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.
When the Primarchs were scattered across the galaxy through the Warp by the machinations of the Chaos Gods from the Emperor's gene-laboratory beneath the Himalayan Mountains on Terra, Vulkan arrived on the ash-shrouded, volcanic world of Nocturne during its Time of Trial as an infant and was soon taken in by the blacksmith, N'bel. The people of Vulkan's hometown were astounded by this child, for within the space of only three Terran years, he had reached mature adulthood, yet was also stronger and larger than any man in his town. In addition to his massive physical size, he possessed the quickest mind, and quickly became the greatest smith ever seen among the clans of Nocturne. Indeed, it was not long before Vulkan himself was teaching forging techniques to the Nocturnan people that had not yet been discovered.
The people of Nocturne were frequently raided by the decadent Dark Eldar. They were so used to this common occurrence, that each person in Vulkan's town had developed their own hiding place to avoid capture. When the Dark Eldar raided the world again in Vulkan's fourth year on Nocturne, the Primarch refused to hide and instead stood out in the centre of the settlement, his two smithing hammers crossed over his shoulders. The people of Vulkan's town were so inspired by his example that they joined him and prepared to defend their town from the foul xenos raiders. With a Primarch leading their defense, the people of the town decisively defeated the Dark Eldar. Within weeks, the leaders of the seven largest towns and their respective clans on Nocturne had travelled to meet Vulkan, and they soon swore never again to hide from the Dark Eldar raiders.
In celebration of the Primarch's victory over the Dark Eldar, a tournament of various contests common to the people of Nocturne was held. Unexpectedly, a stranger arrived in the middle of the festivities. Of pale complexion (unlike the ebon-skinned Nocturnans) and wearing outlandish clothing, the stranger asked only to be allowed to compete. When he announced that he could best anyone in the town, the people laughed at this outlander. Who could possibly beat Vulkan in any feat of intellect, strength, craftsmanship or endurance? Nonetheless, Vulkan and the stranger wagered that whoever lost the tournament would forever serve the victor. Lasting for 8 days, the contest included many tests of strength and endurance such as the anvil lift (which ended in a tie when the two superhuman competitors both held anvils above their heads for a half day). All the subsequent contests saw similar outcomes, for by the end of day 8, Vulkan and the stranger were tied in the overall tournament.
In the final event, both contestants were given 24 hours to forge a weapon, before using that weapon to hunt down and slay the largest salamander they could find. Climbing a high mountain, the two each went out to find a firedrake, the largest and most potent of the fire-resistant reptiles who called volcanic Nocturne home. Vulkan quickly found and killed a very large Firedrake. However, on his way back, the volcanic mountain he was standing on erupted, casting Vulkan over a cliff. Hanging on for dear life over the precipice, Vulkan was determined to keep his grip on his massive salamander. Thus, he found himself hanging by one hand from a cliff with his other hand clutching the tail of his drake.
Hanging there for hours, Vulkan's strength slowly ebbed away until he knew he must decide between maintaining his grip on the drake and saving his life. At that very moment, however, the pale stranger arrived, carrying his own huge Firedrake. Even from the edge of the cliff, the Primarch could tell that the outlander's drake was indeed bigger. Seeing Vulkan in distress, the stranger acted quickly, tossing his drake into a lava flow that separated them and using it as a bridge to cross to the Primarch. After hoisting Vulkan out of his mortal predicament, the stranger walked with him back to town, leaving his own drake to burn in the river of molten rock.
Though the outlander's Firedrake had been superior in size, he had thrown it away to save Vulkan, and when he returned to town with the Primarch empty-handed, Vulkan was declared the victor. To the amazement of his people however, Vulkan kneeled before the stranger and said that any man who would value life over pride was worthy of his service. At this moment, the outlander cast off his illusionary disguise and revealed himself to be the Emperor of Mankind. Thus it was that the Primarch Vulkan and his father the Emperor were reunited.
The Emperor gave to Vulkan the XVIII Legion of Space Marines which had been created from his genome to command. Vulkan promptly renamed the Legion the Salamanders in honour of the contest between himself and his father that had brought him back into the Imperial fold. The Salamanders preformed their duties to the Emperor with great pride and loyalty during the Great Crusade to reunite all of humanity, though few of their accomplishments during this period are currently recorded in Imperial records.
Istvaan V Drop Site Massacre
Vulkan was one of the three Primarchs that were caught in the Warmaster Horus' trap for the Loyalist Space Marine Legions on the world of Istvaan V along with Ferrus Manus, the Primarch of the Iron Hands Legion, and Corax, Primach of the Raven Guard. At first, it was thought that only the Emperor's Children, the Sons of Horus, the World Eaters and the Death Guard were the only Traitor Legions to fall to Chaos. During the battle it was discovered that the Heresy had spread far deeper into the Legio Astartes than had been known, for when the Salamanders, Raven Guard, and Iron Hands went to greet the Word Bearers, the Alpha Legion, the Iron Warriors, and the Night Lords they were greeted only with death as these Traitor Legions opened fire, killing many of the Loyalists in an unexpected hail of bolter fire. Vulkanand elite guard of Salamanders from the First Company known as the Firedrakes fought alongside Corax and his Raven and what little remained of the Iron Hands in a desperate attempt to survive. Both Vulkan and Corax survived the ambush on Istvan V. Corax, critically wounded in the massacre, was borne by his few remaining marines to a drop-ship and brought to Terra in a stasis tube. Vulkan, also gravely wounded, had to be dragged away from the fight onto a Thunderhawk gunship by three of his Firedrakes and managed to escape back to Nocturne.
The End Times
Around a thousand 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. 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 Prometheus in the Chapter's fortress-monastery, while the last four artifacts, the Engine of Woes, the Obsidian Chariot, the Unbound Flame and the Song of Entropy, have yet to be discovered.
- Index Astartes IV, "Salamanders"
- Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), p. 93
- 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