"We are born of fire, but we shall not die of it – instead we will emerge re-born."
- — Vulkan He'stan, before leading the 3rd Company through volcanic plains during the Flame Wars
Vulkan He'stan serves as the current Forgefather of the Salamanders Space Marine Chapter. The hope of the Salamanders rest upon this one Space Marine. To be honoured as the Forgefather is to be tasked with an epic quest, a journey that has been handed down in turn to the greatest heroes of the Chapter since the mysterious disappearance of their beloved Primarch, Vulkan.
For millennia the Forgefather of the Salamanders has led the Chapter's search across the galaxy to recover nine legendary relics, the Artefacts of Vulkan. At a simple request, the Forgefather can draw upon the full might of the Chapter -- for they would go to any length, suffer any losses, in order to find all of the missing artefacts.
It is a Salamanders legend, as told in ancient tales and inferred from the sacred book of the Promethean Cult known as the Tome of Fire, that when all nine of the Relics of Vulkan are recovered and returned once more to his homeworld of Nocturne, the Primarch himself will return to lead his sons to final victory over the enemies of the Imperium. But before one can fully understand Vulkan He'stan and his quest, one must first know the tale of the Salamanders.
"On the Anvil of War are the strong tempered and the weak made to perish. Thus are men's souls tested as metal in the forge's fire."
The Salamanders are one of the first of the twenty Legions of Space Marines founded by the Emperor Himself. They were the XVIIIth Legion until they were reunited with their Primarch, Vulkan, upon what would become their homeworld -- the volcanic Death World of Nocturne. At that point they took the name Salamanders, in tribute to the enormous reptilian drakes that were the apex predators of that harsh planet. In the roll of the Imperium's forces, the Salamanders have earned their rightful place amongst the finest ever to have served. Time and again they have thrown themselves into the fires of war, holding their ground or pressing the assault with a fierce determination. Over their long history, there are many examples of the Salamanders withstanding terrible odds, tenaciously waging war until they alone emerge triumphant. Since the massive battles of the Unification Wars, the Salamanders have sustained 90% or more casualties over a dozen times -- bleeding themselves dry to preserve needed victory. Always, they rise again.
When the original Space Marine Legions were split during the Second Founding, there was no need to break up the Salamanders. They had sustained so many losses during the fighting of the Horus Heresy that their reduced strength would not warrant such measures -- or so argued Vulkan. Soon afterwards Roboute Guilliman, the Ultramarines Primarch, laid down the standards for the Adeptus Astartes in the Codex Astartes. The Salamanders simply rebuilt to Chapter strength, rather than to the vast numbers of a full Legion.
The Salamanders follow most of the guidelines prescribed by the Codex Astartes, although there are some noticeable differences. The most obvious of these are the number and size of their companies, their adherence to the Promethean Cult, and the unique Chapter rank known as the Forgefather. According to their ancient lore, their Primarch Vulkan left behind nine artefacts -- nine technological relics of incredible craftsmanship wrought by his own hand. These he left for his sons to find, and wield if they should prove worthy enough to discover them. The Primarch scattered these wonders across the galaxy, both to prevent Mankind's enemies from winning a great store of matchless artefacts and also because he knew that even the grandest prize is worth nothing if it is seized without challenge equal to its worth. Since Vulkan's mysterious disappearance, thousands of Terran years ago, the Salamanders have appointed one of their number to serve as Forgefather.
It is a great honour for any Salamander to be chosen as Forgefather, for the title is only given to the most heroic exemplar of the Chapter. To be so named, the Space Marine in question must be a great warrior, skilled in battle -- but this alone is not enough. The Forgefather must excel in the qualities that the Salamanders themselves esteem most highly -- self-reliance, fierce loyalty, sacrifice, uncompromising determination and tenacity. No matter the odds, a Salamander does not relent. These are the hallmarks of the Chapter and have been since the days when their Primarch first walked amongst them. The Forgefather is often chosen from a leadership position -- typically, but not always, one of the Captains of the companies. Upon becoming Forgefather, the individual renounces his old position, title and name and takes on a new role and the name of Vulkan. The Primarch of the Salamanders was named Vulkan for that was the name given to the greatest of the salamanders, the giant lizards that roam the volcanic mountains of Nocturne. It is the Forgefather's task to seek out and find the artefacts left by the Primarch –- five of which have already been found. It is his role to sacrifice the solace of brotherhood for a life lived mostly in solitude and duties yet more perilous.
