Normally Temperate, Arctic during the Time of Trials
Nocturne is the homeworld of the Salamanders Space Marine Chapter located in the Segmentum Ultima of the Imperium of Man and it is usually classified by the Imperial Administratum as both a Feudal World and a Death World. As a result of the tectonic stresses produced by the gravitational pull of its overlarge satellite Prometheus, there are vast chains of volcanoes scattered across the world's surface and frequent earthquakes, destroying what little the people have built above ground and forcing them to build their habitations in vast subterranean holds. The constant volcanic eruptions have swaddled the world in an ever-present cloak of dust and ash that obscures most sunlight. The Salamanders have built their fortress-monastery on Prometheus, Nocturne's massive moon. The Salamanders have a much closer relationship with their homeworld's people than is common among the Astartes, and they continue to interact quite closely with their own families and clans throughout their lives. As a result, the Salamanders have also developed a remarkable concern for protecting the lives of the Emperor's subjects and will make strenuous efforts to prevent civilian casualties on the battlefield.
When not at war, the Salamanders prefer to live among the people of Nocturne and Prometheus, and usually serve as the leaders of a Nocturnean settlement. Once every 15 Terran years (1 Nocturnean year), the two worlds approach so closely that Nocturne is almost torn to pieces by the resulting gravitic stresses. This is called the "Time of Trial" by the Nocturnean people. Vast tidal waves crash across the seas, thousands of volcanoes explode, their ash and fumes further blotting out the weak haze from the sun of Nocturne while powerful earthquakes constantly ravage the land. All life is sent reeling, towns collapse and people die with heartbreaking regularity. Then, a terrible winter sets in for the next quarter of a year. The young freeze and most, if not all, of the native reptilian livestock dies, unable to withstand the extreme cold as they had the heat.
One of the largest volcanic mountains on Nocturne is named Mount Deathfire. This is where the largest of the massive fire-resistant reptiles called salamanders who are common on Nocturne live, and they are known as the Firedrakes. They are huge, fire-breathing beasts, and one was killed each by the Emperor of Mankind and the Primarch Vulkan during the legendary contests held between the two ten millennia ago when the Emperor rediscovered his son. This world may seem a strange place for humans to live and even thrive, but the Nocturnan people have been moulded both physically and mentally into stronger and more resilient forms by this adversity. The Time of Trial also brings great rewards. Rich veins of gems and strategic metals are revealed, large enough to be mined by the Nocturnan clans to pay for new livestock and food on the Imperium's interplanetary markets.
The Salamanders and other residents of Nocturne live in giant underground Sanctuary Cities, the largest of which is called Hesiod and which tend to be the home of a single one of the Nocturnean people's clans. Each Salamanders company is usually recruited entirely from one of these clan settlements so that the Battle-Brothers of a company will share their clan as well as Chapter loyalties and will also feel strongly connected to their homeworld's common people. The Salamanders either live on Prometheus in the fortress-monastery or live among the people on Nocturne, where they usually serve as the leaders of the clan settlements that dominate the relatively small Nocturnean population of 15 million people.
Recruitment for the Salamanders starts early on Nocturne, at the ages of 6 or 7 Terran years. Those selected as Aspirants are first apprenticed to a Salamanders Astartes who will be their mentor and guide through the process and then taught the ancient ways of the forge. As their training progresses they are required to perform the same trials as Vulkan did in his competition with the Emperor, culminating in the capture of a great salamander reptile on the slopes of Mount Deathfire. Those Aspirants who survive to complete all of these tasks are taken for biological enhancement and implantation of the Chapter's gene-seed at the Salamanders' fortress-monastery on the moon of Prometheus.
