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Vulkan

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Vulkan sketch
Ancient Remembrancer sketch of Vulkan, Primarch of the Salamanders Legion; illustration taken from Carpinus' Speculum Historiale

Vulkan was one of the 20 superhuman Primarchs created by the Emperor of Mankind from his own DNA to lead his Great Crusade and reunite the scattered peoples of humanity within the Imperium of Man. The XVIII Space Marine Legion created from Vulkan's genome was re-named the Salamanders after the great fire-resistant reptiles native to his volcanic homeworld of Nocturne in memory of the legendary contest between the Emperor and Vulkan that had involved slaying one of those dangerous beasts. The outcome of this contest had revealed the Emperor's identity and restored Vulkan to the Imperium. Approximately a thousand standard years after the Horus Heresy, Vulkan hid 9 sacred artefacts he had created around the galaxy for his Chapter to find, as a test to see if they were worthy of his leadership. He then disappeared, leaving his Chapter with the message that whenever the Forgefather of the Salamanders had found all nine items, Vulkan would return to lead his Chapter to victory over the enemies of the Imperium in its final days of greatest need, according to the signs foreseen in the Chapter's book of prophecy, the Tome of Fire.

History

Youth

When the Primarchs were first created within the gene-laboratories hidden beneath the Himalayan Mountains on Terra, though the machinations of the Chaos Gods the capsules of the nascent Primarch were scattered across the galaxy. The Promethean Opus (source of much Imperial knowledge of Vulkan) tells the tale of how one of these children ended up on the feudal Death World of Nocturne during one of its tumultuous periods known as the Time of Trial. Among the hardy and stoic people of Nocturne, the infant Vulkan had fallen like a blazing comet, and into the home of a "Black-Smiter", - a metal worker by the name N'bel, in the city-settlement of Hesiod - he had been taken as a foster child. N'bel, recognised the child as the one prophesied to be a saviour by the teachings of the Promethean Cult, and named him Vulkan. Like all the Primarchs, Vulkan grew very quickly, reaching full adulthood (and a size bigger and more muscular than any man on Nocturne) by the age of only three Terran years. He was also highly intelligent, able to vastly improve the already considerable metalworking skills of the famed smiths of Nocturne. Quickly, he had risen in strength and wisdom, embracing the culture which had taken him up, working in his adopted father's forge and hunting the great saurians and other beasts bestirred by the planet's fiery temper, becoming a legendary champion in his world's defence against far more dangerous foes; "Dusk Wraiths" as they were known in Nocturne. In reality, these creatures were of the most degenerate and vile class of Eldar Slavers (Dark Eldar), nightmarish beings to whom pain and slaughter were as meat and drink, who sought to prey periodically on the hardy people of Nocturne for their own wicked sport.

The Opus tells that during Vulkan's fourth year, his town was attacked by the Dark Eldar, who were on a slave-taking expedition. The people of his hometown hid, as they usually did when the decadent xenos came raiding, but Vulkan refused to hide. Armed with only a pair of blacksmith's hammers, he roused the people from hiding and drove back the assault, single-handedly slaying a hundred Dark Eldar warriors. As word of the battle spread, the headsmen of the seven most important settlements on the planet came to pay homage to Vulkan, swearing to forevermore crush their foes rather than hiding from them. Against this threat Vulkan became transformed, and his legend spread across his world. He was the "fire-born" -- an undefeated warrior whose superhuman strength had torn the slave-barges down from the sky and crushed the xenos in droves, and whose granite-like flesh had scorned their poisoned blades unmoved, driving the Dusk Wraiths from Nocturne.

The Outlander

In celebration of the Primarch's victory over the Dark Eldar, a tournament of various contests involving tests of strength and craftsmanship common to the people of Nocturne was held. During the opening ceremonies, a stranger appeared. His skin was unusually pale, compared to the dark, swarthy complexions of the people of Nocturne, and his clothes were very strange, made of materials unfamiliar to the pre-industrial Nocturneans. The stranger asked only to be allowed to compete. The stranger claimed that he could best any man at the competitions, causing many people to laugh at the seemingly inadvertent comparison to the superhuman Vulkan. Vulkan accepted the challenge, and the stranger wagered that whoever lost the challenge would swear his eternal loyalty and obedience to the victor. With a smile at such effrontery, Vulkan agreed to the stranger's terms.

Lasting for eight Nocturnean days, the contest included many tests of strength and endurance. The people of Nocturne were treated to the spectacle of two godlike beings competing against one another, utterly astonishing the mere mortals around them with their superhuman prowess. Many of the contests had to be called a draw between Vulkan and the fair-skinned stranger, for there was simply no way to determine a victor. For instance, the anvil lift, where the contestants were required to hold an anvil aloft above their heads for as long as possible, ended in a tie when the two superhuman competitors both held anvils aloft for half a day with no sign of tiring, while all the other competitors had given up after mere minutes. All the subsequent contests saw similar outcomes, and by the end of day 8, Vulkan and the stranger were tied in the overall tournament. To break the tie, the elders of Nocturne decided that the winner would be determined by the test of Salamander Hunting. Both contestants were given 24 hours to forge a weapon, before using that weapon to hunt down and slay one of Nocturne's reptilian salamanders. Assessing that this task, impossible for any others, would be a formality for both godlike contestants, the elders included the caveat that the contestant who brought back the largest salamander would be proclaimed victorious.

