Miles above a bed of ivory clouds under a seemingly infinite blue sky, the Islands of Ciel float as if suspended in a sea of clear air thanks to powerful magic. It rarely rains here, except when the cloud bed rears up and turns to slate grey swells, where the islands themselves become swallowed by the rainclouds. Ciel is made up of seven primary islands, excluding the smaller floats of land that have broken off or been broken away on purpose. These islands are interconnected by a long-established airship network, and mages work to maintain a portal network for those who can afford the luxury. Even so, it isn’t uncommon to see a flight-adept dragonborn or aarakocra using their own wings to move from island to island.
The history of Ciel is older than the oldest living person standing on her islands; tales of the origins of Ciel feel more like myth and legend rather than history when read or repeated. Stories passed down by oral tradition tell of the surface far below, and how long ago the seven great celestial cities lifted their realms into the sky--called The Flight--to avoid certain doom.
It is said that a lady of the underworld, a Drow matriarch--or by some accounts, a powerful Demon Lord--had taken control of a great, ancient beast called the World-Wyrm, or in some lower class circles, the World-Eater. Using dark magic they had attempted to bend the great creature to their will, causing it to go wild and tear the land apart, dragging cities and villages into the earth to the mercy of those dark creatures below. Most human civilizations were lost, but the seven celestial cities were able to act, repelling the dark creature with radiant spells while lifting their homes into the air, out of reach of its terrible gaping maw.
Some of the spells were imperfect. Parts of the surrounding land were taken up as well; not all were ascended successfully. The remains of these places linger as floating islands among the main seven. Other islands look as though they had torn away pieces they weren’t supposed to; spans of the ocean, parts of forests, one splitting a mountain in half. Creatures and beings not of the cities were caught and pulled up against their will, but certainly for the better as the World-Wyrm continued to tear apart the earth in its path.
Today, there are only depictions of the World-Wyrm in old texts and tomes; illustrations by old masters of the great beast devouring the world. These books are rare and sealed away by the celestial councils to avoid fear among the denizens of Ciel that this creature could return. It seems impossible, so far above the cloud bed. But not everyone is content with peace… if you could call the state of affairs entirely peaceful.
Ciel has its own problems, of course. Council secrecy has led to suspicion of corruption; some council members fear there are spies and traitors trying to dig up old secrets for ill gain, or make their way to the spell core in the great city of Aria to bring Ciel back to the surface. The islands are frequently plagued with crews of sky pirates, vagabonds who lost their homes long ago and now prey off the island coasts, hiding among the floating rocks in between.
Even so, the common folk go about their lives, doing their best to make the most of their limited space and resources. Strong economies have sprung up around each major island, sustaining themselves and their industries. A complex but efficient trade network keeps Ciel thriving, making use of the airship networks, freelance couriers, and even the sky pirates for more illicit trades.