It should be noted that the people of Nocturne have been slightly mutated by their constant exposure to the high levels of radioactivity present on their world due to the radioactive rare earth elements often uncovered by the extreme volcanism. They have developed deep ebony skins and the irises of their eyes now glow red in the darkness because they developed over many generations the ability to see in the infrared levels of the electromagnetic spectrum to deal with the constant volcanic pollution that blocks out their world's sunlight. These same physical characteristics are also present in every Salamanders Space Marine. The Imperium's Ecclesiarchy does not consider these mutations heretical as the Salamanders and the Nocturnans themselves have always been among the most staunchly loyal to the Emperor of the Space Marine Chapters and the Promethean Cult prevalent on the world is an accepted variant of the Imperial Cult.
Nocturne is part of what is actually a binary planetary system, with its oversized moon Prometheus circling it in an erratic orbit whose shifting gravity causes massive tectonic stress. As mentioned above, the Salamanders' fortress-monastery is based on the moon of Prometheus and is known by the same name. It is little more than a spaceport at which the Chapter's starships may dock and refuel. The monastery is the only construction built there and has a great orbital dock were the Chapter's Strike Cruisers and Battle Barges can be maintained, refit and repaired. However, many of the Salamanders live on this moon rather than on Nocturne itself when their duties require them to be away from their home clans and the planet's Sanctuary Cities.
The Salamanders have built their fortress-monastery on Prometheus, Nocturne's oversized moon. Nocturne itself is too geologically and volcanically unstable a world to build a large, defensible structure upon. Its high gravity and other environmental issues like the constant volcanic eruptions could also make training more problematic and dangerous than even Space Marines would be able to handle. When not at war, the Salamanders prefer to live among the common people of Nocturne and Prometheus, and are the leaders of each settlement. This is a unique trait of the Chapter, and makes the Astartes akin to living gods among the fierce peoples of their feudal homeworld.
The Pantheon was an extension of the Salamanders' fortress-monastery on Prometheus, the moon of Nocturne. Though, in truth, this bastion of the Chapter was not much more than a simple spaceport linked to an orbital dock where the Chapter’s modest armada of vessels could be refitted and repaired. Rank-and-file Battle-Brothers of the Chapter were restricted from entering the Pantheon. Many Salamanders Astartes had never even seen the Pantheon, though they all knew that at its centre was a small, circular deliberation chamber located deep within the subterranean heart of Prometheus. Only matters of dire import or of profound spiritual significance to the Chapter were ever discussed in the Pantheon. The chamber possessed eighteen seats, which represented the Salamanders' original status as the XVIII Legion of Space Marines. The Chapter had retained this numerical designation after the Second Founding broke up the original Space Marine Legions into their Successor Chapters, an event in which the Salamanders had been unable to particpate because of their heavy losses during the Drop Site Massacre.
The head seat of the Pantheon was reserved for the Chapter Master, an honour that had been Tu’Shan's for nearly fifty standard years. Thirteen were for the other officers of the Chapter: six to the Captains of the remaining companies; one each for the Apothecarion, Librarius, Chaplaincy and Fleet; with a further three devoted to the Armoury and the Masters of the Forge, an unusual triumvirate but necessary given the Salamanders’ predilection for weaponscraft. Three of the seats were for honoured guests sequestered by the Chapter Master and with the agreement of the rest of the council. Praetor, the Firedrake’s most senior sergeant, often assumed one of these seats. The Librarian Pyriel occupied another. The last position had remained empty for many years, since before Tu'Shan had even assumed the mantle of the Regent of Prometheus.