The Final Trial

In the end, it came down to the final trial: Salamander-Slaying. Both men had a day and a half to forge a weapon, then go out and slay the largest salamander (a large, heat-loving reptile native to Nocturne), that they could find. Vulkan and the stranger worked all day at their forges, neither pausing to rest. As the day drew to a close, they emerged. Vulkan had forged a huge warhammer, and the stranger a keen-edged sword. They both climbed to the summit of Mount Deathfire, a massive volcano said to be the home of the largest Firedrakes, the most fearsome species of salamander, on the planet. Vulkan found his prey first, smashing its head off with a single blow from his hammer. As he carried the carcass back, the volcano unexpectedly erupted. Vulkan was nearly thrown off a cliff, but managed to grab onto the edge with one hand, stubbornly grasping the tail of his prize with the other. Vulkan held on for several hours, but his hold finally began to slip. It was at that time the stranger reappeared, carrying a salamander larger than his own. The stranger quickly threw his carcass into the lava flow, using its heat-resistant hide as a bridge to cross over and save Vulkan. Vulkan was declared the winner when they returned home since he had a salamander hide and the stranger had lost his, but Vulkan silenced the crowd. He knelt before the stranger, stating that any man who valued life over pride was worthy of his service. At that moment the stranger at last revealed himself to the Primarch His true nature as the Emperor of Mankind. Vulkan would take his rightful place as Primarch of the XVIII Legion and ruler of his adopted world. Vulkan's only reservation on departing Nocturne was that he would not leave its people undefended, but in this the Emperor countered that Vulkan's duty was not simply to one world but to many, worlds that knew the terror of the darkness and the feasting of alien horrors uncounted as Nocturne had, and that Nocturne itself as the homeworld of a Primarch would forever be secured by his sons, the XVIII Legion which bore his blood.

A Legion Reforged

"You have suffered. I know this. You have come to the abyss, and almost surrendered yourselves to it. That changes now. I am father, general, lord and mentor. I shall teach you if I can, and pass on the knowledge I have gained. Honour, self-sacrifice, self-reliance, brotherhood. It is our Promethean creed and all must adhere to it if we are to prosper. Let this be the first lesson..."
— Primarch Vulkan in his inaugural address on Nocturne to the survivors of the XVIII Legion
Vulkan
A stylised ancient portrait of Primarch Vulkan of the Salamanders Space Marine Legion

It is believed that Vulkan did not become unified with his own Legion for some years after his rediscovery, but instead stayed alongside the Emperor under His direct tutelage, during which time his presence was kept from the wider Imperium (although not from the other Primarchs who had been discovered to that time). During this period, Vulkan pursued with frightening speed and comprehension learning in the arts of war, history and science, displaying a ferocious intelligence, and also wisdom and compassion that were perhaps at odds with the role he had been destined to play as a general and breaker of worlds as all Primarchs were made to be. He fought at the side of the Emperor in battle -- a colossal, nameless warrior in emerald armour scaled like a dragon of ancient Terran myth -- and studied closely in the weapon-forges of Mars and with his brother-Primarch Ferrus Manus, whose discovery had gone before his own. When the time came, as much dictated by circumstance as by choice, for Vulkan to take charge of the XVIII Legion he did so well-prepared for the task ahead, and set about reforging them on the anvil of war.

When Vulkan came to his Legion, it was in the hour of their need. The XVIII, led by their Lord Commander Cassian Vaughn, had become embroiled in the rear-guard defence of a cluster of colony worlds near the Taras Division against a wave of Ork marauders. With the bulk of the Legiones Astartes either engaged with the Expedition Fleets breaching space towards the Eastern Fringe or committed as reserves against the horrors of the Rangda Incursion from the Halo Stars to the Galactic North, the XVIII was the only Space Marine Legion able to respond to the crisis. Fighting against vast and overwhelming odds, the Legion's primary force, numbering some 19,000 Space Marines, had marshalled the local defenders and held out for nearly a standard year in a series of running battles against well over a million Ork raiders scattered across hundreds of ramshackle ships, "Rok" asteroid vessels and dozens of Space Hulks. The actions of the Legion had allowed the evacuations of three entire planetary populations to the nominal safety of the Taras System, but at a terrible cost. As the conflict progressed, they suffered the grievous wounding of their commander, while the remainder of the XVIII became all but trapped on the Dead World of Antaem -- a lightning-rod drawing the Orks to them for battle. Taras was far from the embattled frontier of the expanding Great Crusade, and assistance from other Legions would have been difficult to obtain, but regardless such aid was not asked for by the XVIII, who had determined to succeed alone or die in the attempt, knowing that by bleeding the Ork marauder fleet of its strength, countless human lives would be saved. Their Primarch, however, learning of their plight, refused to stand by his plans to join them to rapid fruition.

When Vulkan arrived he did not do so alone, for he brought with him 3,000 new Initiates -- the first of the Legion to be raised from Nocturne -- along with a host of new warships, war machines and arms, all fabricated to the Primarch's own exacting specifications. They fell upon the Ork marauders like a thunderbolt, and shattered the largest of the Space Hulks orbiting Antaem, Vulkan leading his warriors within, purging the vast conglomeration of wreckage and rock with fire and planting seismic charges at its heart to destroy it. Spurred on by this unexpected aid, the rest of the XVIII hurled themselves in renewed fury at the Orks besieging them, slaughtering and scattering the greenskinned xenos before them, heedless of their depleted munitions and manpower, leaving nothing for a reserve should they fail. Caught between this hammer and anvil of savagery that over-matched their own, the Ork horde was broken and put to flight, and the survivors were relentlessly pursued and consumed by fire.

In the aftermath, the two halves of the XVIII Legion met and were unified upon Antaem's dead coral plains. As their saviours removed their helms and the Terran Legionaries looked upon the faces of their brothers and he that was their gene-father, they could not help but know that they were one and their Primarch had come to claim them. The survivors of the Terran XVIII knelt immediately, it is said, before their Primarch, but Vulkan bid them rise, saying that all his sons were equals and he was no petty king needing shows of obedience. Instead, it was he who knelt in honour of the lives they had saved and the price they had paid. Then, seeking out the mortally wounded Lord Commander Vaughn, he conferred the formal transfer of the Legion's mastery by presenting the fallen warrior with the broken Power Klaw of the Ork Warlord who had struck him down to seal the pact between him and his Legion -- they would fight for him, but he would fight for them in turn.

