It was shortly after the war between the Ashken and Valenthia when an unnatural storm appeared in the sky. Massive roiling clouds crackling with energy pushed past the Kenashi mountains and came to a halt above Castle Valence, looming ominously. The clouds thinned and blew away to reveal massive floating islands with opulent towers and buildings, as if from a dream.
For a while, the islands floated silently, showing no signs of life or movement, their shadows dotting the landscape. A party of four representatives was formed and sent up to scout the islands. They were meant to report back immediately, but instead they disappeared for a moon without a word.
When they re-appeared, they looked as though they had survived a terrible ordeal. They reported simply that the islands were now completely empty, free to be dealt with as the kingdom saw fit.
The natural opulence and majesty of the islands made it a prime location for the nobility of Valenthia. Since it was impossible to reach the floating lands without magic, the mages were invited to stay as well and what resulted was a new class of elites: the Archmages, students of magic of noble blood.
The islands yielded numerous new discoveries: machines that could extract magic from the very clouds; libraries of ancient and dangerous lore; crystals and orbs containing powerful magical energies. The mages learned a great deal from their time on the islands, eventually forming a council to keep track of everything and ensure nothing fell into the hands of Valenthia's enemies.
Then came the Demon War. The mages were divided: there were those that wished to bring the might of the islands down upon the demons, but the mages in charge decided that it was best not to get involved. The knowledge the islands held was too precious to risk in a war they had no stake in.
Many mages left to go fight the demons and defend their home provinces and soon only a handful of Archmages remained. The islands became desolate once again, and by the time the war ended they were only a shadow of their former glory.
As the land began rebuilding, rogue mages and merchants found their way back onto the islands. Important tomes and dangerous artefacts went missing. Too few Archmages remained to stem the flow of commoners to the islands and what was once a shining beacon of knowledge and power soon fell into chaos and disarray.
Many people have now made the islands their home. There is a relative peace among them, compared to those in Valenthia below, but not all is well. No one has yet discovered exactly where these islands came from, or why they showed up almost entirely empty, or what happened when the small party was sent up, and there are many that fear they may soon find out...