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So, we have five floating islands in the southern sea. Their surfaces are mainly composed of fields of grass and fruit trees (weeds, non-profitable trees, etc. are disposed of) A dozen or so feet of earth separates the surfaces of these islands from the root cities beneath them. The island cities are close enough to each other that huge root bridges connect them.

The levitation of the islands and their root streets, buildings, and bridges are maintained by magic. To keep the islands floating and the cities intact, the strongest magic users (one for each city) devote their lives to maintaining the spell. When a magic user is chosen for this task, they cannot move until they ‘retire’. They sit cross legged 24/7, never moving, not to speak, eat, etc.

Centuries ago, these islands were perfectly normal, non floating islands and their inhabitants lived in normal villages composed of huts, but then dragons began to fly over on their way across the sea. They mercilessly attacked the villages and gave no hint for years of ever changing their route. The magic users received visions of some sort, telling them to raise the islands from the sea and create cities from the roots of their orchards. The dragons are mighty, magical creatures that only a being with godlike power could hope to defeat, which is why the magic users chose to follow the guidance of their visions.

In the present day, the dragons continue to fly over the surfaces of these islands. When they do, bells ring once throughout each city and their occupants hurry inside their homes. None of the islanders live on the surfaces of the islands and only a few times a year, on and off for several days, groups are sent up to tend to the fruit trees. Their primary trade is fishing and, thus far, even before the islands were raised into the air, the dragons have not attacked their boats. The root cities are open to the air, composed of several levels of streets and buildings each, all of which have a level that is used as a harbor for their boats. Huge dumbwaiters (not sure what to call these; lifts?) lower boats into the sea just before dawn and raise them back up into the harbors just before sunset.

It occurred to me that the fruit of the trees might be what keeps the dragons flying over the surfaces of the islands, as they might use the fruit as a sort of mid journey meal, but I don’t want them eating all the fruit, because it’s an important trade item of the islanders. Because this was already an established route of travel for the dragons, I’m having trouble figuring out why they would naturally switch their latitude of flight after the islands rose into the sky.

There is a tomb of sorts within the earth beneath the surface of the largest island, the existence of which the islanders are unaware of. Within it, an ancient, terrifying creature guards two enchanted weapons of considerable power. I have trouble with the idea of connecting this to the raising of the islands and the dragons’ changed elevation of flight: Though the entrance is accessible, from the surface of the island, I do not want the dragons taking a mid journey nap in this tomb; besides, it is hidden before the start of the story, which begins a few centuries after the islands began to float. Also, the ancient creature that guards it is primarily a beast, unable to cast spells or think intelligibly, aside from anything pertaining to its goal of killing whoever enters the place. I can see how the raising of the islands would be beneficial to the protection of the tomb, as it would be less likely to be discovered. However, the tomb was created by an ancient warrior and a long dead magic user of the island, neither of which would have the power to cast a spell of the caliber required to trick the dragons into flying high (they would’ve had the same limitations as the present day magic users) Besides, as I said, they are both long dead.

Basically, I don’t want the changed course of the dragons to be caused by a spell. There is no one in my world related to this situation that is powerful enough to cast a spell on a dragon and receive anything more than an incredulous scoff (in spirit) for their efforts. Not to mention, the islanders ring bells and hide when dragons fly over, because drawing attention to themselves is still potentially dangerous.

My question is: Why do the dragons continue to fly over the surfaces of the islands, instead of flying by the root cities? Why does living beneath the surfaces in these root cities keep the people safe from the dragons? How can I make sense of this?

If there’s anything wrong with my question or if more info is needed, please let me know.

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It is a combination of things which result in the dragons not flying below the islands.

firstly, there are roots below, which I am going to assume do not end at the bottom of the ground layer, but hang down maybe 50-100 meters, in a massive tangled mess. This would have a huge risk to the dragons, as if they fly below the island they might get tangled in the roots.

Secondly, there is also no reward for flying below, as those tasty humans are hiding deep within the root system, and there is no way for the mighty dragons to get in there.

Third, many species of birds have a natural instinct while flying, if something larger than them passes nearby, they dive downwards. This is a survival mechanism, as usually the bigger something is a hawk or other predatory bird, and by diving down they might be able to evade it. For your dragons, this might be a residual instinct from when they were smaller creatures. Otherwise, your dragons might be slightly cannibalistic, with the biggest, oldest ones preying on the smaller younglings when times get tough. Alternatively, if cannibalism is not something you want, perhaps there is the Something. Something dark, Something powerful. The old civilizations considered it a God. The Dragons fear it above all else, as it is capable of taking the biggest and most powerful dragons, and making stew from them. The Islands dwarf even the largest of dragons though, so if they fly below, the instinct kicks in automatically. If they dive down from this low altitude, they will plummet into the ocean, and maybe cannot get airborne from the water, and will drown.