After the battle at Antaem, Vulkan set about remaking and re-forging his Legion, keen to keep the honour, the spirit of self-sacrifice for the Imperium and bravery he found, but also determined that it should stand together and become more disciplined both in its temper and wiser in its pursuit of battle. Firstly, Vulkan was swift to gather together its disperate deployments and unify it once again as a whole, although he was careful to honour the past commitments it had made, such as the maintenance of a permanent garrison at Geryon Deep who stood guard should the Manticore ever return.

With his forces brought together, Vulkan returned the XVIII Legion to Nocturne to where, under his auspices, a powerful stronghold, equal to any Legion fortress in the Imperium, was being constructed on Nocturne's moon of Prometheus to serve as its headquarters and armoury, just as Nocturne itself would now be the source of the majority of the Legion's fresh recruits. Here the Legion was reordered and re-armed and, most importantly, Vulkan set above giving it common purpose and common belief. In order to do this, he drew not only on that which he had learned at the side of his Emperor and from the Imperial war machine, but also on the culture and deeply-ingrained warrior and mystical traditions of Nocturne in which Vulkan had been raised. In this Vulkan was wise enough to retain and value the experience of the Terran veterans, and show them respect and hold in high esteem what they had accomplished in many ways, great and small. This was given outward sign by incorporating the XVIII Legion's past heraldry into that of the reformed Legion and making their foremost warriors, his Pyre Guard, praetorians; the elite body of Chapter Masters that would serve both as his Honour Guard and as paragons of the standards he would set his Legion. For the fallen first Master of the XVIII, Cassian Vaughn, Vulkan fashioned with his own hands a unique Dreadnought sarcophagus, the Iron Dragon, so that Vaughn could serve as Castellan and Protector of Prometheus, and the future of the Legion.

The remade XVIII Legion would now take its name from the greatest of Nocturne's saurian predators; ancient and deadly creatures whose blood was fire and whose hides were as hard as emerald steel; the Salamanders of Nocturne. In this Vulkan's choice carried a layered meaning, for not only were Nocturnean Salamanders monsters of savage power with a great totemic significance to the native people, but as creatures they showed unflinching loyalty to their own blood and offspring, and were never more ferocious than in their defence. It was from the bleached-white skull of one such great beast -- Kasare -- that adorned the shoulder-guard of their Primarch's armour, the Legion would now take its new emblem. When the Salamanders Legion re-emerged and departed Nocturne in full force some years later, it quickly took up a place at the forefront of the Great Crusade, smashing alien empires and bringing lost worlds into compliance as part of the Imperium. Although it would never reach the high numbers of Legionary strength the likes of the Dark Angels or Iron Warriors possessed, its power and battle-prowess was undeniable, and its conduct in war was regarded as exemplary. It had been tempered and proven, retaining the fearlessness and savage spirit for which Vulkan had been renowned, but those traits were now governed and kept in check by stoicism, lack of hubris, and considered surety of action. Vulkan had brought his Legion focus, purpose and wisdom. It was now said of the Salamanders that they were neither quick to anger, nor prone to rush in blindly to battle as once they had been, but once they had decided to unleash their wrath, it was as unstoppable and terrifying as the volcanic fury of the dark world they now called home.

Vulkan was able to save his genetic legacy because in them, he saw a great potential. The Emperor knew Vulkan was the perfect son to temper the XVIII Legion and forge it strong again. Learning discipline and patience, the Salamanders learned there is no better time to reflect than when they struck their Oaths of Moment and branded them into flesh before battle. Temperance in the face of war was not only prudent, it also saved lives.

The Great Crusade

During the Great Crusade the Salamanders were attached to the 154th Expeditionary Fleet, their forces complemented by Imperial Army regiments drawn from the planet Phaeria, a Death World. They successfully brought hundreds of human-settled worlds into Imperial Compliance. One of the few notable campaigns undertaken by the Salamanders Legion during the Great Crusade was the Imperial Compliance action undertaken on the world of Caldera. Designated 154-4, known as Ibsen by its inhabitants, the Salamanders were tasked with bringing this newly discovered world into Compliance. Led by Vulkan himself, the XVIII Legion was joined by the Iron Hands and the Death Guard Legions, both led by their own respective Primarchs. The world was undeveloped, and largely inhospitable to human life, but possessed valuable mineral deposits. However, the Imperial forces faced stiff resistance for control of the planet from the Eldar, who had placed a garrison upon Ibsen.

The Eldar forces -- including Seers, Warlocks and other combat psykers -- could not have expected to defeat one Legion of Astartes, let alone three. The mystery deepened when the semi-feral, primitive human tribes inhabiting the planet seemed more sympathetic to the Eldar, or at the very least, not welcoming to their human liberators. The Salamanders and other Imperials defeated the Eldar relatively easily as expected. After the conquest, the Salamanders learned that the Eldar had been defending a network of menhirs which served as psychic nodes and that fed into a giant arch, where the final and most brutal confrontation between the Astartes and the xenos had taken place. The arch itself had been located thanks to a mysterious Remembrancer attached to the Salamanders, with whom Vulkan had had an unsettling conversation before the battle.

After the slaughter ended, Vulkan saw the Remembrancer loitering by the arch and then suddenly disappearing. Following him, Vulkan and his elite Pyre Guard descended into the chambers beneath it, through a portal at its base. There they found a crude warding ceremony taking place, conducted by the primitive human tribal priests, who were ready to sacrifice an ancient Dark Eldar witch. Finally, Vulkan realised the truth: the arch was in reality, a Webway portal (though none of the Imperials, including Vulkan, knew this at the time); Vulkan had seen a "gate" like this before, in his Nocturnean youth, when Dark Eldar repeatedly utilised such a portal to raid and pillage the planet.

