So, a bit of context first! These are two of my D&D characters, Share and Buttermilk.
Share is a character I made a while ago. She’s a summer eladrin and a hexblade warlock – but she’s set up to play more like a paladin (she wields a greatsword and can do smites). Her basic backstory is that she’s in training to be a knight for Queen Titania of the Summer Court. She got sent out to the material plane so she could gain experience before being sworn in as a full knight.
I played her in a few one-shot games and she’s a lot of fun. She’s an excitable, impulsive teenager who’s mostly interested in acquiring cakes and pastries.
I later introduced her as an NPC in my campaign – mostly as a mechanism for having the party end up in the feywild. While there, she was kidnapped by an enemy of the Queen and the party had to find a way to get themselves home (but that’s another story).
More recently, the party returned to the feywild to speak with Queen Titania. There they encountered Share again (now escaped from her kidnapper) and Buttermilk, who she introduced as her girlfriend.
Buttermilk came about thanks to the release of the Mythic Odysseys of Theros book leading me to create a satyr bard of the college of eloquence. I love the idea of making a character who eschewed the standard of having bards be musical. Instead making her a poet and focusing on spells based around speaking. (Building up to having all the “Power Word …” spells at later levels. That’s a hell of a poem!)
With no upcoming games to use her in as a player, into the campaign she went as an NPC!
Chrissie (one of the players in my campaign, but also a very lovely friend and a great DM – she ran all of the games where Share had previously appeared) loved her immediately and wanted to know more about her and Share’s relationship. So, rather than sending endless snippets over messenger, I ended up writing what you can read below.
Hopefully people enjoy it and maybe I’ll write more about building each of them as characters in the future. And maybe a little bit about using them as NPCs.
“What are you reading?”
Buttermilk looked up into the sun. Not the bland, artificial blaze of the carefully woven magic that kept the courtyard in perpetual perfect summer, but the face of a girl she’d known for so long that her appearance should seem mundane.
The courtyard was always meant to be an ideal, pleasant temperature, but as Share stood close behind her, bending down to look at the book in her hands, Buttermilk felt trapped within her clothes. Was this jacket always two sizes too small?
“Just … just poems,” she managed to squeak out, unable to take her eyes off the golden, radiant shoulder inches from her face. “Not anything, um, exciting …”
“Oh, some poems are exciting!” Share vaulted the bench and came to rest perched on the back, her feet touching down beside Buttermilk. Buttermilk leant back, managing to turn her attention from the parts of Share that had just reached eye level. “I read a good one once where a guy killed a monster and then the monster’s mum. It was kinda long though.”
“Yes, I’ve read that one.” Buttermilk looked at her, bemused. “We studied it together.”
“Right! You helped me write my essay.” Share broke into a grin that could let her get away with anything – and often did. It was the reason Buttermilk had written that essay and several others before it. Buttermilk had seen it countless times but it still worked – probably better on her than anyone else. “What are your book poems about?”
“These are …” Buttermilk panicked. This was going to take a tremendous amount of focus to say casually. To not stutter. To not act like a damn obvious idiot. “You know. Romance poems.”
“Oh, right. ‘Your face is like the sun’ sort of stuff, yeh?” Buttermilk stayed silent, trying to think of anything but what her heart was screaming at her, for fear that Share had either been learning psychology or telepathy. She was unsure which would be worse. “I never got that stuff when we read it. If you love someone, you show them. You don’t write it all down.”
“Some people are …” Buttermilk paused, feeling, as she so often did when Share was around, like a special kind of idiot. The kind who has a ridiculous crush on a girl who would probably never understand any attempt you could make to tell her how you feel. “Some people are better at words.”
“That’s why I got you to do my essay,” Share said with a laugh, hopping off the bench. The way her dress moved convinced Buttermilk that she’d never be good enough with words to do it justice. Definitely not if she ever had to say those words aloud. “Let me know if you find any other cool poems like that though. About monsters and battles and knights and stuff.”
