Warhammer 40K: Vulkan – Undying Primarch of the Salamanders
Today Loremasters, gather round to learn of the most humble and perhaps human of the Primarchs – Vulkan.
Vulkan was one of the twenty Primarchs created by the Emperor of Mankind. His Space Marine Legion was re-named the Salamanders in his honor. As with all the Primarchs, Vulkan inherited an aspect of his father. However, for him, this was the unique ability of being a perpetual, making him essentially immortal. Vulkan was able to regenerate fully from any injury, including a death that would vaporize him completely. During the Great Crusade, he gained a reputation for his empathy towards average humans as well as his craftsmanship abilities.
Youth on Nocturne
When the Primarchs were scattered from the Emperor’s laboratory, Vulkan arrived on the planet Nocturne during the Time of Trial as an infant and was soon taken in by the blacksmith, N’bel. N’bel raised Vulkan, and the young Primarch considered him his father. The people of his home town were astounded by this child, for within the space of three years, he was stronger and bigger than any man in his town. In addition to his massive physical size, he was the quickest mind, and the greatest blacksmith anyone knew of. Indeed, it was not long before Vulkan himself was teaching forging techniques to the people that had not yet been discovered.
The people of Nocturne were frequently raided by Dark Eldar. They were so used to this common occurrence, that each person in town had developed their own hiding place to avoid capture. When the Dark Eldar raided again in Vulkan’s fourth year on Nocturne, the Primarch refused to hide and instead stood out in the center 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. With a Primarch leading the defense, the people of the town decisively defeated the Dark Eldar. Within weeks the leaders of the seven largest towns on Nocturne had traveled to meet Vulkan, and they soon swore never again to hide from the raiders.
The Emperor Arrives
In celebration of the Primarch’s victory over the Eldar raiders, a tournament was decided to be held. Unexpectedly, a stranger arrived in the middle of the festivities. Of pale complexion 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 eight days, the contest included many tests of strength and endurance such as the anvil lift (in which the two held anvils above their heads for a half-day before the contest was called a tie). The number of contests is unimportant, however, because, by the end of day 8, Vulkan and the stranger were tied.
In the final event, both contestants were given 24 hours to construct a weapon, before using said weapon to hunt down and slay the largest salamander they could find. Climbing a high mountain, the two each went out to find a drake. Vulkan quickly found and killed a very large Fire Drake. However, on his way back, the mountain he was standing on – which coincidentally was a volcano – erupted, casting Vulkan over a cliff. Hanging for dear life over the precipice, Vulkan was determined to hang on to 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 eventually ebbed away until he knew he must decide between the drake and his life. At that moment, however, the stranger arrived, carrying his own drake. 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 Drake 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 Holy Emperor of humanity. Thus it was that the Primarch, Vulkan and his Emperor were reunited.
The Great Crusade
It is believed that at first Vulkan did not become unified with his own Legion for some years after his rediscovery, instead of staying alongside the Emperor under his tutelage and fighting by his side. When Vulkan was eventually reunited with his Legion, it was at the head of a fleet of 3,000 recruits.
Eventually, it was decided that Vulkan’s legion of Space Marines would henceforth be known as the Salamanders, in honor of the beast that had united him with his father. The Primarch continued to serve loyally throughout the Great Crusade. At some point during the Great Crusade, Vulkan and his Legion participated in the reconquest of a world designated One-Five-Four-Six (locally known as Kharaatan) together with the Night Lords led by their Primarch, Konrad Curze, and Mechanicum Titan Legion Legio Ignis and several Imperial Army regiments. During this campaign, Vulkan became enraged by how Curze and his Legion waged war after he found out that the Night Lords had killed the inhabitants of a whole city to seed fear amongst the population. This confrontation between Vulkan and Curze resulted in a brief but fierce argument between the two primarchs. After the conclusion of this campaign, Vulkan reported Curze’s behavior and actions to Warmaster Horus and primarch Dorn of the Imperial Fists.
Later, when Vulkan gave his protest to Horus, he sensed great darkness within him. This caused Vulkan to neglect to give Horus the hammer Dawnbringer.
Dropsite Massacre and Capture by Curze
Vulkan was present alongside Ferrus Manus and Corax at the Isstvan V Dropsite Massacre. During the battle, the majority of the Salamanders Legion was killed by nuclear missiles fired from the Iron Warriors. Due to his Perpetual regeneration abilities, Vulkan survived the explosion but found himself surrounded by hundreds of warriors from the Iron Warriors and Night Lords. Fighting to what he thought was his death, Vulkan was stabbed, shot and bludgeoned in unconsciousness.