Finally, as a fourth effect, your tomb is on the surface of the islands. While it is hidden, and only found later on, the dragons can feel the effect of the magic weapons, and we all know dragons covet powerful, items of immense value. While they cannot get to the weapons, and indeed, the power that the dragons can feel is only slight, it is enough, in combination with the other effects, for the dragons to rather fly above the islands.

Bonus 1, you can use the creation of the powerful weapons as a plot cause for the dragons to have altered their flight path all those centuries ago. Bonus 2, the tomb guardian creature, is a baby of the Something godlike being.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice. I decided a few days ago that the enchanted weapons would be the reason that the dragons began flying over the islands in the first place (this was intended by the creators of the tomb), so Bonus 1 is on point :) I also figured out a way that the enchanted weapons could cause the dragons to continue to fly over the islands without literally casting a spell on them, but I’m going to add your fourth point to that as an added incentive. With this, it’s still not foolproof, so, because of past experience, the islanders still have reason to be cautious when dragons fly over. $\endgroup$ – P. M. B. Dec 11 '19 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ Also, might use point one for an incident that happened not long after the islands rose into the sky, further proving to the islanders that following the guidance of the vision isn’t all there is to it, which will lead to them being very careful to promptly enter their homes and quiet down when the bells ring, and may even be the reason that they began to do so, as no one really knew what would happen after the magic users lifted the islands. Very helpful answer :) $\endgroup$ – P. M. B. Dec 11 '19 at 21:50
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Because thermals

Raising the islands into the air changed the air patterns over the islands and the coastline. Now emphasised by the expansion from villages, the heat from the cities causes thermals over the islands that the dragons take advantage of to gain extra height as they fly past.

Consider them simply as large flying creatures and a free thermal, whether natural or artificial is not to be refused.

You could equally treat the magic used to keep the islands flying as a massive magical "thermal" that the dragons can use in the same way they'd use a more mundane thermal.

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Usually when you have something created or supported by magic that causes a logical problem like this, it is easiest to just say "because magic".

If the Islands are levitated by a magic force, then perhaps the dragons (being magical creatures) are affected by that force. If they tried to fly below the island the would be pushed up by the force and potentially crash into the islands.

Think of it like a big magnet that affects the dragons and the islands, but not non-magical creatures. The surface of the islands are fine because most of the "magic force" is absorbed by the island already. The dragons could even use the "updraft" above the islands to feel lighter and rest on their journey.

You could quickly describe this as "the magical force keeping the island afloat prevents the dragons from flying near the bottom of them, lest they be tossed around like a butterfly in the wind."

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  • $\begingroup$ It is easier (and nice line, by the way), but if I did this, then there’d be no point for bells to ring and the islanders to hide in their homes when dragons come. They do this because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves. One of the reasons that I didn’t want to have a magical explanation for the dragons behavior is because this is an important plot point; it is still dangerous to be in the streets and causing a din when dragons fly over, so I need the dragons to (prefer?) flying over the surfaces. $\endgroup$ – P. M. B. Dec 5 '19 at 21:12
  • $\begingroup$ Then go with separatrix's idea of making "magic thermals". They fly over the islands because the magic force holding them up gives them a boost. But it doesn't necessarily stop them from flying beside / under the islands if they really want to. Plus if the dragon has fire attacks, they needn't stray too close to the cities and could attack from range. A large, heavy, not terribly aerodynamic dragon that's tired from a long migration and is currently relaxing on an uplift... might not appreciate a loud commotion from the cities below. They might enjoy the cackle of flames more. $\endgroup$ – abestrange Dec 5 '19 at 22:11
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Dungeons and because of Dragons.

The entrance to your dungeon/tomb is too small for, or warded against dragons. But the dragons are very interested in keeping an eye on this entrance. If they can't reach the tomb within, no one must reach it.

The dragons fly over the islands to make sure that the Islanders don't reach the tomb, because the weapons contained therein are the only things on this world that can harm a dragon (which is why the dragons were trying to take out the human population in the first place).

The Islanders are unaware of the tomb because the entrance to it is in the middle of the dark forest/wasteland/forbidden zone. Some of the more adventurous of them would have gotten there eventually if they were living on the surface.

The reckless hero/s will definitely go to that forbidden zone, where the maps say "here be dragons!", despite and in spite of warnings/laws/common sense. Will they save Skyworld? Will they uncover the horrible horrible truth? Only the sage P. M. B. can tell us :-)

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Maybe the wind currents near large objects are too volatile and difficult to fly in. Have you ever walked by a large building and felt the winds there were churning much more than in the open?

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