The Ravens are the first thing you notice when approaching Birka. Enormous and black they circle the Spire, arriving and departing in something like an unfathomable and ancient ritual. The Hammer of Horfridalr glides towards home; she’s an old ship, battered and scarred and has seen many battles.

But now she’s on her way home for the last time, even the best of ships have an expiration date and hers has now come. The crew has been hard at work at bringing her to port sooner than planned, their last shore leave was cancelled because of new skirmishes at the border. Blasted heathens and their blasphemous attempts at spreading their religion of The One God!

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Hrimi Nundreson pulls his fur cloak from its hook on the wall of the cabin; a last look out the porthole shows Vorta blazing in the black behind the colossal space station and with a grumbled curse he slams the cabin door behind him. The sound of his steel tipped boots empties the hallway of anyone who should be elsewhere. The few with actual tasks stay well clear of his path and look away as to not meet his gaze. There’s a rumour about, saying that Captain Nundreson cracked a man’s skull for staring instead of working.

To say that Hrimi Nundreson is ugly is an insult to ugly people. Thankfully the man has enough hair on his face to cover up the most part. Constantly bloodshot eyes of icy blue glare at the world through the bushiest of red eyebrows seen on a human being, his thick and scruffy beard has several iron rings braded into it and the studded leather helmet on his head is pulled far down on his forehead, making the only thing really visible a crooked and bulbous nose.  A barely distinguished sigh of relief is herd from the men in the hallway when he barges through the doorway to the bridge.

“Andfir! By Freya’s tits! Her approach is too steep, this time you’ll crash her for sure!” The helmsman doesn’t even flinch. Calmly he lifts his left hand and gives his captain a piece of his mind with a rude gesture and smoothly changes the angle of approach, making their landing as perfect as ever. “Don’t know why I put up with your insubordination…” The last bits of Hrimi’s mutterings disappear in the roar of the Horfridalr’s ascent onto the docking bay.

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“There we go Captain.” The smugness in Andfir’s voice is impossible to ignore and Hrimi grits his teeth to keep from smacking his favourite crew member on the back of the head. If Hrimi is beyond ugly Andfir is on the other scale of the spectrum. A straight nose sits in the middle of a face known to turn the head of every woman on any space station from Birka to Trondheim and even beyond the border. His long blonde hair is braided with ribbons as green as his eyes and he keeps his beard short and neat. Women swoon at his winks and smiles and he does his best to spread his love between them.

Now his smile is gentle as he studies the face of his captain and best friend. “She’ll be waiting you know, right there on the dock. Wouldn’t be surprised if she spent the night there just to make sure you didn’t try to sneak past.” This earns him a grunt and punch on the shoulder, making him sway slightly to the right before finding his balance again.

“Shut up you.” Hrimi’s face has taken on a slightly green tinge at the mention of the woman who will shore him for good. “Maybe she changed her mind. Don’t know what she saw in me to begin with.” He casts a glance at Andfir and rubs at his purplish red nose. “S’not like this mug’s anything like your pretty face.”

“Ah well, you can spend your whole life trying to figure them out and when you think you’ve got it, they’ll react completely opposite to what you expected and give you another headache.” Andfir shrugs his shoulders, having long ago given up the attempt at understanding the opposite sex, tonight he’ll simply find someone willing to share his bed for a couple of nights and leave it at that. “But when it comes to Signe Indrisdottr, there’s one thing you can be sure of.” Andfir wiggles his eyebrows comically. “When she’s made up her mind about something, not even Odin can make her change it.” Suddenly a voice over the radio confirms their docking and that they’re cleared to disembark. “Let’s go captain, time to meet your fate!”

Down on the docks a beautiful young woman waits impatiently for the crew to dimenbark, when she spots Andfir coming towards her she frowns and crosses her arms over her chest. He gives her his best winning smile but nothing wipes the annoyed look from her face.

“You better not be trying to distract me while he tries to make his escape. I’ve waited long enough for him to step ashore.” Andfir’s smile slips into a goofy grin and she swats his arm before he saunters off towards the taverns. “If I didn’t know it’ll only make you more sought after, I’d mark your pretty face my brother.” She mumbles right before catching sight of the man of her dreams.

Her heart goes all pitter patter at the sight of his tall and wide frame, her friends have made fun of his ugliness, but she knows what lies beneath that scruffy surface. Their eyes meet across the bustle of the crew unloading crates and weapons and instantly his otherwise grim expression changes into one of unbelief and the deepest love. They meet half way, their hands join and before he can say a word she kisses him, right there in front of everyone.

“Welcome ashore Captain Nundreson, are you ready for the voyage of your life?”

“More than ready, heart of my heart, more than ready.”

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