Seeing a chance to torment his brother, Konrad Curze took Vulkan prisoner. The Primarch of the Night Lords spent the next several months trying to both break Vulkan’s spirit and trying to kill him. Curze personally cut Vulkan’s head off, ripped out his throat with a fork, stabbed him through the chest, and tore him limb from limb. Separately he had Vulkan eviscerated, shot with hundreds of bolters at close range, left in the venting shaft of a starship’s engine and even thrown in empty space completely naked. Each time Vulkan died, his body would regenerate completely, leaving Curze furious. When Vulkan would not break, Curze decided to end things in a duel. He made Vulkan navigate a maze designed by Perturabo, at the center of which lay Dawnbringer, Vulkan’s personal hammer, as well as the corpses of several of his comrades. When Vulkan retrieved his hammer, he managed to overpower Curze and activated a teleporter built into the head of the hammer. Vulkan was transported across the Galaxy into the upper atmosphere of Macragge and burnt up during reentry, confident he would wake up in the care of the Ultramarines
Recovery on Ultramar
His charred body was later recovered by the Ultramarines, who at first were unable to identify the corpse as anything more than a grotesque statue – all living matter having burned upon reentry. Over a series of days, Vulkan’s body began to regenerate, eventually returning to life and shocking the Ultramarines Apothecaries he had been entrusted to. Realizing who it was, the apothecaries summoned their Primarch, Roboute Guilliman, who was at first furious that no one could give him any answers as to how or why Vulkan had suddenly fallen from the skies. To Guilliman’s horror he found that Vulkan was broken mentally; violent and incoherent, attacking anything and everything he could
Unknown to everyone, a bond of sorts had formed between Curze and Vulkan, the later being able to sense when the Night Haunter was nearby. Vulkan broke free of his bonds and pillaged Guilliman’s private armory before setting off to hunt Curze. The two fought across an entire city, Vulkan finally realizing his regenerative abilities and using them to his advantage; by focusing his will, he could regenerate much quicker.
Their rolling duel was eventually stopped by the perpetual, John Grammaticus, who had been charged by the Cabal to permanently kill Vulkan with the Fulgurite, a petrified bolt of the Emperor’s own psychic abilities. Grammaticus stabbed Vulkan through the heart, killing both of them in a psychic explosion. Grammaticus regenerated, as he always did, but was aware this would be his last life. Vulkan never recovered.
Rebirth on Nocturne
Later, Vulkan’s corpse was reclaimed by the Primarchs Guilliman, Lion El’Jonson, and Sanguinius. Vulkan was placed in a stasis-capsule, hand-crafted by Guilliman himself, with the words Unbound Flame carved into the side. The few remaining Salamanders who had made it to Macragge were allowed to stand guard over their fallen Primarch until he could be returned to Nocturne. During their vigil, the Salamanders thought they heard a heartbeat coming from the casket, but dismissed it. Convinced he could be resurrected, an expedition back to Nocturne and restored from the Unbound Flame at Mount Deathfire.
Upon his resurrection, Vulkan was in a condition similar to a fugue state and remembered little. He found himself in the depths of Mt. Deathfire, conversing with an old man calling himself Deathfire personified. The man urged Vulkan to travel to Terra and led the Primarch to two items that he had no memory of forging: the Thunder Hammer Urdrakule and the Talisman of Seven Hammers. Vulkan and his three acolytes, dubbed the Draaksward, opened a Webway portal deep below Nocturne.
Journey to Terra
What followed next was an arduous journey through multiple Webway tunnels and exits to reach Terra. Vulkan and his Draaksward found themselves in a satellite realm of Commorragh, battling Dark Eldar. They next found themselves with the fleet of Shadrak Meduson, still engaged in a guerrilla war against Horus. Vulkan refused to take part in Meduson’s war and during the Battle of the Aragna Chain, left for Caldera. On Caldera, Vulkan was greeted by Eldar who guided him to a new Webway portal on the orders of Eldrad Ulthran.
Inside the Webway once more, Vulkan and the Draakswaard ventured upon Calastar, long since abandoned since the War Within the Webway. In Calastar the companions were beset by Daemons and Vulkan became engaged in a battle with the Great Unclean One Aghalbor. Using the Talisman of Seven Hammers, Vulkan was able to not only slay the Daemon but give it a True Death. Vulkan was saved by Eldrad, revealing himself as the Old Man of Mt. Deathfire. Revealing that the way into the Imperial Dungeon had been sealed by the Emperor, Eldrad opened up a new portal that took Vulkan and his warriors to the front of the Imperial Palace.
