The world came into being from the sea over 2000 years ago. According to legend, five wizards stood forth and called out the True Names of the lands, parting the sea and raising islands up. Who these five wizards were or where they came from is subject to mass speculation and even larger legend. Suffice it to say it was they who made the world of men possible.
The sea, however, did not give up land very easily and only a few thousand islands, some large but the majority small, dot the world in a far-flung archipelago, with plenty of water in-between.
Over the next millennia, men traveled to and inhabited most of the isles, developing skills of carpentry and ship building, smelting and smithing, magic and language, farming and fishing, trade and even war in the process. They created the Sea Roads, the travel and trade routes that wind their way through the islands, following the shores and currents, mapping the whirlpools and sargassos, marking the doldrums and the freshwater springs.
The overall world is known as the Archipalego of the Sea Roads or simply either the Archipalego or the Sea Roads. It is divided into five parts, the Inner Sea, the Middle Sea, and the three Reaches of the Outer Sea - the Widdershin Reach, the Deiseil Reach, and the Spinward Reach. The Middle Sea rings the Inner Sea and is surrounded by the Reaches. The Widdershin Reach covers an arc from the East to the Northwest, the Deiseil Reach stretches from the East to the Southwest, and the Spinward Reach is from the Southwest to the Northwest.
The largest number of islands. as well as the largest islands, are in the Inner Sea, some say over five hundred, if one was bothered enough to count. The Middle Sea holds at least as many in at least five times the area. The Reaches have most far flung islands, all told about a thousand islands.