“Ok, I’ll–” Buttermilk froze as she felt Share’s fingers in her hair. She knew this was Share being playful. Messing with her. Ruffling her hair like Buttermilk’s uncle did every time she said something that suggested she had an opinion of her own.
But she couldn’t help it. This was bliss. This was more than bliss. This was something a word hadn’t been invented for in any of the languages Buttermilk spoke. Share was the sun and this was … “Buh,” Buttermilk managed to say.
Perfect end to a sentence right there. Stick it in a poem and win some awards.
Share cocked her head. “You’re a dork, Butt. See you later!” With a wave and a twirl she was striding towards the doors leading out of the courtyard and deeper into the palace. Buttermilk watched her go and then looked down at her book in disdain.
“Shit book,” she muttered as she slammed it closed. “Not good enough at all.”
Buttermilk picked up her pen and scratched out a word, replacing it with something better. Maybe. Was it really better? She stared at it – it looked better. “Pushing onward,” she muttered to herself. It sounded kind of the same.
She read through the entire poem again. It seemed to work in the same way as the original – as much as she understood it. It went against all she had learned about writing, but she’d enjoyed the challenge, hadn’t she? Reading widely was the key to finding her voice as a writer – definitely something she had heard once.
She put the pen down and slowly closed the book. Time to leave it alone. Stop bothering it before it was ruined. A knock reverberated through the door to Buttermilk’s room, but it flew open before she could say anything to whoever was knocking.
“Hey, Butt!” Share’s sing-song voice rang out as she walked in. The sound of it turned the sharp sour taste of that nickname into lemonade. “What you doin’?”
“I was … I was just finishing some work,” said Buttermilk, turning to look at Share. Buttermilk’s voice caught as she saw her. Why did this happen every time? She was the same little elf as always. Wearing the same dress (Buttermilk knew it wasn’t the same dress – she had a mental catalogue of each dress she had seen Share wear and could recite their tiny variations by heart). Never wearing proper shoes.
But it didn’t matter. One look at her and Buttermilk could no longer spell ‘bard’, let alone remember what it meant to be one.
“Read it to me.” With no grace at all, Share launched herself onto the bed.
“Sorry?” Buttermilk recovered her voice, but the bewilderment remained.
“Read me your poem.” Share turned onto her stomach, resting her chin on her hands. Buttermilk had looked at those hands a lot. Thought about them in her hair. Sliding down … “That’s your poem book, right? Have you written something new?”
“Oh, um, yes it’s … I mean, no it’s not something I wrote. I just translated it.”
“You’re so smart, Butt!” Share grinned. “Is it still a poem? You’re really good at reading poems. Read it to me.”
Buttermilk felt the burn in her cheeks and quickly pulled the book open in front of her face. She made a show of leafing through the pages, pretending to search for the work while she took a few deep breaths and tried to calm down.
“Um, it’s called, um, The Thunder Came Upon Us …” Standing for proper projection, like she’d been taught. The hours of practice took over and the rhythm of the words steadied her voice.
I still my breath and look across the pass
My brothers beside me, battle before
A call goes out, thousands voice the refrain
Sword fast in my hand will answer their call
Rejoice not in death, rejoice for we are
pushing onward and–
Buttermilk stopped, noticing the puzzled look on Share’s face. “You … you don’t like it.”
“I just … this isn’t your kind of poetry, Butt.” Share climbed off the bed and moved towards Buttermilk, reaching down to take the book that now hung loosely from her hand. “What language even is this?” She stared at Buttermilk’s scratchy copy of the unfamiliar script.
“Orc. It’s from the material plane. I don’t think any of them have ever come here – at least I’ve never met any – but they have these things called ‘warrior poets’ and you said–”
Buttermilk’s words were interrupted by the kiss.
