The Pikewing is a giant moth-like insect, so called for the long, triangular profile of its wings when seen from above, that appear like the tip of a spear. It is carnivorous, preying chiefly on other small insects, but can feed as a parasite on larger, living animals. A swarm of the fist-sized beasts can become dangerous to humans, though even a single specimen can inflict grievous injury in an attack. It dwells chiefly in the tropical forests of Nybelmar.
The fully-grown Pikewing is about one and a half
palmspans long from the tip
of its long, narrow head to the back of its wings. Its wings are about three
quarters of a palmspan from
tip to tip. Its body, quite narrow in comparison to the wings, is shaped like a
flattened cylinder, two
nailsbreadths wide and extending from the head to halfway between the head
and the back of the wings.
The head itself blends in seamlessly with the wings. The pointed jaw is three nailsbreadths long, and filled with several rows of saw-like teeth. The narrow jaw is unable to inflict large bites in normal-sized animals, but it can rend off small chunks of flesh and thus cause deep wounds.
All over, the moth is covered with a short, thick fur that is coluored dark-brown to black. When its wings are opened, silver-grey triangular markings can be seen on them.
The Pikewing stands on six short, jointed legs, about half a nailsbreadths in diameter, that are hidden beneath the wings. It should be of note that the legs, though they are equipped with the same hooks and glue-like substance as those of most other insects, are unable to hold the great weight of the moth suspended from up-side-down surfaces, though they can hold themselves on vertical surfaces with some difficulty.
The wings of the Pikewing, unlike those of a common moth, are heavy and leathery. This enables them to fly in death-defying drop attacks without injuring themselves.
Besides the suspension problem mentioned above, the Pikewing possesses all the
traits of a normal night insect, including its night vision, and its ability to
fly nearly soundlessly. The most outstanding ability of the giant moth is
probably its swooping drop-attack, which is similar to that normally observed in
predator birds. This is especially effective when used in swarms, as the moths
will drop all at once onto their target and tear away at it. In the case of a
female moth attacking to defend her territory rather than to feed, she will be
able to sense her opponent’s sensitive spots and likely attempt to injure the
face, especially the eyes or throat.
Territory. The Pikewing has been reportedly sighted several times in the Krean jungles of in Nybelmar, as well as in the swamplands within the Venlaken Enclave. Some travellers have claimed to have seen them in the Zeiphyrian Woods in southern Santharia, but these reports are too sparse and dubious to be taken quite seriously.
In any case, the Pikewing appears to require at least a moderate warm or even tropical climate to thrive, as well as very deep forests. The female prefers moist areas, sometimes small lakes but mostly swamps, to breed.
Habitat/Behaviour. The Pikewing's behavior differs radically between the specimen of different sex (which are, to humans, almost indistinguishable in appearance). The female Pikewing dwells in solitude, and will usually not leave her initial breeding place in her life (unless she decides to find a better spot). Pikewing breeding places are commonly warm, damp places, often near a swamp or some stale water. At all times except the breeding season, the female will defend her grounds to the death against all others of its kind, be they female rivals or male moths. While she is guarding her unhatched eggs, this intolerance extends to all other creatures as well, and it is unwise for a human to enter Pikewing territory during this time.
The male Pikewing is a nomad creature that hunts in swarms. Travelers have reportedly been attacked by such swarms many miles from any possible breeding ground, so it is likely that the moth does not even stay close to this territory at any time apart from the mating season.
It should be noted that the female Pikewing, at any given time of the year outside the mating and hatching seasons, are not above fighting each other over territories. Young moths have a lot of difficulty finding good spots that are not yet occupied, and sometimes even grown moths will give up a spot to fight for another, better one.
There are further complex instincts that appear to govern the behavior of the Pikewing, but they boil down - in the words of one traveller - to "When in doubt, attack." How, with their ferocious aggression against all creatures, even amongst themselves, they manage to reproduce, is difficult to imagine.
Diet. The Pikewing is almost entirely carnivorous. Males have been seen eating plants on occasion, but only when there is no way of finding meat nearby.
Preying mostly on smaller insects, birds, or small mammals, the Pikewing is a foe which shouldn't be underestimated. Even larger animals are not safe from the Pikewing's attacks however, as a swarm of the monsters can bring down a creature of almost any size. Some large animals have been known to be literally fed on while alive, with the Pikewing being careful to injure it in non-vital places, possibly even crippling it such that it becomes an easy target for further hunting.
The female feeds solely on smaller beasts, as she hunts alone and is thus unable to tackle stronger foes. The only time the female will attack a creature larger than herself is when defending her territory.
