Furritasia: Reborne


Illustration by Mistie Newman

It all seemed so hopeless.

To the outside observer, Kataryna Delilah Lemieux appeared to have the ideal life. She was slender, and elegant, with her black and white ringed tail; her rufous brown and grey fur and tufted white ears. She had a job that she enjoyed – rehabilitating abandoned and injured animals –  and she had a mate that loved her, and whom she loved very much: the handsome lupine, Daniel. But inside her, a seed of despair and hopelessness unfurled its poisonous leaves.

It sprouted innocuously, hidden from all.

And outside, the world grew darker, the shadows stretching longer.

It was the scrapbook’s fault.

Kataryna did not really understand why she had begun collecting the articles: cutting and pasting pictures of half starved war orphans in distant Kalimere; stockpiling articles about animals found broken and violated; collating pictures of barren wastelands where forests had been reduced to desert rubble and rivers ran thick with the sludge of pollution. It was a compulsion, a sinister hobby. Whenever she was alone – which was often, for Daniel worked long hours and his family, not accepting of a lemurine/lupine relationship, forbid the two to den together – she would pore over the pages, or search through piles of newspapers and old magazines, seeking new additions for her macabre collection.

And then, one bright and cheerful spring day, as the birds argued in the trees outside and daffodils bent their heads with the wind, it all became a bit too much.

The sprout of despair began to bloom

Taking a jar of sleeping tablets and a naked razor blade, Kataryna filled her claw-footed tub almost to the top, leaving just enough room for the water to displace. She had no wish to flood the bathroom, to leave too much a mess for Daniel, or her landlord – which of the two would find her first? – to clean up. The water was hot, almost painfully so, as she dry-swallowed two of the tablets and eased herself carefully into the watery embrace.

It was harder to make the first cut than she had expected. Slicing a jagged smile across one wrist, and then, with shaking, almost nerveless fingers, the second. She fumbled, dropped the blade, which bobbed away on pink-stained waves. She stared at it, uncomprehending, as a great weariness overwhelmed her. The tablets took her in the clutches, drew her down, down, down into the sanguine tinted water and closed the final curtain over her head.


She opened her eyes to a hazy room and the smokey cinnamon scent of incense. Looked up, and met the long, slender muzzle of a canid, a jackal with golden eyes and a flowing black mane.

“You have taken your own life, Kataryna Delilah Lemusu.” Anubis’ voice was low and richly golden, but also tinged with shadows of sorrow.

Kataryna nodded, and stared at her hands, at the jagged scars bisecting her fur. “Yes. I did.”

Anubis reached forward, his long fingers brushing her chin, raising her head so that her eyes met his. “Why?”

“The world was a terrible place.” Kataryna tried to look away, but his grip was firm and she could not, so she closed her eyes instead. “I could not bear to be a part of it anymore.”

Anubis gave a short sharp bark of laughter, although there was no humour in it. “The world is a terrible place,” he admitted, “but what did you do for it?”

Kataryna frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Did your presence make it worse?” His long ears pricked forward and he tilted his head at her. “Or did you help to heal it?”

A great sinking feeling settled on Kataryna’s narrow shoulders. She had done nothing, nothing of consequence. Saved a few animals; donated a few reds when the collectors came calling. Pointless little droplets in a sea of despair. “There is nothing that can be done,” her voice came out a hoarse whisper, “the problem is too big. The world is dying. Nothing anyone can do will save it.”

“That,” said Anubis, “is where you are wrong.” A single tear trickled down his cheek and he caught it on his finger. Bringing his hand to Kat’s face, he ran the tear-stained finger down her forehead. “One person can change things. Maybe not save the world, but one tear is scarcely alone, is it not?” He placed his hands on her shoulders. “Kataryna Lemusu, I am sending you back. And you will not be allowed your final rest until the world no longer needs you. This is your curse. If you sit back on your haunches and do nothing, then you will be nothing. You must take action, for every teardrop counts.”

Then he leaned forward, his muzzle brushing against hers, forehead pressed to forehead, his long ears tickling the sides of her head. A darkness descended, crashing in, consuming her, and whirling her away into a tornado of stars.


Sunlight danced across her eyelids, teasing her awake. She stirred, finding herself curled around her tail. Roused herself, the ground crinkling and rustling beneath her.