The warmth of it was the most immediate sensation. Buttermilk had felt it from Share’s hands before, but this was more intense. More intimate. More insistent. She had seen Share set things on fire just by concentrating near them. Would she be set on fire? Buttermilk didn’t care.
Warmth and sweetness. Like a freshly-baked pastry. Or perhaps Share had just been eating pastries before she arrived. It was a possibility.
Buttermilk willed herself to get out of her head and back to the kiss. Share’s fingers were in her hair and Share’s lips were pressed against hers. It was the perfect kiss. She had nothing to compare it to, but everything she felt told her it was perfect.
A lifetime later (perhaps several lifetimes – why did they need time anymore? Such trivial things didn’t matter), Share stopped kissing her and it was awful. Buttermilk’s mouth hung open, unsure whether to speak or act. Would kissing Share again be allowed? Or was that not done? She knew she should have grabbed some of her aunt’s trashy novels. This was an unforgivable gap in her education.
“You learned it for me, didn’t you?” Share smiled, the soft sound of catching her breath between each word. Buttermilk was aching to kiss her again, but apparently talking was happening now. Gods, why did conversation take so long?
“I … what?”
“You learned a whole damn language just so you could read me a stupid poem about war.”
“Poems aren’t stupid …” Buttermilk’s entire life purpose was being recentred, but she wasn’t about to put up with that kind of slander.
“This must have taken you so long.” Share looked at the book again, flicking through the pages to take in all the scribbles and crossed out words and rewrites. “All the time you spent on this and I just … I’m so stupid.”
“You’re not stupid either.” The tone of defiance rose in Buttermilk’s voice – it was time to put an end to this. She pushed the book down and kissed Share. It wasn’t perfect like the first time. It wasn’t as perfect as being kissed by her. It was clumsy and too eager and she had no idea what she should do other than press her lips to Share’s, but it didn’t matter.
Nothing mattered except that it was happening.
Courtyard’s endless summer cannot touch me
My sun has left, on other plane she rests
Deep midwinter takes hold within my soul
All these words are such small comfort to me
My heart left with her, my joy in her grasp
Buttermilk stared at the page. This was not a good poem. This was a poem she’d be embarrassed to read to herself. She needed perfect words for when Share came back and these were the words of an overemotional child. She needed to do better!
But it was all she could feel. Share had been gone for weeks and had left a hole more vast than her small stature would ever suggest was possible. They had been living in each other’s pockets since that first kiss – only pulled apart when Share’s training or Buttermilk’s studies had demanded.
Even then, Buttermilk had watched from a window as Share swung a sword bigger than her, delighting in her movements. Then delighted more when Share returned and lay on her bed as Buttermilk murmured healing spells with her lips pressed against Share’s aching muscles.
Share sitting in on Buttermilk’s lessons had been less successful. No one here or on any other plane of existence was quite as bad at sitting still and quiet, Buttermilk was sure of it.
But the training had a purpose, and now Share was gone. Sent out to the material plane to gain experience ahead of her becoming a true knight in Titania’s service. Like that first time Share’s lips had pulled away, there was only one word for this absence: awful. The fates were surely punishing Buttermilk for some great slight she had perpetuated against them.
Although it was probably worse for Share. Time was different there and these few weeks could have been months or even years for her!
But she would be leading a life of adventure, wouldn’t she? No time to miss her girlfriend. Her fool of a girlfriend who stayed home with her lifeless books and didn’t even consider going with her.
“Fool!” Buttermilk shouted as she hurled her notebook at a tree. A few leaves shook loose and fluttered down, before disappearing and regrowing fresh and green within the tree’s canopy.
She was immediately struck by the horror of what she had done and rushed over to pick the notebook up again. Share had given it to her before she went away. It was bound in the same red fabric as Share’s dresses and the first page bore a doodle of Share’s face that she had drawn.
“Every time you miss me, write something,” she had said. “Then I’ll read it all when I get back and I’ll know how many kisses to give you.” And then she smiled and Buttermilk wasn’t sure there’d be enough space in such a small book.
