"You are my finest drakes, my most trusted advisors. Our father fashioned us as crusaders, to bring fire and light to the darkest reaches of the galaxy. Our task is to protect mankind, shield humanity."
The Pyre Guard were the seven Veteran Space Marine Battle-Brothers of the Salamanders Legion who served as the Primarch Vulkan's elite Honour Guard during the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy. Sworn to protect the Primarch, they were warriors set apart from the rest of the XVIIIth Legion. The Pyre Guard were not like other Salamanders; they had more fire, more fury. Like the volcanoes of ancient Nocturne, the great jagged mountain chains of the Dragonspike and Mount Deathfire, they were perpetually on the brink of eruption. Pyre Guard were chosen warriors, those Astartes of the XVIIIth Legion who had displayed a level of self-sacrifice and self-sufficiency that exceeded all others. Like the samurai of old Nihon (Japan), they were fighters foremost, who could ally as a unit or function expertly on their own. They were also leaders in their own right, and each Pyre Guard commanded a Chapter of the Legion in addition to their duties as the Primarch's inner circle warriors.
All of the Pyre Guard were Terran-born Space Marines, but still displayed the physical traits of onyx-black skin and red eyes, an irreversible reaction to the unique radiation of Nocturne combined with the genetic heritage of their Primarch, possessed by every Salamander, regardless of origin. As Terran-born sons of Vulkan, they did not always fully appreciate the earthy sentiments of the Nocturnean culture in which Vulkan had been raised, but they knew their duty deep within their genetically-enhanced bones. They were led by Artellus Numeon, a Terran-born Salamanders officer who also served as the First Captain of the Legion's elite 1st Company (the Firedrakes) and as Equerry to the Primarch. The Pyre Guard's fate following the Horus Heresy remains unknown, but like their contemporaries, the Morlocks of the Iron Hands Legion, they may have met their end as a coherent formation of the Salamanders Legion during the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V.
"Eye to eye! Tooth-to-tooth!"
- —Pyre Guard battle mantra
When Vulkan was reunited with his Legion on Nocturne, he saw the potential in his few remaining Terran sons. From amongst these survivors he chose the most stoic and fiercely independent warriors; those who had endured the worst of the XVIIIth Legion's trials and tribulations throughout the early years of the Great Crusade before he had been reunited with them. From these chosen few, the Primarch founded the Pyre Guard, his personal Honour Guard; charged with the protection of their Primarch and to act as his inner circle of advisors.
Set apart from the other warriors of the XVIIIth Legion, all of the vaunted Pyre Guard were without equal. These individual warriors were hungry, ready for war. Like the deep drakes of Vulkan's homeworld, they were savage and fierce, sharp of claw and tooth. The members of the Pyre Guard were not like other Salamanders; they had more fire, more fury. Like the volcanoes of ancient Nocturne, the great jagged chains of the Dragonspike and Mount Deathfire, they were perpetually on the brink of eruption. Even the warriors of the Pyroclasts were not as volatile.
The Pyre Guard were chosen warriors, those that displayed a level of self-sacrifice and self-sufficiency that exceeded all others. Like the saburai of old Nihon, they were fighters foremost, who could ally as a unit or function expertly on their own. They were also leaders, and each Pyre Guard commanded a Chapter of the Legion in addition to their duties as the Primarch's inner circle warriors. Though Terran-born, these elite warriors still displayed the physical traits of onyx-black skin and red eyes, an irreversible reaction to the unique radiation of Nocturne combined with the genetic heritage of their Primarch, which every Salamander, regardless of origin, possessed. The Pyre Guard's number always stood at seven, a number of great cultural significance to the people of Nocturne. When they marched to war with their Primarch, every one of their personal weapons was forged by its bearer, and every one could spit fire like the drakes of old.
"We have all burned. Down in the fire pits, or from the brander's iron in the solitorium, we have all touched the fire. It leaves scars, even for us. We carry them proudly, with honour. But the scars we took that day on that battlefield, we bear only with shame and regret. They are a memorial in flesh, a physical reminder of everything we have lost, a burn even we fire-born cannot endure without pain."
- — Artellus Numeon, Captain of the Pyre Guard
The Pyre Guard's role during the Horus Heresy is not well known to Imperial scholars; what is for certain is that the XVIIIth Legion, along with the Iron Hands and the Raven Guard, were part of the first wave of Loyalist attackers during the Drop Site Massacre on 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.
Following the initial Loyalist assault, it appeared that Horus' forces were soundly beaten, as they attempted a fighting withdrawal from the field. 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 XVIIIth and XIXth 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.
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 dropships, 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 XVIIIth 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 that Vulkan realised 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.
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 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. In a single devastating strike, the Lord of Iron had crippled the XVIIIth 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.
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 surviving Pyre Guard and then managed to escape back to Nocturne. But the reality of the Salamanders' Primarch's fate would prove to be far more dire.
Notable Pyre Guard
- Artellus Numeon - Numeon was a Terran-born Salamanders officer who served as the First Captain of the Legion's elite 1st Company, known as the Firedrakes. He also served as Equerry to the Primarch Vulkan and commanded the Pyre Guard. Numeon was present during the tragic events of the Drop Site Massacre on Istvaan V where his Legion was nearly decimated. He survived the Traitors' trap and eventually made his way off the scoured planet to carry on the war against the Warmaster Horus' Traitor Legions. His ultimate fate lead him to Macragge, where met up with other surviving Salamanders. Numeon led them off-world with the body of Vulkan to return to Nocturne. Artellus eventually sacrificed himself on Nocturne to resurrect Vulkan deep within Mount Deathfire. Artellus was originally known to favour a master-crafted Power Halberd with a built-in Volkite Weapon and Bolter. Following the Drop Site Massacire, he instead wielded a sword crafted from the teeth of a Nocturnian Drake and a Bolt Pistol.
- Skatar'var and Leodrakk - Skatar'var was one of two brothers who were members of the Primarch's inner circle. Like his sibling, Leodrakk, he was haughty and proud. A warrior-king of Hesiod, he had learned nobility from his biological father and honed it in the XVIII Legion. A large draconian horn arched from his back, attached to the power generator of his Artificer Armour. He had "won" that trophy when he slew Loktaral, one of the deep drakes of Nocturne, and joined his brother at Vulkan's side. Leodrakk, his hot-tempered younger sibling, bore the other horn, for they had killed the beast together. The two both bore Power Mauls into battle. Ultimately, the brothers died at the hands of the Traitor Legions. Skatar'var was slain by the Primarch Konrad Curze during the Night Haunter's torture of Vulkan. Leodrakk met his end leading men against the Word Bearers on Traoris.
- Varrun - Varrun was known to bear a master-crafted Power Axe with a short haft and a double-edged blade. He was also an exceptional marksman with his personal Bolter.
- Ganne - Ganne bore a Storm Shield and Bolter into battle.
- Igataron - Igataron also bore a Storm Shield and Bolter into battle.
- Atanarius - Antanarius bore a master-crafted Power Sword into combat.
- The Horus Heresy - Book Two: Massacre by Alan Bligh, pp. 118, 121
- Promethean Sun (Novella) by Nick Kyme, pp. 3, 20, 23-25, 48, 53,-54, 60-62, 64, 68, 77, 80, 82, 85, 87, 100, 102, 104
- Vulkan Lives (Novel) by Nick Kyme