“Where am I?” she pondered, then recollection, recognition came and with it the flood of despair, of guilt.

She was lying in a pile of autumn leaves. She had taken her own life, spoken with Anubis and then re-awoken here.

“Am I dead, or am I alive?” she wondered, struggling into a crouch. There was something strange and heavy, wrapped about her shoulders, down her back. “What have I done?” She held up her hands, staring at the jagged scars – one long and deep, the other rugged and short, a clumsy incompetent mess. “Daniel,” his name came to her lips, along with crushing pain. Had he been the one to find her? Had there been anything to find? “What have I done to you?”

She tried to shrug off the heavy cloak that dragged her down, but it moved with her. Reached back, touched it, fingers brushing against the warm, soft warmth of feathers.


A glance, and then another, as though to prove to herself that what she saw were true.

Wings. She had wings.

Now that she saw them, she could feel her blood coursing through them, feel the muscles that controlled them, just as she could feel those in her fingers and her feet. She flexed those muscles, unfurling one wing, running her fingers along the silky feathers; feeling their barbs clutch to one another, smoothing them back in place.

“Can I fly?” The thought was too terrifying to ponder on for long, and she dismissed it. A glance at her surroundings and she saw, lying in the leaves, three objects.

A mirror, a cloak and a rolled scroll.

Her fingers fell first to the mirror, but it held not her reflection – and how might that have changed? – but the gentle face of Anubis, gazing out at her with compassion in his golden eyes.

You have been reborn for a purpose, Kataryna Lemusu. Do not fail me.”

The image blurred and changed, but she could still hear the words, but not through her ears – directly in her head. “You are dead to him now, Kataryna. There can be no return from the other side of Heaven.”

As the image gained clarity she threw the mirror against a tree, glass shattering.

For in the mirror she had seen him, her beloved Daniel, holding her limp, damp and bloody form; brushing his muzzle against her cheek – as though begging her to return to life.


Illustration by Angela Oliver, 2003

furritasia-cover2003Furritasia: Reborne” was first written and serialised in 2002, via Livejournal (Lemurkat_Studio). It was never completed, and was abandoned in favour of its sequel, “Scavengers of the Deadlands“. However, the characters are still near and dear to my heart, and their stories deserve to be told.

Illustrations will be provided, where available, thanks to the online community that supported and encouraged me in the early days of Furritasia (2000-2005).

(and yes, the “reborne” is intentional, not a typo, more of a pun)

Anthropomorphic Animal People (aka: Furries)

The furry fandom is a subculture interested in fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics. Examples of anthropomorphic attributes include exhibiting human intelligence and facial expressions, the ability to speak, walk on two legs, and wear clothes. Furry fandom is also used to refer to the community of people who gather on the Internet and at furry conventions.

  • wikipedia “Furry Fandom”

I first connected with the internet seriously in the early part of this century, and immersed myself in online communities and cultures. Along the way, I discovered Furries. Now, the Furry Community was one of the friendliest, but also one of the most mocked, on the internet at the time – and they possibly are still rather misunderstood today. I created a Fursona (Furry persona), put up auctions for both stories and art on Furbid, and shared my art via VCL, spending most of my time on Yerf’s forums (but lacking in the artistic ability to actually become a member). Sadly, all of those sites are now long defunct, VCL has been archived, but is still viewable, Yerf has vanished altogether and Furbid has been replaced by Furbuy, which seems to attract sellers but not-so-many buyers. And truth be told, my art was somewhat substandard at the time and most of the auctions were purchased by the same fellow, a fellow how probably kept most of lower-tier artists afloat.

Now, whilst I enjoy drawing animal people – as has been noted in previous entries, I favour animal, or animalistic, characters over humans – I have never believed that I actually was the spirit of a lemur trapped in a human’s body, nor have I ever engaged in anything dubious or dodgy, either wearing a fursuit or not. I just prefer drawing, and writing, animal characters to humans. I have a vast cast of Furry characters, beginning with Kataryna Delilah Lemusu, a ring-tailed lemur.