It was in the Pantheon that the Masters of the Salamanders would sit to consult the Tome of Fire. This artefact of the Chapter had been written by the hand of the Primarch Vulkan in ages past. Though many within the Chapter had never seen it, let alone perused its pages, they knew that it was full of riddles and prophecies. Rumours held that the words themselves were inked partly in Vulkan’s blood and shimmered like captured fire if brought up to the light. The Tome of Fire was not merely one volume, as the name suggested, but rather dozens arrayed in the stacks around the circular walls of the Pantheon. Deciphering the script of the Tome of Fire was not easy. There were secrets within, left by the Primarch for his sons to unlock. The volumes foretold of great events and upheavals for those with the wit to perceive them. But perhaps most pointedly, the Tome contained the history, form and location of the nine artefacts Vulkan had hidden throughout the galaxy for the Salamanders to unearth. Five of these sacred relics had been discovered over the centuries through the travails of the Chapter's Forgefathers; the locations of the remaining four were embedded cryptically within the Tome’s arcane pages. Chapter Master Tu’Shan and those masters still on Prometheus would regularly convene and pore over the Tome of Fire in the hope of unearthing some clue that would unlock the location of one of these ancient artefacts.
The Salamanders and the people of Nocturne are deeply influenced by a set of religious and cultural beliefs collectively called the Promethean Cult, which is a variation of the standard Imperial Cult that has been officially recognised by the Ecclesiarchy as a non-heretical faith. The Promethean Cult calls on its followers to emulate the deeds and be true to the teachings of the Primarch Vulkan as well as providing service to and worship of his father, the Emperor of Mankind. Prometheans believe deeply in the virtues of self-reliance and self-sacrifice for others, long defining cultural values of the Nocturnean people, who have struggled to survive the harsh environment of their volcanic and earthquake-wracked homeworld. They hold a firm belief in isolationism, the tenet that only through spiritual meditaion and exploration performed alone and in isolation from others can a person gain a true understanding of both themselves and how they can best honour the legacy of Vulkan and serve the will of the Emperor. Prometheans make use of fire in many of their rituals and ceremonies and believe that they must be cleansed by the pain of fire before every major undertaking or initiative. The hammer, sometimes called Vulkan's Sigil, the forge and the anvil are also important symbols for Prometheans due to the importance of smithing in Nocturnean culture. Promethean believers also hold sacred the words of the ancient ritual book known as the Canticle of Immolation, which is often read by Salamanders Chaplains during the Chapter's various ceremonies. For the Salamanders Space Marines, Promethean beliefs manifest themselves most readily in the form of honour-scarring. Before and after every battle they engage in, a Salamander Astartes will have a symbolic scar burned into his body and another after the completion of combat, if he survives. Veteran Salamanders who have served the Chapter for hundreds of years and thousands of battles will have their entire body covered in honour-scars, including their ebon-skinned faces, which only receive the honour-scars after all the other skin on their body has already been so marked. As the Promethean Cult openly calls on its adherents to venerate the Primarchs and follow the Emperor loyally, it is not considered heretical by the Ecclesiarchy and instead has received official sanction as one of the accepted variants of the Imperium's state religion.
Upon the blackened, volcanic world of Nocturne there are seven great settlements known as the Sanctuary Cities of Nocturne. The foundations of these mighty cities bored deep into the earth and each was rooted in the hardest bedrock of the planet. The Sanctuary Cities were established in the location of the seven original settlements of Nocturne's ancient tribal kings. Each of these cities was home to one of seven Salamander Chapter bastions that were located on Nocturne. Each was devoted to and inhabited by the Astartes of one of the Chapter's seven companies. Each Chapter bastion was an austere and hollow place. During the Time of Trial, the Sanctuary Cities threw open their gates and offered shelter to the people of Nocturne. As the Nocturneans were primarily a nomadic race, much of the planet’s populace dwelt in disparate villages or even transient encampments ill-suited to resist the devastation wrought by the constant earthquakes and eruptions of volcanoes that plagued the world. Vast pilgrimages were often undertaken that trailed the length and breadth of the planet, as Nocturneans travelled great distances seeking succour.
