Owgawan Diplocrats

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There’s a City Definitions entry for “diplocrat” meaning “dumbed down public justification,” but instead of using it this scholar is using the pair definition suggested by this entry’s original reference the Dolphin Riders. Rule by Twos it is.

Composition

Civilization might never have started on the planet Tau 21 Lambda 1 were it not for a spider bite.

The psychotropic properties of Vessan spider venom are well known, but their particular interaction with the neurology of the larger and thumb-possessing Toprawp spiders remains the mystery that catapulted Tau 15 Lambda 1 from a scrubby geologist’s footnote to nearly two millennia of headlong technological progress.

The term “spider” is the subject of some debate, with scholars being accused alternately of oversimplification and malicious fearmongering in their use of the term. To be strictly fair, the Vessan spider holds several distinctions from the arachnid of modern observers, and the Toprawp spiders, despite being four to six feet in span and in possession of eight hairy appendages, are matters of convergent evolution rather than being any kind of cousin of modern spiders, so far as this scholar is aware. For what it’s worth, they eat plants.

For millennia, Vessans and Prawps combined in one-to-one pairings to create a society. This strict ratio distinguishes the dual nature of the Owgawans from the more fluidly grouped Dolphin Riders of Tau 15 Theta 3.

Bonding

The exact mechanism of pair “thought” is not well understood. Memories are not shared, and direct communication, though obviously possible, remains a mystery. The Prawp possessed most of the brains, both physically and in pound-for-pound complexity; however, most non-reflex impulses ran to the Vessan first before being approved for distribution. As a result most successful pairs had the Vessan attached to the bristles of the Prawp’s throat, near the brain and protected from overhead threats and from the equally lethal threat of the Prawp performing an unexpected override to lie down.

Speech was controlled primarily by the Prawp, writing primarily by the Vessan. Though it is difficult to separate the influences of a civilization whose records were communal descriptions of bonded pairs, it seems that Prawps were generally thoughtful, slow, cowardly, and dexterous, ideally adapted for lying in one place chewing grass all day while contemplating the meaning of life, while Vessans were cunning, imaginative, fearless, and too small to affect the world with their tiny chelicerae…ideally adapted for scheming until they get bored or somebody helps them complete their higher thoughts.

It is known that the bonding was not perfect. Extended venom bonding with a single Vessan led to signs of physical deterioration such as lengthened reaction time and damaged feeler-eye coordination. There exist plentiful records of pairs that tottered to an early end rather than be separated; these stories were greeted with pity and a certain respect. However, most Prawps and Vessans were not that sentimental.

Art in the form of sculpture and painting was a great pursuit of the Owgawans, and varying movements put varying amounts of emphasis on form, color, or the degree to which one or the other half of the pair directed the creation. Music was strictly limited by the Vessans’ tolerance or lack thereof for certain noises; percussion was usually deemed acceptable but strings and brass never caught on.

Mating seemed to be one of the few scenarios in which Prawps were left unsupervised for long enough to do anything dramatic, which led to a pragmatic need to mate near a well stocked buffet so the Prawps who elected not to mate would stop and snack rather than wandering off completely. Lacking the social structures that permitted Courtship on Purnisc to successfully conclude three-party arrangements, mating was usually reduced to informal circles of two to six pairs where the Vessans detached to procreate and the Prawps, when they didn’t get distracted and wander off, paired off on their own before exchanging Vessans with another. During some epochs this was a remarkable social leveler; during others, mating circles were strictly hierarchical, and pairings were a fast way for canny freelancers to gain higher status. These mating circles were sometimes officially sanctioned by the Owgawan government; however, a powerful social current maintained that mating was one of the few items that could not be governed by a unified pair…not even the legate’s.

Government

Early Owgawan philosophers proposed a system of perfect twos, including a double Vessan/Prawp pairing as executive chief. This might have been successful if early philosophers ran the government, which they didn’t. The major limit on the sole legate’s power was the fact that the legate pair was forbidden to unbind, leading to an effective term limit of ten to fifteen years before the pairing had deteriorated past the ability to lead effectively. A double pairing would be able to circumvent this by trading Vessans every few years, but that system remained theoretical. An infamous movement was once incited by a string of vivid political cartoons positing a single-Vessan Hemiarchy, until the Vessan artist was knocked loose and eaten by his Prawp.

Latter Days

Toward the end of the Diplocrats’ records the two species were ravaged by a disorder in which the venom lost its efficacy and Vessans were unable to bond. This led to a number of hysterical lifestyle movements and at least one prominent doomsday cult. The problem coincided with, among other things, the development of genetically modified foods necessary to support the growing population; the backlash led to an organic-food movement that may have staved off disaster. Racing against time, the protoinfomorph Blue Nine, the prime AI achievement of the planet’s scientists, discovered the active compound in Vessan venom. This compound was synthesized solely by a specific plant species, Kyrillin, that had been cultivated for food since the beginning paired society, but had been removed from the high-yield engineered organism. The society’s fate was inextricably bound up with that of the plant.

It has been posited that this catastrophic loss of an unsuspected but necessary sustenance may have been mirrored in the fall of the Nerenith civilization, and studying one may illuminate the other; however, the Owgawan population had stabilized before the end of available records.

Further records of the Diplocracy, having been stored in the Rothan Cloud with fully networked backup, were destroyed in the Happy Hat Incident over a hundred years ago.