The Eldar had taken control of the portal by defeating their dark cousins, and in the process had freed the indigenous human population of Ibsen from the horrors of Dark Eldar raids; the Eldar had been seen by the humans as liberators. Terrified by the defeat of their liberators at the hands of the Imperium, the natives had sought to sacrifice their Dark Eldar captive to ward off the inevitable return of her race; the mysterious "Remembrancer" who was nowhere to be seen had actually been the Emperor in disguise, who must have had a great interest in the particulars of this mission since he had ordered so many resources committed to it. Vulkan ordered Ibsen and its irredeemably corrupted population cleansed by flame. He renamed the scoured, Nocturne-like Dead World that remained Caldera. The world was now ready to receive new human colonists and to be exploited for the benefit of the Imperium.

Not long after the successful conclusion of this campaign, Vulkan and his Salamanders Legion participated in another joint Imperial Compliance action on the world known as Kharaatan. Designated 154-6, the Salamanders fought alongside the Primarch Konrad Curze and his Night Lords Legion as well as Mechanicum forces, the Legio Ignis Titan Legion, and several Imperial Army regiments. During this campaign Vulkan became infuriated with his brother Primarch and how his Legion brutally conducted themselves. During one notable incident, the Night Lords slaughtered the inhabitants of an entire city in order to seed fear amongst the general population. When he confronted Curze about his Legion's actions, a brief fight ensued between the two demi-gods. After the successful conclusion of this campaign, Vulkan reported Curze's conduct to both Warmaster Horus and his brother Primarch Rogal Dorn of the Imperial Fists Legion. This incident would later sow the seeds of animosity between Vulkan and his brother Curze, causing a rift that would further widen as the Great Crusade wore on. The events on Kharaatan would have far-reaching affects that wold later play a key role in what happened to Vulkan after the tragic events of Istvaan V played out.

Drop Site Massacre

"I can scarcely imagine what inspired Horus to this madness. In truth, the very fact of it frightens me. For if even the best of us can falter, what does that mean for the rest? Lord Manus will lead us in. Seven Legions against his four. Horus will regret rebellion."
— Vulkan, Primarch of the Salamanders Legion
Salamanders Assault Force
Pict-capture of the Salamanders Legion assaulting Istvaan V

The Salamanders' role during the Horus Heresy is not well known to Imperial scholars; what is for certain is that the XVIII Legion, along with the Iron Hands and the Raven Guard, were part of the first wave of Loyalist attackers during the Drop Site Massacre of Istvaan V. After the announcement of the Warmaster Horus' treachery against the Emperor and the destruction of the four open Traitor Legions' (the Sons of Horus, Emperor's Children, Death Guard and the World Eaters) remaining Loyalists during the Battle of Istvaan III, the Emperor ordered seven full Legions of Space Marines to attack the Forces of Chaos serving his beloved son and former friend. But amongst those seven Legions, four were already secretly Traitors to the Imperium and devotees of the Ruinous Powers.

Seconds after the first drop-ship pierced the cloud layer, batteries of emplaced guns erupted across metres of earthworks dug along the Urgall Depression. Flak fire filled the sky like upwards-pouring rain, chewing through wing and fuselage, detonating arrow-headed cocoons of metal and spilling their lethal payloads into the air. It barely dented the assault, and when the Imperial loyalists finally made planetfall, over forty thousand legionaries tramped out upon the scorched earth. Of their initial complement, only fifteen of the Salamanders' ships and eleven Drop Pods would not make the surface intact. Nigh-on full Legion strength would be levelled against Horus and his rebels. The Salamanders hit along the left flank, the Raven Guard the right and Ferrus Manus with his Morlocks dead centre.

Black sand cratered by ordnance made for uncertain footing. As the vast armies of the three loyal Primarchs ran from the holds of ships or emerged through the dissipating pressure cloud of blooming drop-pods, several legionaries faltered and slipped. Sustained bolter fire met them upon planetfall, and hundreds amongst the first landers were cut down before any kind of beachhead could be established. Fire was met with fire, the drumming staccato of thousands of weapons discharged in unison, their muzzle flashes merging into a vast and unending roar of flame. Dense spreads of missiles whined overhead to accompany the salvo, streaking white contrails from their rockets. Sections of earthworks erupted in bright explosions that threw plumes of dirt and armoured men into the air. Las bursts lit up the swiftly following darkness, spearing through tanks and Dreadnoughts that loomed behind the foremost ranks of enemy defenders, only for return fire to spit back in reply. Flamers choked the air with smoke and the stink of burning flesh, as yet more esoteric weapons pulsed and shrieked. It was a cacophony of death, but the song had barely begun its first verse.

Salamanders Legionaries Istvaan V
Salamanders Legionaries sally forth in the wake of the first wave assault

The right flank was swollen with warriors of the XVIII. Salamanders teemed out of their transports, quickly coming into formation and advancing with purpose. The black sand underfoot was eclipsed from sight, as a green sea overwhelmed and overran it. Vexilliaries held aloft banners, attempting to impose some order on the emerging battalions. Methodical, dogged, the XVIII Legion found its shape and swarmed across the dark dunes. At the forefront of this avenging wave was Vulkan, and to his flanks the Firedrakes. Lumbering from the metal spearheads of Drop Pods, the Terminators amassed in two large battalions. They were dauntless, dominant, but not the most implacable warriors in the Salamanders' arsenal. Contemptors, striding through the smoke, laid claim to that honour. Great, towering war engines, the Dreadnoughts jerked with the savage recoil of Graviton Guns and Autocannons. Not stopping to see the carnage wreaked, they slowly tramped after the rushing companies of Legionaries in small cohorts, attack horns blaring. The discordant noise simulated the war cries of the deep drakes and was pumped through vox-emitters to boost its volume. Disgorged by Thunderhawk Transporters, Spartan Assault Tanks, Predators-Infernus and Vindicators disembarked at combat speed, tracks rolling. The battle tanks rode at the back of the line with a steep ridge behind them, anchoring the dropsite with their armoured might. Three spearheads were driven at the traitor's heart, two black and one green, all determined to bring down the fortress squatting at the summit of the Urgall Hills that overlooked the expansive depression. In seconds the shifting sand became as glass, vitrified by the heat of tens of thousands of weapons, and cracked underfoot.

