Jeff Hannes is a web and applications developer by trade, but has always been a writer at heart. He has been telling stories in the fantasy world of Dranthar for nearly three decades, mostly through improvised dramatic roleplaying scenarios where performers help bring his characters to life.
The one-time Senior Editor for the magazine InQuest Gamer, he now lives in New York’s Hudson Valley region with his wife, children, cats, and board games. So, so many board games.
The world of Dranthar is an original fantasy setting with a vast timeline that includes periods of High Fantasy, Medieval, Renaissance, Steampunk, and even Space Fantasy.
At its core Dranthar is defined by its pantheon of eight deities, whose presence have literally shaped the land. Though how religion (or a lack thereof at times) has influenced the populace has varied greatly depending on the period in the world's history.
The Hand of Ishala and Mad World both take place in Dranthar's post-renaissance era, in an age where advances such as steel and the printing press were prevalent, but before the advent of gunpowder or electricity.
Allester Penn had been an adventurer once. A scribe had written of him as a charming hero, an accomplished swordsman, and a man of cool, calm leadership and grace under pressure. He was the leader of a successful and renowned company who called themselves the Hand of Ishala, named irreverently after the banished goddess of magic and wonder.
Allester had fame, fortune, and above all, love. But with the height of success came a loss too great to bear—the death of one of their own—and it ultimately tore the group apart.
Fifteen years later the Hand of Ishala are reunited, and Allester yearns for a second chance to be with the woman he let go. But when a mysterious enchantment causes him and his companions to fade in and out of reality, hopes and dreams give way to questions and fears.
After so many wasted years, Allester now finds himself with precious little time as he must confront both the past he abandoned and a future that is literally fading away…
The Hand of Ishala is a standalone fantasy novel that tells a story of love, reunion, and how we cope with loss. It is sword & sorcery, but with as little of each as one could possibly get away with.
"Ground shakes. Madness wakes. Everyone run. The Storm has come…"
- Saldavin children's rhyme
It starts with the tremors.
Violent quakes tear the land. The cracks spew forth a hideous white fog that clings to the landscape. People change. They lose their sense of self and humanity as they become plagued with an incurable, unnatural insanity.
Fifteen-year-old Ayla Naleeah is a farm girl living on the outskirts of a small village. She’s one of the few who hasn’t been Affected, but that’s a cold comfort. Now she has to struggle to survive in a world gone mad.
Mad World is a young adult fantasy novel that puts a unique spin on the zombie apocalypse genre. Ayla's tale is a coming-of-age story that invokes elements of Little House on the Prairie, Zombieland, and The Last of Us.
*BH = Before Hertheron
The Age of Creation [3000 BH* to 2400 BH]
Baleshok creates humankind, a hunter-gatherer society that begins with a spoken language of four words. Full spoken language develops.
The Diaspora [2400 BH to 2300 BH]
Prophets of the gods group the people by faith to prepare for the breaking of the world.
The Breaking [2300 BH to 2200 BH]
The continents are created, and Selaere is introduced to the world.
The Age of Peace [2200 BH to 1600 BH]
Civilization on Dan'eel dies out, and develops on Baleshok and Marya. Pottery comes about, as do symbols and icons.
The Age of Wonder [1600 BH to 1300 BH]
As the people discover magic, runes are developed. Magic fuels technology and cities are built. After several centuries of marvelous advancement, Baleshok becomes irate when man puts himself above the gods and banishes Inshala.
The Age of Despair [1300 BH to 600 BH]
When Inshala is banished, all her magic leaves with her. Cities that were built on properties of magic and not physics crumble, and civilization falls apart in a monumental collapse. This is a time of despair, as man feels that they have been struck down by the gods and will never recover. Marya gives life to the Kshtan in the wake of the "failure" of humankind.
The Age of Enlightenment [600 BH to 200 BH]
Lythor is born, and enlightenment begins to arise in the south of Marya/Baleshok. Written language begins. Man begins working with metal, as this is the bronze age of Dranthar. The time is similar to that of the Greek and Roman empires. The age ends when the cities of Lythor begins to pollute Marya's lands, and Lythor is separated from the mainland.
The Age of Chaos [200 BH to 0]
Zyxelart sows the seeds of chaos throughout the mainland, and civilization is in upheavel. To restore order to the people, the gods write the Book of Hertheron, and introduce it to the people at Kirthin.
The Age of Exploration [1 AH to 755]
With the discovery of the Book of Hertheron, organized religion begins.
1 - The people learn the ways of the gods, and organized religion begins to establish itself on the mainland. As this happens, those who choose to worship Lythor seek ways to find him [to find the continent] and begin to explore. The first ships are built.
361 - The first Great Temple is built as a shrine to Marya. The city of Kirthin grows around it.
The Age of Truth [755 to 1154]
755 - The cartographers of Lythor finish their world map, proving the existence of the gods. The Age of Truth begins. Realism becomes the main art form as the renaissance begins. There is a wealth of advancement to art and culture.
The Unmaking [1154 to 1173]
1154 - The prophecy of the Unmaking comes to frution. The main continent of Baleshok begins to split into two as the Selaere River widens, breaking Baleshok and Marya into two separate continents.
The Age of Wisdom [1173 to 1431]
Magic returns to Dranthar and civilization flourishes.