As the close of the 41st Millennium approaches, the current Forgefather of the Salamanders is Vulkan He'stan. Since his earliest days as a Scout Marine, He'stan had been a much-noted warrior. He alone of his recruiting class captured a unique beast. For his mantle he slew a mottled tri-horn, amongst the most vicious and cunning of their reptilian breed. Even teams of veteran drake-hunters might struggle to accomplish such a deed. He'stan's skills as a smith -- working his hammer upon the anvil -- were such that the master artificers stopped over his works and admired them. The sentiment was expressed in a number of ways, but all amounted to the same: truly did the blood of Vulkan himself run in the Novice.
The Salamanders' fortress-monastery is not upon Nocturne itself, but instead resides upon its giant moon, Prometheus. In the halls of that edifice can still be found trophies of war brought back by He'stan from his time serving in the Battle Companies. When he was promoted to the 1st Company -- the Firedrakes –- He'stan's ability with Bolter and Flamer saved his squad more than once, his bold actions and great hardiness winning him many accolades. But it was his leadership, stamina and sheer determination that truly sealed He'stan's meteoric rise to Captain. During the Ork raids and resultant seismic activity of the awful time known as the Fire Year, it was He'stan's inspired and tireless defence that saved so many of Nocturne's citizens.
He'stan had served the Salamanders with great distinction for nearly a standard century when the Pantheon Council commanded he set down his burdens as commander of the 4th Company and don the mantle of Forgefather. In solemn and proscribed ceremony, He'stan relinquished his old titles and duties and emerged out of the same flames and in the same manner as their Primarch. He would follow Vulkan's trail -- searching for details of the Primarch's lone ventures about the galaxy and for clues about the hidden relics. It would be an isolated existence, as cut off from others as Nocturne had been from the rest of Humanity. As Forgefather, He'stan would maintain his seat upon the Chapter's ruling Pantheon Council. However, his post would ensure that he was an irregular attendant at best, for his travels were to be long and perilous.
In the pursuance of his quest, He'stan has walked a crooked and winding path across the galaxy. He has been guided from system to system by clues inked within the Tome of Fire. These are the texts that the Salamanders' Primarch left behind before his last and final disappearance. In them are words of wisdom and guidance for his sons, but there is more besides. Within those many volumes, secrets were revealed. Prophecies, clues and references were left for the wise to decipher. For the Salamanders know, as their Primarch taught, that the forged blade must be tested and retested, as the strongest metals are folded in upon themselves over and over again until, at last, they find their utmost strength. So did Vulkan leave behind the answers, buried in hidden sigils, disguised as not-yet-deciphered code.
More than anyone in the Chapter, the Forgefather knows the Tome of Fire expertly. He, more than any other, calls upon its guidance to lead him on its trail. It is as if, across millennia and the depths of space, the will of the Primarch Vulkan still moves the warriors that bear his genetic legacy. He'stan's knowledge of the Tome of Fire and his ability to navigate its labyrinthine chapters are unrivalled. He has spent years studying its pages, committing their wordings to memory. On his long and lonely voyages, this is how He'stan spends his time -- in constant reflection, poring over each word, studying each symbol for a secret meaning. Once, perhaps, He'stan had been bold and outgoing -- now, he is more thoughtful and reflective than ever.
Although alone, detached from the Salamanders' chain of command, the Forgefather can call upon his Battle-Brothers as needed and direct their actions to aid in securing any clues. To the rest of the Chapter, even those who knew him previously, the Forgefather has become a figure of legend and utmost respect. In the Forgefather, they see reflected aspects of their Primarch himself -- for the Forgefather follows in his footsteps and carries about him artefacts forged by Vulkan's own hands. Indeed, amongst He'stan's gear is equipment borne to battle by Vulkan during the Primarch's days fighting beside the Emperor at the birth of the Imperium.