Stout walls and robust gates wrought to be strong and resilient by Nocturne’s master artisans were the Sanctuary Cities’ bulwark of defence during the earliest years of the world's ancient colonisation. Tribal shamans who were latent psykers -- before such genetic mutations were demystified and regulated under the Imperium -- had been the first to establish where the safest locations on Nocturne were for these permanent settlements to be founded. They had done so through their psychic communion with the earth, a sacred bond that the people of Nocturne still recognised and respected. Later, there had come the geological pioneers who advised on the construction and development of the nascent townships that would eventually become the Sancutary Cities. But as the ages passed these cities had evolved. Technologies brought by the Emperor after the Great Crusade encountered Nocturne provided new technologies with which to withstand the violent rigour of Nocturnean geology. Void Shields stood in the path of lava flows or pyroclastic clouds; adamantium and reinforced ceramite repelled the seismic tremors or sweeping floods of fire. These havens and their defences were all that stood between the people of Nocturne and their eradication by the elements.
Within each Chapter bastion in the Sanctuary Cities, gymnasia provided for the rigours of the Astartes’ daily training regimen, and a Reclusium, presided over by the company’s Chaplain, saw to their spiritual needs. In the lower levels of each bastion were the solitoriums, little more than stark oubliettes used for battle-mediation and honour-scarring. Dormitories were sparse and mainly inhabited by Chapter Serfs. Armouries held weapons and other war materiel, though these were mainly for the Chapter's Neophytes-- seasoned Battle-Brothers often maintained their own arsenals, situated at private domiciles amongst the populace of Nocturne where they could better act as their custodians and protectors. Refectories provided repast, and in the great halls rare gatherings could be held. An Apothecarion saw to the wounded. Oratoriums and Librariums were maintained as seats of knowledge and learning in each bastion, though the culture of Nocturne stressed greater importance on the experience and tempering fire of the battlefield.
Catacombs ran through a vast undercroft in each bastion where the emanating swelter of the forges could be felt, the soot of foundries and the hard metal stench of smelteries absorbed by every pore. The great forges of the bastions were temples of iron and steel, where an anvil rather than an altar was the pillar of worship. The hours of devotion spent in the cloying heat, through the lathered sweat and thickening smoke, were as crucial to a Salamander Space Marine as any battle-rite.
The Seven Sanctuary Cites of Nocturne included:
- Epimethus - Nocturne's only ocean-bound Sanctuary City, this tall spire juts like a dull blade into the sky. Epimethus is surrounded by other, much smaller satellite structures, which are the numerous drill rigs and mineral harvesting platforms that rake the ocean floor or mine its deepest trenches for ore.
- Hesiod - The largest of the Sanctuary Cities of Nocturne.
- Themis - A city on the edge of a great desert noted for its physically-imposing residents.
- Heliosa - The Beacon City.
- Skarokk - The Dragonspine.
- Clymene - The Merchant Sprawl.
Vault of Remembrance
A Vault of Remembrance is located within each of the seven Sanctuary Cities of Nocturne. Located within the highest echelon of the Chapter Bastion within each city was the sacred chamber were a Battle-Brother of the Salamanders could reflect and offer supplication in memoriam for his slain comrades. These temples are vast, echoing spaces. The harmonies of phonolite-chimes echo off each one's darkened walls. Hewn from volcanic aphanite, they rise up like geodesic intrusions and taper off into a craterous aperture that lay open to Nocturne’s fiery-orange sky. Black and fathomless obsidian formed a hexagonal expanse, serving as the massive chamber’s floor.
Stout columns of deep red felsite buttress the half-ceiling, shot through with veins of fluorescent adamite. The rare volcanic rocks and minerals used to fashion these magnificent temples were harvested after each Time of Trial, and the stark and frigid winter that followed in its wake. Such artefacts of geological beauty could be found throughout Nocturne. The most precious were protected within the stout walls of the Sanctuary Cities and their void shield generators. Iron braziers around the chamber’s edge gave it a fiery cast, their flames flickering in the lustrous faces of the polished rock. The vault appeared luminous and abyssal in the light’s reflection -- a diabolic temple raised from the bowels of the world. At its nexus a giant pillar of fire roared, tendrils of a memorial flame lashing from a core of white heat. Ordinarily, a slain Salamander was incinerated in the Pyreum, a massive crematoria forge that existed beneath Mount Deathfire, Nocturne's greatest volcanic peak. According to Promethean lore, the essence of the departed would be passed on into his suit of Power Armour when his ashen remains were offered up on the pyre-slab and he was returned to the mountain. But memorials or remembrance for the departed were always carried out within the Vault of Remembrance located in the Chapter Bastion of which the lost Battle-Brother had been a part.
