Needle Forest

Really, if you’re going to go hiking in this desert canyon, don’t forget your rebreather… and maybe a wet suit…
Jangir Toth, bounty hunter
 
On a dry, unforgiving desert planet, the Needle Forest canyon is one of the rare locations that is a departure from the normal environment of sand, dry air, and scorching heat. This canyon, or ‘ghost sea’ to use the Chalcedonian term, is one of the longest canyons on the planet Chalcedon.
 
The Needle Forest canyon lies in the southwestern region of the Strosis Continent. At 103 kilometers long, 3 kilometers deep, and 22 kilometers at its widest point, it is the second largest canyon on the continent. But it is the canyon’s local environment that sets it apart.
 

Ghost of an Inner Sea

 
On approach to Port Etmar to the north, the Needle Forest is just a ragged gash of a canyon in the surface of Chalcedon. Tall, thin mesas, or tent rocks, rise from the depths of the canyon floor like a thick forest of giant stone trees. A blue-gray fog fills three quarters of the canyon’s depth and swirls constantly around the towering stones.
 
The warm air and wind of Chalcedon creates this fog when it blows down past the thin mesas and into the lower sections of the canyon. Those lower depth temperatures range between thirty to fifty degrees cooler than the scorching desert surface. The consistent temperature difference allows the fog to remain throughout the Chalcedonian seasons.
 
Another unusual characteristic is the canyon’s ecosystem. Specifically, the one inside the fog. The canyon’s fog supports a thriving semi-aquatic environment in the super-saturated layers oft he fog itself. This is the origin of the canyon’s nickname, the ‘Ghost Sea’.
 
It’s a little jarring at first to see a glowing translucent eel ‘swim’ through fog. But so does wearing a rebreather while trying to walk through the stuff itself.
Jangir Toth, bounty hunter

Geography

The Needle Forest is a long, almost oval-shaped canyon that extends southwest from current day Port Etmar and the Bendu Temple. On planetary holomaps, the canyon begins with the Bendu Temple foundation mesa and ends at the Blackrock Badlands isthmus. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of sandstone mesas rise like a forest of natural obeslisks out of the depths.
 
The canyon is primarily sedimentary rock with layers that date back thousands, and even millions, of years. Those near the top are sandstone in texture. Deeper layers are collections of granite and even shale or slate. The latter two are firm evidence that at one time in the planet’s dim past, the canyon might have been a lake or inner sea with true water.
 
Sandwiched in those rock layers, starting halfway down the depth of the canyon, is the secret to the area’s super-saturated fog. At that strata, "bluestone" becomes more common. It is the most prevalent mineral at the canyon's floor.
 
Never touch bluestone with any bare appendage. At least not if you want to keep that finger, toe, or whatever still attached…
Jangir Toth, bounty hunter
 
Most species see bluestone in a color they may call "medium dark cyan" or "sea blue", depending on their early visual development. This mineral coloration is a side effect of the primary -- and quite unusual -- energy retention property of the stone. It is extremely endothermic. Any ambient or direct heat is channeled and transferred into the rock, leaving the surrounding air and environment intensely cold.
 
In the case of the Needle Forest canyon, heat from the surface desert winds is absorbed at noteworthy speeds. That heat energy transmits through the mineral vein. In short order even by non-geological time scales, it transfers into the underground water table around the canyon. Intense heat and windstorms on the surface around the canyon have been known to cause it to snow in the lowest depths of the Needle Forest.
 
The Mining Guild has been after a way to mine and turn that stuff into a product. It’s hard to cut out a rock that likes to absorb heat… until the heat gets too much and the rock melts…
Then things get real unpleasant since all that pent up energy has to go somewhere.
Jangir Toth, bounty hunter

Ecosystem

As mentioned, a super-saturated fog fills three quarters of the canyon’s depth. Formed by the interaction of the warm desert winds and the cold lower canyon temperatures, it moves in ‘currents’ similar to wind driven water.
 
Fog whirlpools and mist waves crashing against the mesa ‘stone trees’ are not an uncommon sight. The fog is also the home for a rich, rare, and semi-aquatic ecosystem. At the top of the food chain are the flat creatures with wing-like pectoral fins called mist-rays. These share the fog with ionizing blaster eels, smuggler jellyclouds, and more. All float and ‘swim’ through the thick fog, sailing through the canyon’s depths.
 
As for plants, they grow along the deeper areas of the fog, near the base of the mesas themselves. The most prominent are the Fanleaf Rockelp which grow in tall strands, forming forests that attach themselves to the lower foundations of the rock tower mesas across the canyon. This plant, or actually algae colony, forms the basis of the food chain for the ecosystem.

Localized Phenomena

It’s like getting sucker punched by a canyon...
Jangir Toth, bounty hunter
 
The canyon isn’t without its own unique peculiarities. Here it would be ‘fogspouts’ and ‘whistling mesas’.
 
