, even in other ethnic groups, for diplomatic purposes. The Sandibari Spy Network is built on this form of cross-swarm representative communication, although that is far from the only thing it is used for.
Average Technological Level
Many people can learn to understand the Sandibari language, even if it is rare for another species to be able to speak it. Sandibari exploit this to gain access to the technology of others and expand across the galaxy. Not to say that they do not show their own ingenuity (arguably just the opposite). They have been known to make "nests" of sorts high up in treetops to store leaves for future food supplies, which are constructed out of twigs, dead leaves, needles, and so on.
Major Language Groups and Dialects
Common Etiquette Rules
One must be very quiet around the Sandibari, for practical reasons to hear them, but also because it is considered polite. Additionally, do not wear shoes, and tread as lightly as possible in their hulls so as not to accidentally kill the larvae. Catwalks can be used to work around this consideration.
Culture and Cultural Heritage
Many Sandibari hold animist beliefs about their forest home, that they carry with them aboard ships (sometimes ascribing a spirit to the ship itself). Almost all plants and other fauna are considered to have a soul of some kind, as well as natural features such as rocks, soil, and bodies of water.
No one in their right mind would venture near The Symmetrical Tree.
Common Myths and Legends
The Symmetrical Tree is considered an unholy place due to its unusual properties. Different reasons are posited as to why, from an inhabiting malevolent spirit to a complete lack of spirit entirely. The site is responsible (in a sense) for several disappearances of a host of wildlife, several Sandibari, and a handful of Stenza explorers.
Interspecies Relations and Assumptions
They are exceptionally cooperative, and think it a mark of esteem when a member of another species learns to understand them. They understand a large number of languages, and have diplomatic relations with nearly every sentient species in the galaxy, including The Stenza. Being fragile, they do not tend to war, but will ally themselves in the wars of other species, working as spies and other communication-related functions.