The Spell Wars [1431 to 1437]
Free of the influence and restraint of the gods, many of the nations of Dranthar become embroiled in the catastrophic Spell Wars, destroying multiple civilizations and wreaking havoc to the land itself
The Age of Industry [1437 to 1622]
The advent of steam power leads to an age of innovation and technological advancement
The Age of Devastation [1622 to 1805]
A series of brutal and catastrophic wars plague the entirety of Dranthar, driving the world's sentient races to near extinction.
The Exodus [1805 to 1815]
Most of the last remaining survivors of Dranthar depart the planet in vast colony ships in search of new worlds to call home...
The Age of Renewal [1815 to 2010]
The survivors of Dranthar find new life among the stars.
The Age of Return [2010 to ???]
A new civilization returns to Dranthar to reclaim a land long thought lost.
In the beginning our world was nothing more than a slab of rock, floating in the void. It rested there for eons, dormant and unmoving, until one day a being emerged from the void. As this being became aware of his existence, he called himself Baleshok. Baleshok looked upon the vast mass of land that hovered beneath him, and he claimed it as his own. He called the land Dranthar, for the name suited him.
For a time, Baleshok was fascinated by the nothingness that surrounded him, by the textures and shapes of the rock that was Dranthar. But in time, he grew tired of looking upon the unchanging landscape. So Baleshok reached into the void, and in doing so he gave life to Marya. As she explored that which surrounded her, Marya looked upon the barren plains of Dranthar, and the emptiness made her sad.
So Marya filled Dranthar with life. She decorated the landscape with trees and plants, filled the emptiness with birds and animals. Baleshok looked upon that which Marya had created, and he approved.
As Baleshok and Marya stood back to gaze upon their creation, another figure emerged from the void. He called himself Dan'eel, and proclaimed himself the sovereign of death, “For with life, there must be death,” he declared. Baleshok and Marya could see the wisdom in his statement, and thus they accepted Dan’eel.
For many eons, Baleshok watched the cycle of life and death repeat itself on the world of Dranthar. But after a time, he grew tired of the pattern. The trees and animals never changed, and so it was that Baleshok created the human species. He populated Dranthar with men and women, and he gave them the freedom to act as they chose.
Soon after, another figure emerged from the void. He called himself Tharn, and proclaimed himself the God of Strife, for God was the title the men and women of Dranthar had chosen for their creators. “Humans cannot bear the burden of the freedom you have given them,” he told Baleshok. “And they will surely destroy that which they do not understand.”
Baleshok could not question the claim of Tharn, for it was the freedom he had granted men and women that had wrought the creation of this being. But Marya and Dan’eel were displeased, and they reminded Baleshok of the need for balance in all things.
So Baleshok reached into the void once again, and this time he gave life to Selaere, the Goddess of Tranquility. “Where there is not war, there will be peace,” she told Tharn. “And the two shall exist for all time, for there cannot be one without the other.”
Tharn accepted the judgment, but still Marya and Dan’eel were not pleased. The will of the humans had made Tharn’s influence powerful, and Marya and Dan’eel did not want their domains to be forever tainted by his presence. Baleshok weighed all that which was before him, and he deemed the concerns of Marya and Dan’eel to be worthy. He declared that each of the gods would have dominion over their own land.
So each of the gods stamped their seal upon the rock that was Dranthar, and Selaere washed away all that was in between, to forever serve as a barrier between the tempers of the gods.
After a time, Baleshok and Marya turned their attention from the creatures of Dranthar and looked upon each other. They each found the other pleasing to look at, and decided to mate. From their union sprung three children.
The first was Ishala. Ishala was clever and wise, and she possessed the answers to mysteries that had long eluded the reach of Baleshok. He feared she might use her knowledge to harm his creations, so he sent her away. Ishala obliged, and she stamped her seal on a distant corner of Dranthar and remained there, away from the sphere of Baleshok’s concern.
The final two children came together, but they were as different as night and day. Lythor was filled with wonder, and he asked many questions of his father and mother. Zyxelart, however, was not interested in illumination. He was mischievous, and was interested only in confusing and fooling the other gods.
Baleshok favored Lythor, and so he granted him a piece of the land he had shared with Marya. When Zyxelart challenged the gift and demanded a territory of his own, Baleshok grew angry and banished him from Dranthar.
But Zyxelart defied his father’s will. Banned from placing his seal on the face of Dranthar, he retreated to the under-side of the world and stamped his seal in the slab. In this act of defiance, Zyxelart decreed he would forever reign over his own side of Dranthar, and Baleshok’s creatures would be forbidden from disturbing his domain. Baleshok saw the danger that was Zyxelart, so he sealed the void. There would be no more gods, no more beings of chaos.
Still, the land would change. In time, Baleshok learned he could no more control Lythor than he could the will of Zyxelart. Lythor sought pursuits of enlightenment and discovery, and did not wish to be bound by his parents. So he separated himself from their domain, creating his own land, his own seal.
And so it was the lands of Dranthar came to be as they are today. The land of Baleshok and Marya, separated only by a river of Selaere’s waters, resting in the center of our world; the domains of Dan’eel, Tharn, Lythor and Ishala stretching out beyond the oceans of Selaere. And Zyxelart, hidden on the under-side of the world, rests out of sight, but still his chaos seeps into the lands above.
So the lands of Dranthar were set after the void was sealed, and so they shall be until the time of The Unmaking.
— Excerpt from The Book of Hertheron