- peacefully neutral since 1814, ranked second in the World by the World Economic Forum in 2010, as well as #10 on the United Nations Human Development Index and the most equal country on Earth in terms of economic division according to the Gini Coefficient - is in all likelihood one of the nicest places to live on the face of Earth. Even so, as any readers of the Millennium Trilogy will probably be quivering to point out, the Swedish have their fair share of problems: a crime rate steadily creeping upwards, the third highest rate of assault and threat, one of the highest rates of reported rape on the Continent and worst of all a bad habit of just not talking to the police about this sort of thing amongst elements of the population.
Yes, SWEDEN has severe problems with Crime, that includes Superhuman Crime (not to mention Mythological Terrorists - no, not mythical, Mythic) and quite frankly Law Enforcement can't always work around their limits fast enough: luckily for the Swedish, Sweden has been the leading the field amongst the Scandinavian nations in terms of support for local superhuman champions for a while now (despite the noble efforts of Ice-Mariner and Valravn, amongst a few others).
If that sounds like an overly narrow superlative, well, consider the fact that out of twenty-seven EU member states only nine have produced a superhero population considered worth adding to the International Superheroes Index* and now consider the fact that Sweden numbers amongst The Nine, alongside neighbouring Finland (as well as Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom). There's a reason for this.
*On Heroic Earth it's a little like the equivelent of Jane's ... for superheroes.
Well, actually there are several, but what it all boils down to is that alone amongst the Scandinavian nations Sweden was not involved in the Second World War: it's population was therefore neither stamped down upon by the Eugenics Brigade or able to beat the Ubersoldaten (which Finland, near to the end of the Second World War and the strength of the Eugenics Brigade WAS).
In the eyes of the Swedish, superhumans were never tarnished by association to quite the same degree as they were in the other nations of continental Europe - and during the Cold War, while other nations harvested the cream of their Superhuman populations for foreign service to staff the Freedom Alliance (or The People's Revolution), Sweden was able to keep her champions close to Home - and benefit from congenial ties with the United States to buff them up a bit.
While a bit more organised and a touch more low-key than their American counterparts (or some of their European colleagues: Ice-Mariner comes to mind and refuses to quiet down until he's mentioned), Sweden's superhero community has been doing Yeoman Service for King and Kingdom since before the dawn of the Silver Age (albeit never more colourfully than now, as something of a Renaissance sweeps the European Superhuman community, newly liberated from the shadowy domination of the continent by PHANTOM which culled so many of those who refused to keep their heads down).
Foremost amongst this population are the Kamraterna (The Comrades) a trio of heroes sometimes jokingly referred to as having been "awarded the three crowns of Superheroes" - while only moderately well-known on the World Stage and most often no more than three strong, The Comrades serve as the steel spine of the Swedish superhero community and a solid core to which additional heroes might be added in times of emergency (during the Orkus Invasion, for example, Heroes assembled from all around the Baltic to form one half of a massive pincer movement against Baba Yaga's forces as they streamed out of Russia - matching or exceeding their comrades in Central and Eastern Europe).
Long may they continue to do so. Aran (Honour)
Sweden's most advanced suit of power armour to date, Aran is at the bleeding edge of Scandinavian Power Armour technology and the cutting edge of European Battlesuit tech: the trio of operators who rotate piloting duties during peacetime - who can also be relied upon to man it's older step-sisters Draken and Manskliga Rattigheter (Human Rights) in the event of a real emergency - are equally sharp.
Foremost amongst them - by virtue of seniority, experience and having survived an encounter with Baba Yaga's chicken-walker hut with his faculties as well as most of his limbs intact - is Yngve Elof Svenson, a distaff relation of the Swedish Royal Family (which means his ancestor was born on the wrong side of the blanket), a man who has taken the motto of his old regiment (the Livgardet) to heart: Given that motto is "We do the impossible" he has a lot to live up to.
He failed, albeit only temporarily, in the sense that he actually died trying (that chicken-walking hut is a MEAN son-of-a-birch) then got right back up again - after CPR, emergency evacuation and the implantation of the extremely advanced cybernetics which would make him even more of a top-flight Power-Armour Jockey than he was already and malfunctioned spectacularly seconds after activation.
Minutes after failsafe and a certain amount of panic set in, Elof came back from the dead. Again.
As you've no doubt noticed, this means that Elof has cheated death, like many another superhero - unfortunately for Elof, unlike many similar cases, his own has attracted the attention of Death who appreciates the cinema of Ingmar Bergman as much as the next supernatural entity.
They play chess.
Svenson keeps winning, which means he gets to keep living.
For now. Disa
In the time when a God-King ruled in what would one day become Sweden, a long period of peace saw a population explosion which threatened to produce a famine - deciding to curtail this threat of starvation before predictions of famine could come to pass, the King decided to sacrifice to Odin all the elderly, handicapped and sickly souls he could find in his kingdom (as thanks for the Long Peace which had produced this increasing problem of population growth in the first place).