Reunited with the Emperor
The Emperor, now trapped on the Throne, revealed that he had not only been expecting Vulkan but had been guiding him this entire journey and had been the force that compelled him to construct Urdrakule and the Talisman of Seven Hammers. The Emperor told Vulkan that the Primarch’s purpose had always been intended for this moment, for he was designed to construct the Talisman and oversee its true purpose. The Emperor revealed that the Talisman was a weapon of unprecedented power, a dead man’s switch that would consume all of Terra should Horus succeed in the coming struggle. It would be Vulkan’s duty to press the switch that would destroy Terra but deny the world to the powers of Chaos. Vulkan was horrified by the prospect, but the Emperor told him that he must be the one to oversee the device for the Primarch has always been the most hesitant to use the weapons he forges. With that, Vulkan installed the talisman into the Golden Throne and took up position by the Eternity Gate.
Keeping his existence a secret save for a select few during the Siege of Terra, Vulkan next saw action when Magnus the Red and a group of his Thousand Sons infiltrated the Imperial Dungeon to kill the Emperor. Vulkan blocked a lethal blow by Magnus’ staff that had been intended for the Emperor’s form upon the Golden Throne, but quickly backed down and alongside their father bid Magnus to return to the Imperial’s fold. Vulkan became disheratened when Magnus refused the offer to return to the loyalists after the Emperor told him that he would have to purge his Legion due to its rampant mutations. Vulkan himself admitted he would have made the same choice as Magnus, but nonetheless again defended the Emperor against the Crimson King’s assault. Vulkan and Magnus then engaged in a furious duel, but was saved from a decapitating blow thanks to the sacrifice of Igen Gargo. Horrified by his sons death and taking up his Thunder Hammer, Vulkan wielded twin hammers to seemingly beat Magnus to submission. However before a visibly despairing Vulkan could deliver the final blow Magnus fully gave himself to the powers of Chaos and vanished from the Throneroom.
Little is known about him after this point. There are very few records – if any – of him fighting in the heresy after this point. It is also claimed he was one of the Primarchs to oppose the Codex Astartes. This, however, would not be for lack of courage or loyalty, but due to the crippling losses sustained at Isstvan V, where his Legion was cut down in size to but a few. Following the heresy, Vulkan chose to leave the Salamanders, claiming that, like Space Wolves Primarch Leman Russ, he would return in the End Times. That is the last anyone saw of Vulkan for the next 1,500 years until his reappearance at self-sacrifice at the climax of the War of the Beast. Vulkan was presumed dead by the Imperium. However, the Salamanders still hunt him in the 41st Millennium. They believe that he will return to them after they have found all nine of the Artefacts of Vulkan
Demeanor and Appearance
Like his brother Primarchs, Vulkan has a characteristic that sets him apart: his patience and humanity. Though possibly gene-bred into his temperament, this was also likely influenced by his upbringing in a small village. He demonstrates this characteristic many times on One-Five-Four-Four. Vulkan constantly gives commands in the heat of battle that will cause the least amount of casualties to the native population against the advise of Ferrus Manus and even his own men. It is spoken of among his brothers that Vulkan is the most suited to their Father’s vision of a peaceful Imperium.
Vulkan is the largest and physically strongest of all the primarchs. He is said to be as tall in his power armor as Horus is in his own, much larger Terminator armor, and is capable of overturning Space Marine battle tanks with his bare hands. During sparring matches with his brother Primarchs, Vulkan deliberately held back out of fear of hurting them.
Word of Vulkan
During his lifetime, Vulkan left prodigious philosophical writings, particularly those recorded in the Tome of Fire, a vast series of writings that, amongst other more mundane teachings, are said to hold glimpses of the future and prophecies yet to be fulfilled. Yet even the more mundane of his writings held profound lessons, many of which have gone on to become key tenets of the Promethean Creed.
‘Ours is a violent calling, but as adherants of the Promethean Creed we believe in the Circle of Fire. None can come back as they once were, but in death we are returned to the ash from whence we came to be born anew, our blood and bone bonded with the earth. Through fire are our remains made protean, through fire and the reunion with earth do we experience rebirth. After death, after our duty is ended, we give ourselves to these elements and in so doing become a part of them. This is the nature of the Circle of Fire.’ —
Words of Vulkan.
~May we all have the strength of humility to alloy with great power.