conbadge-kat Kataryna began life as a regular ring-tailed lemur-morph: brownish-red fur, white belly, long striped tail. Then one day, in a fit of artistic angst, I killed her off. Slashed her wrists in the bathtub, in fact. I’m not sure what happened to that illustration – it’s probably lying around in a drawer somewhere – but anyhow, she was unable to stay dead: Anubis sent her back from the Afterlife, tasking her with the duty of helping others, and saving other people’s lives. She was reborn, as an angel. For a few months, I actually wrote her story as a serial via Livejournal (also now largely defunct, as the users all migrated to Facebook) and have archived it on my Fictionpress site, if you want to read it (it’s poorly edited, sorry). Naturally, I never quite got around to finishing it. I was too fickle in my writing, and I don’t think I finished a single story between 2000-2008 (when I wrote, finished, edited and, eventually, published, Midsummer Knight’s Quest). Despite not being finished, it did spawn a sequel, Scavengers of the Deadlands (also unfinished) which you can read the first ten-or-so chapters of here.

One day I shall finish them … one day!

Although I did move away from the Furry forums around 2005 (and shortly after, Yerf closed, the two events are entirely unrelated), I still drew the occasional bit of Furry Art, and the characters still remained alive, begging their tails to be told. Fellowship of the Ringtails is technically furry, although the characters are actually little changed from their earth counterparts in appearance, and mainly anthropomorphic in behaviour. I was also accepted into the Furry Writers Guild, much to my surprise and delight! And, with any luck, will see some of my short stories published in future anthologies. This may encourage me to reincarnate my Furry characters, dust off the manuscripts and get them published!

I have also written Poke-morph Fanfiction, and you can read that story here: Pookamon: Quest for Freedom AND it actually IS finished!




Writing Non-human Characters

It occurred to me a while ago, that I just don’t seem to write many human characters. Even my mostly-human characters: Niamh for example, have some inhuman traits.  Indeed, the only time human characters ever show up in my story is either as a side character, or in my short stories.  Even Dirk Lord-Rainer, who is a POV character for a portion of Midsummer Knight’s Quest, only plays a fairly minor role compared to Hemlock, the goblin.

So, why do I favour non-human characters?

First and foremost, I love animals, plus I have a zoology degree and I’m not afraid to use it to educate while I entertain.

Other reasons you might choose to write non-human protagonists:

  • Challenge, to explore the world from a different perspective.
  • Adds an extra quirk to a fairly mundane or traditional plot idea.
  • Allegory or parable.
  • FUN.

Non-human characters can range from realistic style animals (Incredible Journey, Watership Down), through to anthropomorphic animal-people (aka Furries). Generally speaking, I prefer to read animal-protagonist novels in which the animals behave much like their wild counterparts, but with increased insight and complex communication, or truly anthropomorphic ones, where the characters still show some of their natural animal traits. The movie, Zootopia, is an excellent example of this. However, shows like Arthur, where the characters are basically just children that happen to look like animals, don’t interest me.

Of course, “non-human” can also refer to werewolves, elves and many other near-human species.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to deal predominantly with mostly-realistic animal characters (I’ll talk about writing Furries at a later date).

The first thing to do when writing an animal character is RESEARCH. I watch documentaries, read books, look up information on the internet. Remember, if you get one facet wrong there is someone out there who will notice and most zoologists aren’t shy about correcting errors! Of course, the more popular your animal is, the more is known about them, so not only will you have a plethora of information at your hands, there will also be more folks out there looking to correct any errors you might make. If you are making up the species, as I did with my goblins, then you can create as crazy an ecology as you like, but remember to keep it consistent!

Next you need a plot, and with that, CONFLICT. Is your character wild or domestic? If domestic, you could write a family drama from the animal’s perspective – The Last Family in England (aka The Labrador Pact) by Matt Haig is an excellent example of this. Murder mysteries seem popular too: why have several cats in the neighbourhood been found dead? Sit down and brainstorm a list of possible adventures that your domestic cat or dog could get up to. For both domestic and wild animals, there is the classic theme: trying to get home/find a new home, in which either the original habitat is destroyed (Animals of Farthing Wood) or the animal is taken from his/her home and must find her way back (Far From Home Cats). Survival in general is also a popular theme, (ie: Black Beauty and Bambi), but you will still need the plot to build to something – whether it be the battle for dominance to claim his position as head of the herd, or that final hurdle before being reunited with their owner or finding their forever home.

