The best defense was the ability to pick out the leader, for if that bat was slain, the rest would retreat until the flock had sorted itself out and choose a new leader.
Bats composed a huge portion of Moria's inhabitants. Generally, they were small, harmless herbivores; but a few, notably the fierce cavern wings, posed an active threat. Masters of the open darkness, they lived in black spaces where light rarely intruded. There, they slept in peaceful isolation, hanging from rooftop clefts on hooked claws until the daily call for the hunt was passed along the line.
Cavern wings gathered in groups of two to a hundred and were organized under a single dominant leader. When he awoke, the other bats stirred to follow him; when he signaled an attack, they pounced with fury. Then they descended in a swirling pattern and captured or tore at their victim with razor-sharp talons. Large prey was downed in a series of attack waves that recurred so quickly as to seem continuous. A Dwarf-lord once described their assault as a "twisted cloud of knives."
Individually, the cavern wing was not so formidable, although they were considerably larger than other bats. Their one to two foot wingspans restricted movements, but they were nimble, given their size. They were fearless and trusted in the art of ambush to offset their lack of bulk.
Young cavern wings were grey, with darker speckling on their undersides, while mature adults were often black. Each set of their four elongated fingers supported their dull black wings, flight membranes which stretched back and attached to the ankle just above a wicked five toed claw. Large floppy ears gave them a dismaying appearance, although they were virtually invisible when shadowed. Since they frequently glid and flapped their wings efficiently, they were usually betrayed by the piercing cries they used to locate objects. Naturally, any warning was important, for these ferocious carnivores fed on any meat they could find; rodents, insects, fish, or even man-sized morsels. The best defense against the cavern wings required a good ear, a strong position, and a careful target selection: one lucky strike which claimed their leader would send the others home.
- Nam, I once wrote:
- "We whirled at the sound,
- And Grorin grabbed his Horn.
- With Shields held high above,
- My Guard circled round Me.
- Like Mist, the Bats came, but Dot let an arrow fly,
- And felled their black Lead.
- So off the Dark Wings flew, to choose another Master,
- And strike some later Day."
- Retrieved from Realms of Arda; original reference: [ICE MERP 2012]