She wasn’t sure there’d be enough space to convey how much she missed Share if she were to erase and rewrite every book in the palace’s library.
Taking the book back to sit on the bench at the edge of the courtyard, Buttermilk took out her pen and began to write again.
I wish I could be summoned to your side
The way you do your sword when danger’s near
But not for battle, instead for comfort
For the warmth I miss, the weight I don’t feel
Beside me at night, beside me in day
Fill this vastness–
“Please come back soon, Share,” Buttermilk sighed, putting her head in her hands. “Before any talent I ever had leaks out of my ears.”
And then Share was back. Bruised and missing teeth and with a gash in her side spewing blood more red than her dress could hide.
She had stumbled out of the forest and collapsed at the feet of the spring eladrin camped outside the city. They had patched her up as best they could with what simple remedies they had and then rushed her into the city, through the streets, and on to the palace.
The sight of their caravan barrelling through the streets of the city, elves hanging off the sides, sails full and billowing, would be talked about for many weeks to come.
In the hands of the court’s clerics, her wounds were dealt with swiftly. Even the teeth were regrown. But the exhaustion and echoes of her injuries remained. She awoke long enough to weakly ask if Buttermilk were there before slipping back into unconsciousness again.
When she awoke a second time, she felt soft hair and hard horns resting against her hand. She ran her fingers through the hair she had missed for so long and felt Buttermilk stir. Her awkward smile was met with eyes puffy from tears.
“I missed you so much.” Each word was punctuated with a sniff.
“I missed you more.”
Buttermilk managed a smile. “Is that a time difference joke or are you just being competitive?” Share could see the notebook clutched to Buttermilk’s chest like it hadn’t left her hand since Share had given it to her. It was stuffed full of extra pages and bits of note paper.
“Both. Neither.” Share sighed and winced at her body’s announcement that a lot of it was still quite bruised. “It just seemed like a sweet thing to say. Maybe I read it in a book once.”
“When did you start voluntarily reading books?” said Buttermilk with mock incredulity.
“Whenever I missed you.” Share smiled again. Her new teeth looked awkward but it just added to her charm. “I’d read them and hear your voice in my head and you wouldn’t seem so far away.”
Buttermilk sniffed again, trying to hold back another round of tears.
“Oh no no no, stop that! I’m back now and you’re not allowed to cry when you could be kissing me instead.” Share ignored the pain and shifted to move closer to Buttermilk.
The kiss was an ocean’s worth of water crashing down onto desert plains. A jungle of vegetation erupting from scarred, barren earth. Buttermilk didn’t have to mutter enchantments to make every muscle within Share sing. This kiss was the poem Buttermilk had been trying to write every single time she’d put pen to paper.
And then Share pulled away and said “Ah, your book’s digging into my boob,” and giggled. The hole sealed shut with a pop and it was like she had never left.
“You’re going to read me all the poems you wrote now, right?” she said, laying back on the bed, her hand finding Buttermilk’s and entwining their fingers.
“I … I will,” Buttermilk said with determination on her face. “There are quite a lot. I actually had to increase the book’s capacity, as I ran out of space. I think they’re all either mostly terrible or wholly terrible, and I hate each of them because they’re nothing but sadness. But I wrote them for you, so you’re hearing them.”
“Will we need to call the clerics back in?”
Buttermilk ignored this. “And after that, you’re telling me the story of whoever’s arse you kicked that got you into this state.”
“Idiot thought I was unarmed,” Share said softly, her eyes falling closed, the smile still spread wide across her face.
Buttermilk kissed her hand and then opened the notebook to the first poem.
If only you had left via the road
I could watch from the tower as you walked
Watching as each step, yard by painful yard
Took you away – took you further from me
But it was lines drawn in chalk and silver
And a single step that took you away
And left me nothing but words on a page
And your still fading last kiss on my cheek