One of the seven Nocturnean Sanctuary Cities that house most of the planet's people deep below ground where they are safe from the terrible earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that so often devastate the world's surface. Hesiod's people are relatively wealthy and they harbour deep prejudices against those Nocturnean clans that choose to live nomadic lives outside the Sanctuaries, especially the nomads of the continent of Ignea.
Mount Deathfire was a massive volcano in the Pyre Desert that was home to the great salamander reptiles called Fire Drakes that were part of the legendary contest between Vulkan and the Emperor 10,000 standard years ago. Mount Deathfire is still the location for the last trial faced by the young Aspirants who wish to join the Salamanders Chapter. Within Mount Deathfire is a sacred cavern where the rites of Immolation are carried out. This chamber is known as the Pyreum, a massive crematoria where the bodies of slain Astartes are returned to the sacred fire of the mighty volcano. According to Promethean lore, the essence of the departed would be passed on into the armour when his ashen remains were offered up on the pyre-slab and he was returned to the mountain. This sacred chamber was held in a deep basin of volcanic rock, girded by layers of reinforced heat-retardant ceramite so that it pooled briefly before flowing onwards from one of the many natural outlets in the rock. There were no lanterns in the cavern, for none were needed. The lava cast a warm and eldritch glow.
Though ostensibly carved from rough rock and intended to look like a naturlal cavern, the Pyreum was actually a sacred place built by Master of the Forge T'kell. Millennia old, its artifice and functionality were still lauded in the current decaying Age of the Imperium. T'kell had fashioned the vault under the careful auspice of the Chapter's Primarch, Vulkan, and had been amongst the first of his students upon his apotheosis to Primarch. These same skills Tkell would impart to future generations of Salamanders, together with the arcane secrets learned from the Tech-priests of Mars. The Master of the Forge was long dead now, and others walked in his mighty stead, but his legacy of achievements remained. The cavern of the Pyreum was but one of them.
Within this mightiest of Nocturne's volcanoes lies a labyrinth of tunnels and catacombs so vast that two individuals could spend months abroad in its depths and never meet one another and never even witness a sign of each other's passing. Much of its subterranean darkness was uncharted. Only Vulkan had ever known its every shrouded corner, its every tunnel and chamber. Beasts slumbered in the lowest deeps, old creatures jealous of Man and his dominance of the surface. The unique acoustics of the rock, the veins of phonolite and other aurally conductive minerals within its composition, allowed the plaintive wailing of such creatures to be heard far from their dwelling places by human Nocturneans. Few natives ever braved the mountain depths for that reason. It was the province of the Salamanders alone and so these passages often lay deserted.
The plateau on Mount Deathfire where Aspirants are inducted into the Salamanders as Neophytes after completing their trials.
This Nocturnean continent's people provide comparatively few recruits for the Salamanders, as they do not live in the large subterranean Sanctuary Cities but are instead nomadic clans that take refuge for only short times in the various cave systems of the continent, preferring the freedom of constant motion to a more settled existence. As such, they are generally economically much poorer than the settled clans that live in the Sanctuary Cities and they are viewed with disdain and prejudice by the people of those settlements. It is this prejudice and their lower socioeconomic status that usually prevents the nomadic clans' youth from successfully completing the trials required to become a Salamanders Neophyte.
- Index Astartes IV
- "Trial by Fire" (Short Story) by Nick Kyme
- Salamanders (Novel) by Nick Kyme