The Nine Artefacts of Vulkan
As the close of the 41 Millennium approaches, five of the nine hidden artefacts of Vulkan have been recovered, three of which are personally borne by Vulkan He'stan. The Forgefather is protected by Kesare's Mantle -- the legendary scaled cloak taken from the skin of a drake slain by the Primarch. In his right hand, he carries the Spear of Vulkan -- a weapon forged by Vulkan himself, its incandescent blade so powerful it can set even ceramite ablaze. He'stan's other hand is encased within the Gauntlet of the Forge, a mailed fist cunningly wrought to summon fire at need. This is the one artefact that He'stan is most proud of -- for he himself recovered it. The tale of how he took it from the Eldar Corsair, Lord Iath Bloodweaver, after defeating his warhost in battle is just one of the dozens that are now told about He'stan.
The Quest of Vulkan He'stan
Vulkan He'stan devotes his every hour towards the recovery of the final four relics and the completion of the quest. It is written in the Tome of Fire that only when all nine artefacts have been recovered and returned to Nocturne will Vulkan judge the Salamanders to be sufficiently tempered; only then will he return to lead his sons to battle. Hunting for the relics is dangerous work. So far, the quest has claimed the lives of each Forgefather that came before He'stan. It seems an impossible task, for the Forgefathers have been hard at work searching for many thousands of Terran years -- but the Salamanders do not begrudge this challenge. Rather they accept it with the same stoic pragmatism with which they go about all their duties.
In his searchings, He'stan has visited alien planets, the abodes of Traitors and even the Immaterium, searching that nether-realm for traces and hints of his lost Primarch. Often, clues are only revealed once such places have been scoured clean, and if the task is too large for He'stan alone, he will call for the aid of his Battle-Brothers. The Salamanders do not hesitate to bring their full might to bear at He'stan's command. They too would endure any woe and suffer any loss to retrieve the Primarch's gifts. For it was in his teachings that through hardships would come deliverance -- the tempered blade is the strongest. Thus far on He'stan's epic journey there have been more false trails, more misreadings than successes. So it has been for every Forgefather before him. Yet, piece by piece, He'stan Vulkan has built upon the knowledge and findings of his predecessors, and has further interpreted the Tome of Fire. He knows that he is on the right track and that revelations are not given, but earned.
The path is not without pitfalls, and sometimes leads away from the quest itself. Whilst searching for clues in the Ultima Segmentum, He'stan ran afoul of the Arch-Arsonist of Charadon. This began what the Salamanders call the Flame Wars -- a running series of engagements that, by its conclusion, required the efforts of two full companies of Salamanders. Early on, He'stan had concluded that the trail was false, but by his actions an Ork WAAAGH! was broken, and the lives of many Imperial civilians saved. Vulkan himself would not be displeased with such a result -- indeed, it was as if that was, in itself, part of the test.
Not all the wars that He'stan has been involved in have been of his own choosing. Twice now, the Necron Overlord Trazyn the Infinite has instigated attacks upon He'stan. The Necron artefact collector attempted to wrest the Spear of Vulkan from He'stan's hands for the first time in 878.M41, for he covets that technological marvel greatly, but was defeated in personal combat by the Forgefather. Indeed, it is widely guessed that Trazyn was behind the demise of several Forgefathers in the past -- although this has never been proven. In a later plot, the ancient Necron attempted to lure He'stan into a trap, during the Tochran Crusade of 943.M41, but the stalwart Forgefather thwarted his plans.
Aboard the Grim Scythe
During one quest, as just an exmaple of the valour required of the Forgefather, Vulkan He'stan's path led him from a world in the midst of the Zombie Plague, through the Black Nebula and finally to the Space Hulk codenamed the Grim Scythe. He'stan had needed help in tracking the derelict Space Hulk, for it had a disturbing habit of sliding into the Warp only to reappear hundreds or thousands of light years away. Answering his call for aid came Vulkan's Wrath, a Salamanders Strike Cruiser. Aboard was half of the Salamanders 3rd Company and a supporting squad of Terminators -- enough troops to risk boarding the drifting Space Hulk. Led by He'stan, it was not long before a single Boarding Torpedo smashed through the hull. Although now aboard, they were trapped in the twisted wreckage -- hunks of metal hull and bulkhead wrapped around their reinforced tube.