To say that Disa Sigstensdottir of Uppland was less than impressed by this stroke of 'wisdom' on the part of her king is a complete understatement of fantastic degree. She came before the King and his senior chieftains, had words with them about their wisdom and offered her own rather more less democidal advice. Given that they weren't entirely blind to her mockery of their theories of population reduction, the King and his Chieftains set her a challenge to prove her cunning, before they would consider hearing her council.
God-King Freyr asked her to visit him, but forbade her to do so by foot or by horse, in a wagon or in a boat: she would not be permitted to visit him either dressed or in a state of undress. The time of her visit must not be within a year nor within a month, she must come neither during daytime nor night-time, nor should she come when the moon was waxing or waning.
Disa, being a cunning woman, passed the test by harnessing two young men to a sled: By the sled, she had a Billy goat and she kept one leg on the goat and the other leg in the sled: for clothes she wore nothing but a net, and she timed her meeting with the king for dusk of the third day before Yule, a day which was not counted in the year but was considered to be an additional day between two years.
Having duly proved that she could think circles around the old men at court (and their king), the wisdom of Disa was swiftly heeded - members of the population were chosen by lot, given goods and chattels, then sent out to settle the thinly-populated northern regions of the Kingdom and cultivate the land.
The wisdom of Disa was such that her rulings were eagerly sought by all men and women of sense across the land. The millennia since then have done nothing to wither the sense of the women in her line - or their hatred of the Asgardians, who have so ardently fought to retain their frequently bloody-handed grip on their Scandinavian heartlands.
They eagerly sent for the first Christian missionaries to arrive in Sweden and lent them their support (priests of the White Christ had their faults, but transmission of a near-omnicidal hunger for battle, a cosmic death-wish and a habit of human sacrifice were not amongst them), as well as masterminding other strokes which curtailed the power of Asgard in this world over the centuries - eventually leaving once-Imperial Sweden a much, much, much more peaceful place.
To say that this failed to endear them to Odin and company is an understatement of Mythic proportions: still, the Disadottir have kept on going to spite the Old Gods of the North and to protect their fellow men and women from Asgardian spite. The current heir to the mantle, Cathrine Ronja Albertsson, is currently operating as a costumed adventurer and voice of common sense alongside the Swedish superhero population - albeit in her own sharp-edged and distinctively punkish manner.Vainamo (Law-Poet)
Tomas Aatu Waldemar Tomasson, alias Vainamo the Law-Poet, is the latest scion from an unbroken lineage* which has never quite been able to decide if they're 'Sweden Finns' or 'Finland-Swedes' mostly because at the time the lineage was first verifiably recorded in the chronicles the distinction was a pretty academic one (given that what are now two separate countries were one, albeit not necessarily the same) and the family has retained a fine disdain for little things like Borders ever since, especially when they presented barriers to a noble cause.
The family helped make the Kalmar Union, rode with Gustavus Adolphus, played a discrete role in making Sweden a Great Power and helped break up their dominions by playing a part in the negotiations which left Finland an autonomous grand principality, then led cultural and political resistance to the Russians - and finally played their part in the Winter War and the Continuation War against the Soviet Union (although they also played The Scarlet Pimpernel to the Nazis, conducting Jews to the relative safety of Sweden in considerable numbers) - to cut a long, splendidly-told story short, they've got around and that's not even counting their contributions to the defence of Finland and Sweden (along with the rest of Scandinavia, as well as some of the other states around The Baltic Sea) or the families ancestral - and unconformable - ballads.
The present heir of this illustrious lineage, having been born in Sweden thanks to an accident of fate (as well as his illustrious father's habit of playing hob with both the CIA and
the KGB) has spent his career dividing his time impartially between the two neighbouring nations. It was not he, on encountering a much younger Arna and Disa, who suggested that they pool their efforts (that would be Disa, ever sensible, especially when faced with the prospect of all three being hanged separately if they didn't hang together), but it was Vainamo who charmed everyone concerned into embracing the idea with enthusiasm.
He has since spent almost as much of his career chaffing Arna and grumbling around Disa as he has brooding on the evils of the World, waxing poetic about them and then kicking the £%$ out of those who perpetrate them (with the odd fit of wood-carving with his puukko
and the odd tune on his prize kantele
by way of a less stressful hobby).
It's been a good life and even better thanks to the fact that the trio work beautifully together - even if Arna is a stick-up-the-backside rationalist and Disa is as tone-deaf as a broken stick, bless them.
*Albeit one which has, like many families of great antiquity, had to shuffle surnames about a bit as the line of descent passed back and forth between various branches of the family tree.
Founder of H.E.R.O.I.C, Complimenter-in-Chief, Co-Arch Henchman to the Grin, Servant of the Hoff!
Rule Brittania! Praise the Hoff and the Grin!
Warning!: May cause Thread Drift.