When the world was ruined, not everyone died: the owl people, who had mastered elemental magic and who already lived on the high mountains raised their homes even higher. They cursed the ships the built and their own lands to never touch the sea, and so to this day they hover above the water, largely adrift from each other but moving under the direction of the wind.
The owl people, possessing wings and the gift of flight, became the dominant power of the world through sheer survival. They were initially a secluded and obscure people unknown to much of the wider world that existed before. In addition to swordsmanship, all of their spells require physical contact, usually channeled through wooden staves; as a result they are not adept at ranged combat, even though their flight makes them highly mobile.
Nearly all other races died in the total flooding of the land (what few islands remain are either active volcanoes and or dedicated entirely to food production). Their cities and ruins now pepper the sea floor, their dwindling earth-bound descendants stuck on arc-ships of varying sizes. For some ships every square meter is devoted to growing whatever food cannot be gotten from the sea.
While the owl people excel at melee combat and magic, the humans that survived the flooding excel instead at marksmanship, and the modern weapon of choice is the crossbow. Their bolts are made to float and be easily recovered, repaired, and reused. Their ultimate goal is to somehow capture an owl floating island for themselves – it is believed that the first humans to do so will reclaim the world, a prophecy which the dominant owls dismiss wholeheartedly.
(I do not own the images in the above collage, and all copyrights belong to their respective owners.)
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