The Ibabesh District is largely a farming area, with mild winters and warm, rainy summers. Historical records of the area indicate that prior to the early 1400s, it was a desert, locked in continual drought, with temperatures considerably lower than recorded today. A massive weather system change (whose cause is hotly disputed by scientists) created dramatically more favorable conditions, and the land sprang to life. It is currently one of the best food-producing areas in the known world, and is directed by three major farm-cities, which supply trained labor and support to the farms, as well as act as hubs of commerce and government.
The largest of these cities is also named Ibabesh, and is built at the mouth of the mighty Ibabesh River which descends from the northern mountains. This river coincides with the point of a V-shaped bay, and the strong area tides combined with the force of the glacier melt from the mountains create awe-inspiring tidal bores – whirlpools of enormous size and strength. The phenomena are called the Ibabesh Maelstroms.
45 years ago, between 1474 and 1476, the Ibabesh Bridge was built to span the river of the same name and allow more efficient shipping access to the rest of the Empire. It is a cable-bridge, the longest (and also considered the most beautiful) of any bridges in the Empire, and relies on the small rock island in the center to cross the distance. Unfortunately, a series of spring storms and record rainfalls, as well as the constant flow of the river and the beating from the tidal surge have eroded the center island drastically in the intervening years. The riverside of the island has been largely washed away, and the bridge itself is considered to be in some danger of collapse.
Many engineering solutions have been discussed and considered, but all fixes are exceedingly expensive and unlikely to be permanent, so no corrective action has been taken yet. To reduce the potential loss of life if the structure did collapse, licensing to cross the bridge has become very difficult in the past ten years. There is talk of putting in an alternate rail system to the north and west, but this route is very long and has a number of unique geographic hurdles, the least of which is that it would require at least three miles of tunnels. The most popular alternative is to build another bridge much further upriver, but the entire river is wide, deep and unpredictable, so this is not without its own set of problems, and it would probably need to be displaced nearly a hundred miles.
Ibabesh City, on the west bank of the river, has become relatively isolated. It is expensive and rare to leave the city by bridge now, and the route around the other direction is long and laborious. Only produce transport vehicles regularly cross over, and at times, even they are restricted. This has created a need in Ibabesh City for large areas of time-crystal storage, and massive buildings have been built at the north end of the city to hold precious food goods in time stasis. The city grew a great deal during the construction of the Ibabesh Bridge, but has little to hold its population now; everyone who can leave, has. Fearing that a ghost town would harbor undesirables, the Empire has made an effort to make Ibabesh City life sound glamorous and encourages it as a permanent destination by making it much easier to apply for many kinds of licenses in the city, including Non-guild businesses. There is a larger than usual population of artists in the city who have been swayed by the propaganda into coming to the romanticized Ibabesh City and been unable (or haven’t desired) to leave. The few remaining indigenous residents of the area are scornful of newcomers and some of the more superstitious believe that the failure of the bridge is a sign that they were wrong to have accepted the Empire into their land. (These same residents saw the favorable climate change as a sign that they were right to do so.)
By contrast, there is brisk tourism business at the east side of the river, where the rail system to the rest of the Empire connects. It is relatively easy and cheap to procure a license to travel by train to see the bridge and the mighty maelstroms, and it is advertised as a luxury destination in many Southern cities. There is overnight lodging with beautiful views, nature hikes, fine dining and licensed Ibabesh souvenirs for purchase. Even unsound, the Ibabesh Bridge is considered one of the wonders of the Empire. The white arches of the bridge over the turbulent water have inspired a great deal of artwork and poetry.
It is to be noted that the naming of the Ibabesh Bridge led to legislation to prevent overuse of names. This legislation was passed in 1493, and was ironically called the Ibabesh Bill.
Originally posted here.