Even animal characters need PERSONALITY. They should always be a character first, animal second.  They should have needs and wants, hopes and dreams – and forces (be it another character, or nature) acting against their achievement of these. Cliches are fairly common in animal-driven narratives: cats are sly and manipulative, dogs dependable and loyal, but it is fun to twist the stereotypes. After all, hyenas are generally portrayed as scheming and malicious thieves and rogues, but did you know that they do regularly hunt their own food (not just steal it), have a matriarchal society and form strong clan bonds, not entirely dissimilar to the oft-romantisied wolf?

Whether your animal character is predator or prey, pet or stray, it can be fun to delve into the world, look at it from a different perspective (don’t forget the senses!) and challenge yourself to write something different.



Collaborative book: Once Upon a Wash

I’ve been busy these past few months helping my lovely friend, Matty Angel, realise her dream of becoming a published author. Matty is a poet and an artist. She is also autistic. I feel very fortunate to have met and befriended Matty – she is one of the sweetest people I know. So when I heard she wanted to release a book, I had to help her.
And I had the privilege of illustrating it for her too.

Late one night, I heard a strange sound… and followed my favorite pink striped sock into another world.
A very scary world…

“Once Upon a Wash” is a lively poem-story, written by autistic poet, Matty Angel and illustrated by Angela Oliver.

“Once Upon a Wash” is being released in two formats – the smaller black and white chapter book, and a larger full color edition. Having seen the two side-by-side, I can definitely say that the color version is well worth the higher price! It contains a couple more images, has larger font, and the font is blue. We have been told that this makes it easier for dyslexics to read, so hopefully that is the case. Either way, it’s a delightful story and I had an immense lot of fun drawing Bear Friend Autumn, Pink Striped Sock, the dastardly Sock Soldiers, a large amount of washing machines, and hiding Matty’s cat, Princess Nomnom, in every interior illustration.

If you live in New Zealand and wish to order a copy, signed by Matty and I, please visit this page: Once Upon a Wash Pre-order

If you live outside New Zealand and wish to order it, the color version will be available through Amazon later this week.

And, if you wish to learn more about Matty, and read her poetry and other posts for yourself, please visit her blog: Matty Angel

(All proceeds from this book are going to Matty.)

NaNoWriMo Day 15 (content warning: Violence)

I’ve not written a lot, obviously. I’ve been working (full-time), playing Pokemon Go, and revising what I’ve written more that producing new stuff, but I just thought I’d share this snippet. Some folks think that because I write about non-human characters – cute furry animals, lemurs, for example – that my stories are fluffy and light, filled with charming characters and delightful picnics.

They’re wrong.

Also, it should be noted that we are working our way through Game of Thrones season 5 at an average of an episode a night. This may be having an influence on my writing…

Charming characters, perhaps. Delightful picnics, no.

Here’s a snippet from what I’ve written today:

She turned her head, just as a dark shape erupted from the bushes and struck her in the chest, throwing her backwards. Her head struck the hard ground in a flare of bright white pain. She gasped for air, struggling to catch her breath, as heavy weight pressed down on her chest.

There you are.” Mijifajifa leaned over her, exposing his fangs in a feral grin. His breath held the sweet and sour stench of fermented fruit.

Aurelia felt small fragments of rock tumbled away beneath her fingers. She flailed, managed to wrap one hand about the rope that bound the candle-lantern. Clutched it. “What … want?” she gasped.

You took what was mine,” Mijifajifa growled. “Look.” He pressed his fist against her muzzle.

Aurelia saw that the back of his hand had been shaved. A symbol charred into his flesh. Her vision wavered and blurred, unable to focus. She blinked. It didn’t help.

Do you know what this means?”

Aurelia tried to shake her head, but his knuckles ground against her nose. He twisted his wrist. Something crunched and pain flared out from her nose, across her cheeks. Her eyes watered hot, agonised tears.

I am told it means ‘Worthless.’ Do you know how I got it?”

No,” Aurelia whispered. She could taste blood in the back of her throat.

Because you got away. But you’re not going to get away this time.”

She felt something cold and hard, and very, very sharp, press against her.

I’m going to gut you with your own knife.”

Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go hit the “store” a couple of days ago, and it has been taken up, with great enthusiasm, by many of my (equally “grown up”) peers. Even my husband, who never watched the show and never shared my enthusiasm, has taken up the ranks of Pokemon Trainer. I’ve even purchased a data plan on my phone (there’s only so many Pokemon you can lure to your house using incense, after all). We’ve a gym at our corner, two Pokestops within easy walking distance and a shopping mall filled with rattata, zubat and pidgey at our disposal.

Anyway, in line with this recent resurgence of the little pocket monsters, I thought it might be fun to dig out some of my illustrations from my “draw ’em all” phase in 2008 (I didn’t draw them all, but did get through an awful lot) and one from 2011. You can probably spot the latter one!

Missing that I captured today are Slowpoke, Koffing, Weedle and Zubat, whom I appear not to have drawn. Maybe I should remedy that!

Here is also a clear example of how art improves with practice! Who thinks I should draw all my Pokemon again? Comment below (suggestions welcome)!

(Note: The sheep is a fan-pokemon, I think his name was Lambert. He was drawn for a trade. I should draw Pidgey again, shouldn’t I?)

Now, off to charge my phone, so I can catch some more!

CampNaNoWriMo: Day 8


So, can anyone read my handwriting?


As you’ve noticed, I’ve not been doing many writing updates. This is because, of course, I’ve not been doing much writing. It’s fairly typical with me to have a good first few days to Nano, followed by a terrible week or so of “I hate my novel, it’s useless, I’m useless”. This month I’ve skipped the initial “good start” phase and gone straight to the “I suck at writing” stage.

So, how can I get over this?

There is something very restrictive about working on the computer. Not only does it feel kind of permanent, especially since I’ve written the beginning already, but there’s also a lot of distractions.

Here’s my typical morning of writing:

*bing* You’ve got mail.

Oooh, could be something exciting, let’s see.

Oh, it’s spam. Well, let’s see who’s updated on Facebook in the last ten minutes.

No one. Well, what about the Camp Nano-thread? I wonder what everyone is up to.

Oh, that’s pretty quiet. Must either be at work or work writing. Hrmmm, maybe, I’ll write a blog post instead.

Okay, finally back to the story. Oops, not sure if that’s physically possible. Let’s google it.

*Thirty minutes of random google-link following later*

*bing* You’ve got mail.

So, as you can see, it is sometimes advantageous to step away from the computer (and also shut the telephone off). When I’m at this stage of my writing, the only way to get myself actually doing it is by trickery. And the easiest way to doing that is to write something that doesn’t matter. And, to keep myself free of distractions, to write something that doesn’t matter, and to write it on paper. The “on paper” bit is the important bit because I’m not committing that portion to the story, I’m merely committing it to paper. If it’s good, and relevant, and I can read my handwriting, then I might transfer it across into the main manuscript. If not, well, who cares – it’s not like anyone is ever going to read it anyway.

The best way to do this is in small snippets. Waiting for the kettle to boil? Might as well dash out a few quickly scrawled words. Dinner’s on the stove, so I can’t responsibly walk away to do something else, well, might as well put pen to paper. What’s that sound? The smoke alarm? Oh s**t.


wolverineThe Wolverine is one of the largest mustelid species, and has a wicked reputation. Despite his relatively small size, he has a fierce appetite and vicious nature. Wolverine are known to attack reindeer, and are a bane to the herders in the Lapland and other Arctic regions. He will pounce on the deer as it slogs through snow, ripping out a chunk from its shoulders, a chunk which crushes the spinal column and paralyses the deer. In this manner, the food remains fresh and warm as long as the deer survives, and the wolverine can feed on it. More commonly, his prey consists of smaller animals and carrion.

Second Book Sag

The “Lemur Saga” is my first real effort at a fantasy series, discounting my first “epic” novel, penned in my University days (and that was more like a single book in 5 parts, and I only ever did a first – or second – draft).  Single books are fairly easy: you’ve got characters, you’ve got an adventure idea, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to complete a first, and possibly even second or third, draft without drastic plot changes. Certainly, I’ve had my failures – the re-written-six-times-and-never-good “Quest for Lemuria” and the never-got-around-to-quite-finishing “Scavengers of the Deadlands” (but I know why that is – because I’d written the climax and was stuck on how many loose ends I had to tie up).