With a hiss and flare, the Multi-Melta ate through beams and bulkhead alike, opening a vent into the darkness beyond. Waiting only long enough for the melted metal to solidify, Vulkan He'stan was the first through. The Terminators behind were revving their Chainfists, ready to enlarge the gap so their massive frames could fit through. Although he and the Space Marines that followed him could see in the dark with their auto-senses, it was out of habit that He'stan led the way with the glowing blade of the Spear of Vulkan.
The only sound was their ceramite boots echoing on the grated decking. Before long, the boarding party had broken into a long corridor stretching into darkness. They advanced cautiously, for there were signs that the Space Hulk was not empty. For one, so much Warp-contamination clung about the vessel that the Auspex gave no readings, showing only a single pulsing heartbeat, as if the hulk itself was alive. He'stan had seen too much to believe that this was happenstance or coincidence. A thick, viscous substance dripped down the walls, and disturbing gurgles of sludge-like liquid could be heard moving in the network of pipes that ran along the hall's ceiling. He'stan recalled the horrors of the Zombie Plague and he warned his comrades of his fears: Plague Marines, or at least Renegades in service to the foul Lord of Decay.
He'stan was searching for the Chthonic Hammer -- a mining ship that had been lost in the Warp at about the time of Vulkan's disappearance. He had reason to believe the Primarch had spent time aboard that ship, perhaps even aiding its search for rare metals. After much tracking, the Forgefather had reason to believe that ship formed part of the conglomerate of hulls that made up this enormous Space Hulk. What else he might find, He'stan did not rightfully know...but the profusion of pestilent moulds growing on the walls gave him strong indications. He halted before a heavily sealed blastdoor. Using hand signals only, he set the squads in fire-breather formation -- a tactical deployment that led with a Heavy Flamer and kept strong fire support to the front and rear. At his signal, the Terminators stepped forward, Chainfists sending up sparks as they cut into the solid ceramite. It was, thought He'stan, the perfect place for an ambush. Soon the ancient ship was filled with the sound of Bolter fire and the sibilant hissing of Heavy Flamers. The battle of the Grim Scythe had begun...just another step in the quest to discover Vulkan's legacy, and ensure his return.
In the wake of the Great Rift's birth, many believe that the devastating empyric disruption to communication and travel has rendered He'stan's quest impossible.
Yet it is in this darkest hour that a fresh clue has revealed itself; an ember burning bright in the dark of the Imperium Nihilus, upon a world named Zero.
An ember that hints at the location of the Artefact of Vulkan known only by the name Unbound Flame...
The Artefacts of Vulkan
Only four of Vulkan's original nine artefacts does He'stan seek -- the others have been found through the travails of previous Forgefathers. He'stan himself is already the keeper of three, including:
- The Spear of Vulkan - A mighty relic Power Weapon that takes the form of a huge master-crafted halberd, once wielded by Vulkan himself. The incandescent blade of this polearm can set even ceramite ablaze.
- Kesare's Mantle - A legendary drakescale cloak made of Adamantium-hard drake scales that was made from the near-inpenetrable hide of the infamous salamander Sho'Valla.
- The Gauntlet of the Forge - A master-crafted armoured gauntlet with a built-in Heavy Flamer that incorporates a set of digital weapons, whose molten rage none can endure.
The other two recovered artefacts remain on the Salamanders' moon of Prometheus, for they are valuable beyond measure. One is the Forgeship Chalice of Fire, whose vast manufactoria provide the Salamanders with their weapons of war. The next is the Eye of Vulkan, a spacebound Defence Laser assembly that stands eternal vigil over the Salamander's fortress-monastery on Prometheus. Of the remaining artefacts, the Engine of Woes, the Obsidian Chariot, the Unbound Flame and the Song of Entropy, only the names are known. Their size, form and location are locked within the Tome of Fire, there to be uncovered as the Primarch's prophecies reveal themselves.
- Codex Adeptus Astartes - Space Marines (8th Edition), pp. 102, 138
- Codex: Space Marines (6th Edition), pp. 112, 194-197
- Codex: Space Marines (5th Edition), pg. 93
- Codex Supplement: Salamanders (8th Edition), pg. 36
- Warlords of the Dark Millennium - Vulkan He'stan, pp. 3-13, 21-27
- Firedrake (Novel) by Nick Kyme