Vulkan ordered his sons to take the ridge line to gain higher ground. Shells pranging off his armour, the primarch took up the vanguard position, whilst his chasing Pyre Guard tried to keep pace. Behind the Pyre Guard, the stoic advance of the Pyroclasts struggled to keep up as they laid down sheets of burning promethium in front and to the flanks. The Terminator-armoured Firedrakes were also slipping back, unable to compete with the Primarch's speed, and Numeon began to see that there was a realistic danger of becoming estranged from the rest of the Legion. Adding their strength to the spearhead the Primarch was forging, the 15th Company Reconnaissance took up fresh position. Their charge line would take them in alongside the Pyre Guard, able to maintain pace where the bulkier Firedrakes and Pyroclasts could not.

As if sensing that his Legion was losing him, Vulkan slowed but a fraction as the fire-blackened lip of the outermost trench drew close. Hunkered within the partially sundered defences, the Legionaries of the Death Guard brought guns to bear. The XIV Legion were hardy fighters -- the Salamanders had fought alongside them at Ibsen, but those days were gone and now allies had turned into enemies. The flame storm and the ferocity of Vulkan's attack had scattered the defenders but they were rallying quickly and now counter-attacked from three separate channels. Although the trench network was wide enough for three legionaries to stand abreast, the fighting was thick and fierce. Wilting before his charge, the defenders sensibly chose to hang back and harry the primarch with a welter of bolter fire. Meeting it head on, the primarch shrugged off the shell damage as the brass casings broke apart against his near-inviolable armour.

Across the entire Urgall Depression, hundreds of battles between Legionaries were fought. Some were company-strong, others were squads or even individuals. There was no scheme to it, just masses of warriors trying to kill one another. Most of the Loyalist troops had moved on from the dropsite and were engaging Horus’ rebels at the foot of his fortifications, but a few still occupied this beachhead. Scattered groups of traitors had spilled out as far as the dropsite but were quickly destroyed by the troops holding it. These were skirmishes, though, and nothing compared to the greater battle. As the 15th Company pressed the attack against the retreating Death Guard forces, a dirty cloud, too thick and too low to be fog, rolled down the slopes. It spilled into the myriad trench-works, funnelled by the conduits of hewn earth. And it was fast. In seconds it had cleared the no-man’s-land between the previous trench and the next bank of fortifications and was hurtling at Nemetor and his warriors. It overtook the Death Guard first, who adjusted respirators before the miasma hit as if they knew it was coming. It was a deadly gas attack.

The Legion armoury was vast, and not all of its weapons were as obvious as a Bolter or as noble as a sword. There were those who wielded devices of much more insidious potency -- the slow and agonising ones, the weapons that forever scarred both the bearer and the victim. They did not discriminate and made no allowance for even the strongest armour. From the vaunted champion to the lowliest mortal, they were the great levellers and their works were terrible to behold. The Legion armoury was vast, and not all of its weapons were as obvious as a bolter or as noble as a sword. There were those who wielded devices of much more insidious potency – the slow and agonising ones, the weapons that forever scarred both the bearer and the victim. They did not discriminate and made no allowance for even the strongest armour. From the vaunted champion to the lowliest mortal, they were the great levellers and their works were terrible to behold. More than a hundred of the reconnaissance company collapsed, choking and spitting blood. Many of the 15th didn't wear battle-helms, preferring to be unencumbered for the stealth work at which they excelled. These warriors had suffered the worst. Skin sloughed away by virulent acids, ravaged by pustules and choking on vomit, eyes drowning in pus from the dirty bomb, there was almost nothing left of them but half-armoured carcasses. Dozens more were hacked apart or shot down by resurgent Death Guard attacking in the confusion.

The numerically superior Death Guard had already overrun the smaller reconnaissance company and were attempting to encircle the rest of the Salamanders. Vulkan single-handedly prevented that, hitting the overlapping warriors and cutting them apart with his flaming sword. First Captain Numeon and the Pyre Guard joined him fractionally later and a dense, chaotic melee erupted. As battle continued to rage all around them, the din of the melee was pierced by savage and guttural war cries. A ruddy smog was sweeping across the battlefield, fashioned from blood-drenched mist and the smoke generated by thousands of fires. Caught in a crosswind, it slashed in from the east and brought with it the brutal challenge of a Legion that revelled in war. It was the XII Legion -- the World Eaters.

Ash-fall from the many thousands of fires turned the sky grey. It baptised a cohort of warriors, clad to various degrees in ancient gladiatorial trappings and wielding ritual caedere weapons. They were the Rampagers, a deadly breed even amongst the Eaters of Worlds, and a throwback to Angron's incarceration as a slave-fighter. Bellowing guttural war cries, they charged ahead of a Contemptor Dreadnought to engage the Salamanders. Emerald-armoured Astartes balked at what the battle-maddened World Eaters attempted. Though there was no more than thirty men - just three squads - they charged over a hundred. Several went down to sporadic bolter fire. Some were clipped by shrapnel but kept on coming. Only those too injured to fight, unable to run because of missing limbs or critical wounds were halted. Something urgent and terrible spurred them on. Even when they were the War Hounds, their reputation in battle, particularly close-quarters, was fearsome. As the reborn World Eaters under Angron, they had become something else. Rumours abounded within the ranks, of arcane devices that manipulated the legionaries' tempers, simulacra of the ones embedded in Angron's skull by his slavers. Now that the Salamanders saw them, ignoring pain and injury, frothing with frenzy, they believed those stories to be true.