Mating. The mating rituals of the Pikewing are brief and gory. At the beginning of Dead Tree (cóor'pherán) the female Pikewing lays a cluster of eggs in the matter of a few hours. These eggs are oval-shaped, about two and a half nailsbreadths in diameter, coloured a light, dull, grey, weighing and covered with a thick, sticky substance. A cluster contains any number between 8-24 eggs, each weighing half a mut.[*]
The eggs are usually stuck to the bark of a tree, and occasionally in the foliage of a bush. The glue-like secretion that surrounds them is sufficient to keep them in place. However, the more remarkable property of the fluid is its tendency to glow ever so slightly in the dark. It is speculated that this is what attracts the male moth to the eggs, which he then fertilizes by spreading an almost pollen-like seed over them. The eggs appear to absorb this seed through the skin, although the method only fertilizes around two thirds of a cluster's eggs successfully; thus only 5-16 eggs out of a cluster will actually hatch.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the mating process of the Pikewing is that the male moth, after fertilizing the eggs, finds that he cannot leave again. The sticky secretion keeps him firmly in place, rather like a fly on honey as it were. The female, who lies in wait nearby, will use this moment to deliver the unfortunate father-to-be a swift death, and use his body as a source of food while she is unable to hunt when guarding the eggs. When the young Pikewing hatch in Awakening Earth (avénni'modía), they too will be fed off this carcass until they are large enough to be left unguarded and the mother will hunt again in the vicinity to procure new food for herself and her offspring. This brief period, incidentally, is the only time the Pikewing will eat carrion.
Around mid Rising Sun (dál'injerá), the offspring of the Pikewing are sexually mature and ready to leave home. It is around this time that they gain the characteristic triangular markings on their wings; the young Pikewings have plain, unmarked fur. They are literally chased out by the mother, who will not tolerate any adult members of her species on her territory until the next mating season (they instinctively tolerate underage moths, just as such moths will not attack their own species until fully grown). The male Pikewing usually leave as a group (it is indeed rare to see a pack of Pikewings that was not hatched in the same year by the same mother), while the females (of which there are about one in five) will go in search of their own breeding ground.
In some circumstances it is possible that a female moth turns on her mother after reaching maturity, to take over her territory. When and why this happens is unclear, the occurences appear to be at random and were observed only a few times.
It is thought that a Pikewing can live up to eight years, and is fertile for its entire life.
Usages. While some evidence suggests that these beasts might have been bred for war, it is clear that they are utterly uncontrollable and unsuitable for domestication. At best, it might be possible to use female Pikewings as guardian creatures in swampy terrain - but it is rare that one needs to guard a bog.
The eggs of the moth - or rather, the glue-like gel that surrounds them - contains a substance that weakly glows in the dark after daylight has shone upon it. However, it would be madness to try and harvest such eggs.
Finally, some fairy tales feature Brownies taming such a beast and using it as a riding creature. However, this tale clearly originates in Santharia for the Brownies mentioned are usually of the Llaoihrr tribe that dwell in the Rimmerin's Ring. As the existence of Pikewing in Santharia is still in dispute, this is more likely to be a product of fiction.
Myth/Lore. The Pikewing is generally theorized to be magically created. If this is the case, it is almost certainly a remnant of the War of the Chosen, in which the powerful wizards are said to have shaped many different kinds of nightmarish monsters that were bred for war. The Pikewing fits several common characteristics of such a creature:
It is highly ferocious, aggressive, and will fight to the death in most situations.
Although it does not require this for feeding, it is capable of inflicting crippling injuries on or even killing creatures far beyond its size.
It is an overgrown, perverted form of a more common beast, the moth in this case.
practically impossible to research this in more depth, let alone to confirm or
disprove it, as the records of such experiments (if any were made) would have
been destroyed long ago.
Supposedly, the Servants of the Daedhirians, the undead of the Nybelmarian Venlaken Enclave, hold this animal in what appears to be a combination of reverence and superstitious fear, and see it as a symbol of hatred. This could be because of its indiscriminating attacks against most creatures, as well as the murderous way in which it reproduces. Some fairy tales mention the Pikewing as a terror sent by the fell wizard Menemronn, who is believed to have been one of the Chosen, which speaks in favour of the above theory.
* Foot note: Our thanks to the daring field researcher Nichan Delano for making these precise measures possible by entering a Pikewing's breeding ground at mating season with nary a thought for his own health. We wish him a swift recovery. [Back]
Information provided by Arancaytar Ilyaran