At the lower depths, these ‘fogspouts’ happen just after sandstorms move across the canyon. Fogspouts are a type of tornado only found in the depths of the canyon.
 
Such twisters, once they form, roam randomly among the canyon mesas. Wandering aimlessly from one end of the canyon to the other. A miniature snowstorm, mist-hurricane, and sandstorm all combined. These small, powerful storms often only last for a few hours. But a rare few have been known to wander the canyon for days.
 
Another phenomenon is the ‘whistling mesa’. The tent rocks formations, or the mesas, of the Needle Forest are comprised of the same rock strata as the surrounding canyon. But because they litter the length of the canyon itself, they are vulnerable to weathering from regular storms blowing in from the Chalcedonian deserts.
 
This weathering chips away at the softer rock strata, leaving the granite and harder stone behind. Over time, many of the mesas develop tunnels or entire holes, worn smooth by the dust-thick winds.
 
These polished tunnels are multicolored bands of granite, but also act as a natural flute. As winds blow, the passage through the tunnels creates various tunes and sounds, not unlike music from a clay flute or an ocarina.
 
What no one tells you is that ‘music’ is haunting and will scare years off you when it starts echoing through the hull of your ship with no frellin’ warning…
Jangir Toth, bounty hunter

Natural Resources

The canyon, beyond its unusual nature and phenomenon, has a few natural resources. First, and chief among these would be the Bluestone deposits. This unusual rock is a rare type of stone found only on a few planets in the galaxy. Its aggressive endothermic properties have long been considered useful for refrigeration or even a base material for a new type of armor or hull plating.
 
But this same endothermic property, along with its tendency to implode if exposed to excessive heat in a short amount of time, makes mining it an expensive process. So much so that the expense often outweighs any potential use for the stone.
 
The second natural resource would be the animal and plant life. Fishing in the fog is not unheard of but extremely dangerous because of Blaster eels and their tendency to fire hyper-charged ion bolts when agitated. But among the plants, the Fanleaf Rockelp has long been considered a useful plant for medicinal purposes.
 
Chalcedonians have long used Fanleaf Rockelp as the primary ingredient for their own medicinal treatments. Rockelp patches, sprays, and other applications are common in Chalcedon settlements. While not as effective as bacta, it’s considered an excellent alternative to bacta for those with a bacta allergy or an aversion to bacta.
by Depositphotos Stock Image

Area Total
2,356.41 square kilometers (909.81 square miles)
Average Depth
4.82 km (3 miles)
Alternative Name(s)
Ghost Sea, Mistvale Canyon
Type
Canyon
Location under
Related Reports (Secondary)
Inhabiting Species
Native Animals
  • Mist-rays
  • Blaster eel
  • Mimic fish
  • Smuggler jellycloud
  • Shrimpfeather Sarlacc
  • Native Plants
  • Fanleaf Rockelp
  • Crawling Fogweed
  • Spiderfrond Coral
  • Planet of Chalcedon
    The world of Chalcedon, third planet of the system by the same name found in the Tashtor Sector.

    Racing the Canyon

     
    A long-standing popular pastime for pilots looking to prove their worth and skill has been ‘racing the Needle Forest’. But unlike other locations in the known galaxy, such as Beggar’s Canyon on Tatooine, a race in the Needle Forest isn’t just an obstacle course.
     
    Pilots racing the Needle Canyon have to contend with hairpin turns and narrow gaps barely wide enough for a ship. But racing down through the super-saturated fog also means ships will not be able to maneuver as effectively due to ice buildup on engines and wings.
     
    A secondary hazard is the ecosystem. Ships racing through the Ghost Sea are certain to startle one or more schools of Blaster eels or Shrimpfeather Sarlaccs. The former will spit ion bolts at the intruder while the latter may leap onto the ship and attack the engines, mynock-style.
     

    Game Mechanics


     

    On piloting in the Needle Forest

     
    Piloting attempts through the super-saturated fog of the Needle Forest canyon are done with a penalty to the relevant vehicle skill. This is because of the rapid ice buildup that takes place across the craft.
     
    All piloting checks have a -1D penalty (to a minimum of 1D) to the relevant vehicle skill roll.
     

    On Sensor use in the Needle Forest

     
    Sensors are also impacted here. The super-saturated fog can create ‘sensor shadows’ which are just digital illusions and false echoes. Also, the abundance of Bluestone will absorb sensor energy emissions, which conceal objects as large as starfighters at the bottom of the canyon.
     
    All sensor attempts have a -1D penalty (to a minimum of 1D) to the character’s sensor skill roll.
     


    Comments

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    11 Apr, 2022 12:10

    A good article, I like this interesting environment. The species of semi aquatic creatures are good too. A great article to read.   Aemon

    11 Apr, 2022 12:58

    Thank you! I thought it made a good counter to the dust ocean ;D