As the Salamanders and World Eaters fought in bloody close-quarters, elsewhere on the slope, a much larger force of Firedrakes fought Angron's personal body guard, the Devourers, to a bloody stalemate. For once, the Lord of the Red Sands was close to his Honour Guard. Angron bellowed a challenge to his brother Primarch. Vulkan's name was heard amongst the guttural syllables of the World Eater's native tongue. Anointed in blood, partially obscured by scudding clouds of smoke and shimmering heat haze, Angron continued to bellow his challenge, this time in High Gothic, "Vulkan!" His voice was the like fall of cities, rumbling and booming across the vast battlefield. Angron jabbed down to his brother with one of the motorised Power Axes he carried. Its blade was burring, roaring for blood. "I name you high rider!"

Farther down the slope, Vulkan gripped the haft of his immense warhammer Dawnbringer and went to meet his brother's challenge. But before the two Primarchs could come to blows, an arcing salvo from one of the traitor gun emplacements spear-headed a missile up into the air and all the way down until it struck part of the slope between the two Primarchs. A firestorm lit the hillside, several tonnes of incendiary ordnance expressed in the expansive bloom of conflagration. It swept outwards in a turbulent wave, bathing the lower part of the slope in heat and flame. This was nothing compared to its epicentre. Firedrakes were immolated in that blast, blown apart and burned to ash in their Terminator Armour. Though Vulkan was wreathed in flames, he stepped from the blaze unharmed. The remaining Firedrakes gathered to him, tramping over the dead where they had to. Mauled as they had been by the World Eaters, Vulkan knew that his warriors had suffered but would not stop until they were dead or the battle was over. But it was grievously attritional, and he was not ashamed to admit relief when he heard that the reinforcements coming in to make planetfall behind them. Hundreds of landers and drop-pods choked the already suffocating sky, emblazoned with the iconography of the Alpha Legion, Iron Warriors, Word Bearers and Night Lords. The Primarch merely watched impassively as the manifold shuttles touched down and the loyalists took up position on the edge of the depression. Of Angron, there was no sign. The firestorm had beaten him back, it seemed, and now with the arrival of four more Legions, the Lord of the Red Sands had ordered a retreat.

Both the Raven Guard and the Salamanders withdrew towards their drop site to give their recently arrived reinforcements a chance to earn glory against the Traitors. Vulkan and his brother Corax tried to persuade their fiery-tempered brother Ferrus Manus to do the same. But the Gorgon would not be dissuaded from his task. The scent of blood was in the air, and so, the Iron Hands pressed the attack against the retreating Traitor forces. Unknown to the Loyalists, the drop site had been fortified by the four secret Traitor Legions, who had been intended to form the second wave of the Imperial assault on Horus' forces. While the retreat of Horus' rebels was ragged and disorganised, the warriors of the XVIII and XIX Legions fell back in good order. Tanks returned to column, rumbling slowly but steadily back down the slope. The scorched trenches emptied as legionaries filed out in vast hosts, company banners still flying. They were battered but resolute. The dead and injured came with them, dragged or borne aloft by their still standing brothers. It was a great exodus, the black and green ocean of war retreating with the tide to leave the flotsam of their slain enemy behind it.

Rhino 'Spirodon'
An Iron Warriors Tactical Squad disembarks a Rhino during the Drop Site Massacre

On the northern side of the Urgall Depression, a fresh sea made ready to sweep in and carry all of the mortal debris away. Across from the muster field of the Salamanders, which was little more than a laager of drop-ships, were the Iron Warriors. Armoured in steel-grey with black-and-yellow chevrons, the IV Legion looked stark and stern. They had erected a barricade, the armoured bastions of their own landing craft alloyed together, to bolster the northern face of the slope. Great cannons were raised aloft behind it, their snouts pointing to the ash-smothered sky. A line of battle tanks sat in front, bearing the grim icon of a metal-helmeted skull. And in front of that, Iron Warriors arrayed in their cohorts, thousands strong. They held their silence and their weapons across their bodies, with no more life than automatons. Not a single Legionary about the XVIII stood idle. Yet the Iron Warriors, the entire muster on the northern slope, neither spoke nor moved beyond what was necessary to assemble.

Not one responded to the Salamanders' hails. Only the wind kicking at their banners gave any sense of animus to the IV Legion throng. Only when Vulkan started in the direction of his brother, Perturabo, the Lord of Iron returned the Lord of Drakes' gimlet gaze with one of his own. It was only at that moment, did Vulkan realise that they had been betrayed. More than ten thousand guns answered, the weapons of their allies turned on the Salamanders with traitorous intent, crushing the Loyalists between the hammer of Horus' forces and the anvil of the fortified drop site. Wrath drove Vulkan up the side of the hill, that and a sense of injustice. The ignoble actions of his brother primarchs had wounded Vulkan to the core, far deeper and more debilitating than any blade. Vaunted warriors all, the Pyre Guard could scarcely keep up.

Battle companies followed in the wake of their lords, captains roaring the attack as thousands of green-armoured warriors chased up the slope to kill the sons of Perturabo. Withering crossfire from both the north and south faces of the Urgall Depression cut down hundreds in the first few seconds of deceit. The XVIII Legion were shedding warriors like a snake sheds scales. But still they drove on, determined not to back down. Tenacity was a Salamander’s greatest virtue -- that refusal to give in. Upon the plains of Isstvan V, against all of those guns, this quality almost ended the XVIII Legion. Only as the majority of the Salamanders crested the first ridge, did they first see the arc of fire. It trailed, long and blazing, into the darkling sky. The tongue of flame climbed and upon reaching the apex of its parabola bent back on itself into the shape of a horseshoe. Rockets screaming, it came down in the midst of the charging Salamanders and broke them apart.