Book two’s are hard – and I can only imagine that book three’s are more difficult still. I’m not a plotter, I’m what they call a discovery writer; I start at the beginning with a rough idea of how the ending is going to be and sort of strike out blindly for it on a weaving, winding path. When I stray from that path I stop, retrace my steps, and try to take a new route. Once I’ve finished, I might then be able to come up with a vague synopsis, but what I’ll generally find then is my synopsis is too convoluted, too random.

It’s even harder when you’re trying to juggle two characters. And probably ten billion times worse if you’ve got people itching for our second draft, constantly asking you when it’ll be finished, offering threats or bribes. Treating you if your one purpose in life is to produce this damned book. A book you want to get perfect, but just doesn’t feel “right”.

Patrick Rothfuss, I have a new appreciation of you. No longer will I wait impatiently for your final installment – I’ll simply look forward to the time when the date is released and I can begin reading the forerunners again.

Brandon Sanderson, I wish I had your dedication and your ability to plot, because if I could plot this book out properly, then perhaps I could avoid this re-writing mess.

Sometimes I’m glad that there’s only maybe a tiny handful of people anxious to read “Tail of Two Scions”.

And the book, when it is written, will be for them. And for myself.

Camp NaNoWriMo day 2

No writing done today, instead I attended three workshops hosted by the esteemed James George. I’ve never read his books, but he teaches writing up in Auckland and is a font of knowledge, whilst also being extremely personable.

The main problems with my WIP, Tail of Two Scions, is the balancing of the two protagonists: Aurelia and Rakoto. Now, Rakoto is more of a potential antagonist – or possibly an anti-hero (but I hate that term) – than a protagonist, at least in this book. And this IS his book. The first showed Aurelia’s upbringing, and the effect that being raised by the gentle fisher-maky, away from the politics  and conflict of the capital, affected her. The second shows how being raised in the capital, being manipulated and moulded, transforms Rakoto. And how the two will be brought into conflict, both shattering the peace that Aurelia has made for herself and shattering Rakoto as he realises what he has become.

Rakoto’s thread is written, more or less. It does need some refining: he is quite a passive character, and I need to have him playing a more active role in the shaping of his life (more than just that decision he made in the extract I submitted to the Bloody Quill). I need to show, somehow, that he has a mind for tactics and puzzles – which I think will result in a, failed, attempt to escape from Noir’s captivity and rescue Mephistopheles. In his interactions with the other Hunter-apprentices, I need for Noir’s training to have had a profound effect on how he relates to them – and how they relate to him. So, whilst it is written, it does need more drama and Rakoto needs to take more of a role in mastering his own destiny.

Aurelia’s is the quandry. She’s in a safe place, for the moment, but stories in safe places are never particularly exciting. I have some mild conflict organised for her: her rivalry with Simone, her internal conflict of having to quell her adventurous spirit. But this is more Establishing phase, and does not really hold up to the level of conflict required in the Development phase. What I think I need to do, instead, is having the external events set up as the Turning Points for each act.

Whilst the Inciting Incident is different for both characters (and I’ve yet to determine Aurelia’s), the II for the “ghost narrative”, the chronological one that the other two relate to, is probably set up in the Prologue: it’s the Queen beginning to establish her army, by forced recruitment. Why she needs an army I have never entirely clarified, obviously there is some dissent about her usurping of the throne, so there are likely pockets of rebels springing up all over the kingdom, and not just in Bemaraha.

The effect this has on Rakoto is subtle, but the flow on effects leads to him being attacked in the marketplace by a dissenter, and beginning to realise that his mother is perhaps not the nicest of people.

The effect it has on Aurelia is restrictive: she cannot risk leaving the safety of the stone citadel, lest she be found and hunted down.

So…. Instead of having Aurelia’s Establishing phase after Rakoto’s, I think I need to start setting it up before, and keep it brief. I have decided for this to expand on the one chapter I’ve currently got, giving Aurelia (and the reader) a glimpse of Bemaraha. Then I can spend her second Act focusing more on showing her the effects of the Queen’s regiment. There is a six-month gap between Aurelia’s Act I and Rakoto’s Act I (as Rakoto is basically born in the Prologue). Potentially, I could use a series of interconnected events to “fill in” these six months. But they need to relate to the main plot, and keep the tension rising. What parts of Aurelia’s Act II can I appropriate? (May need to change some characters for others to make the narrative work). Can I lose any of the characters?

So many quandries! So much to puzzle out!