A savage crater was gored into the Urgall hills, like the bite of some gargantuan beast resurrected from old myth and birthed in nucleonic fire. It threw warriors skywards as if they were no more than empty suits of armour, bereft of bone and flesh. As a bell jar shatters when dropped onto rockcrete from a great height, so too did the Legion smash apart. Tanks following after their lord Primarch were flung barrel-rolling across the black sand with their hulls on fire. Those vehicles in the mouth of the blast were simply ripped apart; tracks and hatches, chunks of abused metal torn to exploded shrapnel. Legionaries spared death in the initial blast were eviscerated in the frag storm. Super-heavies crumpled like tin boxes crushed by a hammer. Crewmen boiled alive, legionaries cooked down to ash in that furnace. It went deep, right into the beating heart of the Salamanders ranks. Only by virtue of the fact that they were so far ahead were the Pyre Guard spared the worst.

With immense kinetic fury, it threw them apart and smothered their armoured forms in a firestorm. An electro-magnetic pulse wiped out the Vox, a threnody of static reigning in place of certain contact. Tactical organisation became untenable. In a single devastating strike, the Lord of Iron had crippled the XVIII Legion, severed its head and sent its body into convulsive spasm. Retreat was the only viable strategy remaining. Droves fell back to the dropsite, trying to climb aboard ships that were surging desperately into the sky to outreach the terrible storm of betrayal below. It was not a rout, though for any force other than the Legiones Astartes it would have been, faced with such violence. Many were cut down as the traitors threaded the air with enough flak to wither an armada.

Vulkan Dropsite Massacre
The Primarch Vulkan cries to the heavens in anguish as he cradles one of his fallen sons during the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V

Despite a heroic defence, the three Loyalist Legions who took part in the battle on Istvaan V were practically destroyed; all but a handful of Battle-Brothers fell on that fateful day and the Primarch Ferrus Manus of the Iron Hands was beheaded by his former best friend Fulgrim, the Primarch of the Emperor's Children. After this sad defeat, the Salamanders, as well as the other two betrayed Space Marine Legions, were unable to perform any further tasks the Emperor had planned for them and spent the rest of the Heresy rebuilding their shattered forces. Both Vulkan and his brother Corvus Corax survived the ambush on Istvaan V. Conflicting reports by the few survivors stated that Vulkan, also gravely wounded, had to be dragged away from the fight onto a Thunderhawk gunship by three of his Pyre Guard and then managed to escape back to Nocturne. But the reality of the Salamanders' Primarch's fate proved to be far more dire.

Vulkan's Imprisonment

Vulkan had survived the nuclear fire of the Iron Warriors' orbital strike, where so many of his sons did not. Finding himself surrounded by hundreds of Traitor Legionaries from both the Night Lords and the Iron Warriors, Vulkan resigned himself to his fate. Fighting valiantly, the Primarch fought to the death, but was eventually overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the enemy and was shot, stabbed and bludgeoned into unconsciousness. The Night Haunter, now inherently insane, saw the opportunity to torment his fallen brother and took the unconscious Vulkan as his prisoner. When the Salamanders' Primarch finally awoke, he found himself fettered in massive chains aboard a gaol-hulk belonging to the VIII Legion. Over the span of several months, the Night Haunter took sadistic pleasure in attempting to break both Vulkan's body and mind, or kill him outright. But the task proved impossible, as every time Curze thought he had succeeded in killing his brother, Vulkan's body would miraculously regenerate to its former healthy state. Vulkan had been revealed to be a "Perpetual", a being who was capable of continuous cellular regeneration and therefore was effectively immortal, much like their father, the Emperor of Mankind. Enraged, Curze took it upon himself to kill Vulkan as many times as was necessary to permanently rid himself of his intolerable presence. The Night Haunter personally beheaded the Salamanders' Primarch, ripped out his throat with a piece of cutlery, stabbed him through the chest and virtually tore him limb from limb with his own wicked claws. When these attempts failed to kill Vulkan, Curze had him eviscerated, shot at close-range by hundreds of Bolters, put into a ventilation shaft of a starship's engine and even stripped naked and thrown out of an airlock into the airless void of space. But the Night Haunter's efforts proved all for naught.

Each time the Night Haunter thought he had successfully murdered his brother Primarch, Vulkan's body would continue to regenerate back to its former vigorous state, further enraging the Night Lords' Primarch. With his unnatural abilities to regenerate revealed to him, Curze attempted to make Vulkan admit that he was no less a monster than himself. To further torment his brother, the Night Haunter had Davinite sorcerer-priests use the fell powers gifted to them by the Ruinous Powers to ensnare Vulkan's mind and run him through a series of illusionary mental trials where he continuously failed at some noble task, resulting in the deaths of innocents. But even this form of sorcerous torture failed to break the resolute Vulkan. Fed up with his insufferable prisoner, the Night Haunter devised a final solution to his problem of ridding himself of the Salamander's presence. Vulkan's fate would be decided in a duel to the death.

He offered his brother a means of escape and achieving that which he had sought for so long -- his freedom. All he had to do was navigate a labyrinth, where, at the centre of it, lay his personal warhammer Dawnbringer. But this was no ordinary maze. At the request of Night Haunter, the Iron Warriors' Primarch Perturabo had crafted him the singular prison, unlike any other, in imitation of his own private sanctorum known as the Cavea Ferrum. This special prison was an elaborate labyrinth, whose featureless walls and strange geometric design made it all but impossible to map and therefore escape. Anyone who attempted to mentally map the labyrinth would be hopelessly knotted in turns that should have been physically impossible. Even after trying scores of times to map the labyrinth, an individual would only manage more than a handful of turns within its twisting corridors before it all stopped making sense. But despite the odds, Vulkan did the impossible, and managed to find his way to the center of the maze and reclaim his hammer. With his weapon in hand, he managed to overpower his gaoler Curze, and activate the secret personal teleporter built into the head of the finely wrought warhammer. Vulkan immediately transported halfway across the galaxy, and reappeared in the upper atmosphere of the Ultramarines Legion's homeworld of Macragge. As he fell from an impossible height, his body was burned to a crisp upon reentry. But before his mind faded into blackness, Vulkan was content that he would soon find himself whole once again, and in the care of his Ultramarran cousins.

Aftermath

The events immediately following the end of the great galactic civil war are even more obscure in current Imperial records and perhaps known only to the taciturn masters of the Salamanders' Librarius. What is clear, however, is that when the Ultramarines' Primarch Roboute Guilliman authored the Codex Astartes during the Reformation of the Imperium after the end of the Heresy and prepared the plan to safeguard the Imperium from another civil war by breaking down each Space Marine Legion into a single Chapter comprised of only 1,000 Space Marines, Vulkan stood alongside Leman Russ of the Space Wolves and Rogal Dorn of the Imperial Fists in opposition to the plan. However, like the others, Vulkan eventually acquiesced rather than put the unity of the Imperium at risk once more.

The XVIII Legion appears to have sired no immediate Successors, and it is likely that their numbers were so depleted by the events of the Istvaan V Drop Site Massacre that it was not possible to divide it into separate Chapters. Several Chapters created much later in subsequent Foundings may share the genetic inheritance of the Salamanders, but no evidence exists of any Second Founding Successor Chapters having been sired. The extent to which the dictates of the Codex Astartes were adhered to in the aftermath of the break-up of the old Legions varied much, and the Salamanders appear to have obeyed it in some respects, while ignoring it in others. The fielding of only seven, over-strength companies is one example of this, though in other respects the present-day Salamanders Chapter is largely compliant with the dictates of Guilliman's tome.

The End Times

The ultimate fate of the Salamanders' Primarch is a matter of much conjecture, for he disappeared many years after the Horus Heresy. Some sources state that Vulkan led his Chapter for three entire millennia before he departed on some mission he never declared to the Imperium at large, though scant evidence of any of his deeds throughout that age remain. The tale is made all the more mysterious by the fact that Vulkan appeared to have left behind him a text, called the Tome of Fire, within which is locked the nature and location of nine artefacts the Primarch willed to his Chapter. It said that over one thousand standard years after the events of the Horus Heresy, Vulkan hid these nine artefacts around the galaxy for his Chapter to find, as a test to see if they were worthy of his leadership. Of these nine relics, five have been recovered, three of which, the Spear of Vulkan, Kesare's Mantle and the Gauntlet of the Forge, are wielded by the Chapter's Forgefather, Vulkan He'stan. Two, the Chalice of Fire and the Eye of Vulkan, remain on the Nocturnean moon of Prometheus in the Chapter's fortress-monastery, while the last four artefacts, the Engine of Woes, the Obsidian Chariot, the Unbound Flame and the Song of Entropy, have yet to be discovered. The Tome of Fire claims that only when all of these artefacts are recovered by the Forgefather of the Salamanders, as five now have been, will Vulkan judge the Salamanders sufficiently tempered to have passed the ultimate contest. Then, so the legend states, he shall return to lead the Salamanders in the final war against the enemies of Humanity in accordance with the prophecies written within the Chapter's most sacred tome.

Wargear

  • The Draken Scale - Vulkan's Artificer Armour was a marvel of the Imperium and famed relic in its own right, and its crowning glory was the skull of the great Firedrake Kesare mounted upon the Primarch's shoulder, upon whose image the Legion's symbol was based.
  • Dawnbringer - A warhammer of prodigious size and reputedly indestructible material construction, Dawnbringer was too great a weight for any but a Primarch to lift. Wielded by Vulkan, Dawnbringer was capable of sundering any defence set against it, from isolithic stone to the densest armour plate, and brutally crushed countless foes in the Primarch's hands. Dawnbringer also possessed unknown, formidable teleporter technology that enabled the Primarch to safely teleport over vast distances of space, even from one world to another.
  • The Furnace's Heart - A baroquely-styled energy weapon similar to a Plasma Pistol gifted to Vulkan by Ferrus Manus, this unique weapon utilised individual charged shells to produce powerful laser-like blasts capable of cutting swathes through even heavily armoured foes. The weapon, however, was not truly favoured by Vulkan, for reasons that remained the subject of dark rumour, but the Salamanders Primarch carried the weapon into battle at Istvaan V regardless to honour his brother for the gift.

Sources

  • Codex: Space Marines (6th Edition), pp. 42, 54-56, 58, 73, 112
  • Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), pp. 8, 26, 93
  • Codex: Space Marines (3rd Edition), pg. 40
  • Codex: Ultramarines (2nd Edition), pg. 7
  • Horus Heresy: Collected Visions
  • Index Astartes IV, "Promethean Warriors - The Salamanders Space Marine Chapter"
  • The Horus Heresy - Book Two: Massacre (Imperial Armour), pp. 114, 116-121, 250-251
  • Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition), pg. 183
  • Warlords of the Dark Millennium - Vulkan He'stan
  • White Dwarf 274 (UK), "Index Astartes: Promethean Warriors: The Salamanders Space Marine Chapter"
  • White Dwarf 248 (UK), "Promethean Warriors: The Salamanders Space Marine Chapter"
  • Fulgrim (Novel) by Graham McNeill
  • The First Heretic (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
  • Age of Darkness (Anthology) edited by Christian Dunn, 'The Face of Treachery' by Gav Thorpe
  • Angel Exterminatus (Novel) by Graham McNeill, pp. 38-39
  • Scorched Earth (Novella) by Nick Kyme
  • Vulkan Lives (Novel) by Nick Kyme
  • Unremembered Empire (Novel) by Dan Abnett
  • Fireborn (Audio Book)
  • Promethean Sun (Novella) by Nick Kyme
  • The Tome of Fire (Trilogy Book Series):
    • Salamander (Novel) by Nick Kyme
    • Firedrake (Novel) by Nick Kyme
    • Nocturne (Novel) by Nick Kyme


Primarchs
Horus Leman Russ Lost Primarchs Ferrus Manus Fulgrim Vulkan Rogal Dorn Roboute Guilliman Magnus the Red Sanguinius Lion El'Jonson Perturabo Mortarion Lorgar Jaghatai Khan Konrad Curze Angron Corvus CoraxAlpharius Omegon
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