In Warhammer 40k Vulkan is one of the Space Marine Primarchs who remained loyal to the Emperor of Man during the Horus Heresy, losing most of his forces – the 18th Legion Salamanders – in a traitor ambush at the outset of the war, before following his own long, painful path back to the Emperor’s side on Terra. A consummate craftsman and sympathetic leader, Vulkan is among Warhammer 40k’s most beloved characters – read on for his full story.
Warhammer 40k’s Vulkan has grown in recent years from side character to a key player in the setting, mainly thanks to several Horus Heresy novels focusing on him.
Never willingly taking the centre-stage like Roboute Guilliman of the Ultramarines, Lion El’Jonson of the Dark Angels, or Sanguinius of the Blood Angels, Vulkan has nevertheless become an integral part of many of the setting’s key events, along the way installing his green-clad, fire-loving Space Marines, the Salamanders, as one of the more popular Warhammer 40k factions to collect, paint, and play.
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Come with us as we meet Vulkan of the Salamanders – craftsman, blacksmith, Primarch, and perpetual.
Who is Warhammer 40k’s Vulkan?
Crash landing on the planet of Nocturne after being spirited away from the Emperor of Mankind’s laboratories on Terra, Vulkan found himself raised by kind folks who were under constant threat of Drukhari raiders.
Like many of his Primarch peers, Vulkan’s preternatural strength, skill, and intelligence allowed him to unite the planet behind him and eliminate the Dark Eldar threat, ensuring the pirates would never again ravage his homeworld.
While Vulkan and his people celebrated the raiders’ defeat, a stranger appeared, challenging Vulkan to tests of strength, endurance, intellect, and craftsmanship. For eight days the two contested, with neither winning an upper hand. The final test saw them hunt Nocturne’s infamous, deadly giant salamanders, with the largest prize being declared the winner.
Through a twist of fate, Vulkan was nearly slain and had to be rescued by the stranger, whose larger prize fell into lava – lost forever. With the stranger empty-handed, Vulkan was declared the winner upon returning to the celebration. Vulkan, however, bent his knee to the stranger – who revealed himself as the Emperor of Mankind, and declared that any who would value life over pride was worthy of his service.
Unlike many Primarchs, Vulkan was not immediately united with his legion; instead he studied and worked with the Emperor for many years before finally being granted command of the newly-named Salamanders. Together, the Salamanders and their Primarch fought many battles during the Great Crusade – the Emperor’s war to reunite humans across the galaxy under his banner.
In the process, Vulkan’s legion began to gain a reputation for exercising unusual compassion and taking care to avoid civilian casualties – though they can only be considered particularly humanitarian or philanthropic relative to the norms of the Warhammer 40k universe; the Salamanders still put entire planetary populations to fire and the sword. Vulkan also used this time to hone his weapon-crafting abilities, forging many of the legendary weapons his Primarch brethren wielded into battle.
Vulkan the perpetual
Unfortunately for the Salamanders and Vulkan, the Dropsite Massacre of Isstvan V – the opening act of the catastrophic civil war known as the Horus Heresy – inflicted a heavy toll on both legion and Primarch. Suffering crippling losses, the Salamanders believed Vulkan dead, though in secret his traitorous brother Konrad Curze, primarch of the Night Lords legion, had spirited him away to be tortured into madness.
Here, Vulkan discovered that, like his father the Emperor, he was a perpetual: he was functionally immortal, able to regenerate from any wound and return from death. A sadistic psychopath, Curze used this to his advantage, torturing and killing the Salamanders Primarch many times over.
Eventually Vulkan managed to escape while in orbit around the Ultramarines homeworld of Macragge, falling through the atmosphere and nearly burning away as he crashed into Roboute Guilliman’s planet.
Despite being pursued by Curze and the mysterious Cabal – a group of scheming agents from various Warhammer 40k xenos races – Vulkan was able to restore his sanity and memories, and began a long journey back to Terra, accompanied by three of his Salamander legionnaires.
It wasn’t a straightforward trip. Navigating with difficulty through the esoteric dimensional network known as the Eldar Webway, Vulkan and his companions had to fight through the Dark Eldar stronghold of Commorragh, before finally emerging into the Imperial Dungeon, where he was reunited with the Emperor.
The Emperor revealed that Vulkan had been summoned to fulfil a task. As a master craftsman, he was to create the Talisman of Seven Hammers, a dead man’s switch that would incinerate Terra, should Horus win the Siege of Terra or should the Emperor fall. Despite his misgivings, Vulkan crafted the device, installing it in the Golden Throne before seeing to the defence of the Imperial Dungeon.
Throughout the Siege of Terra that followed, Vulkan fought many battles, most notably against his brother Magnus the Red, Primarch of the Thousand Sons – now lost to Tzeentch, the Warhammer 40k chaos god of sorcery, trickery, and forbidden knowledge. Vulkan bested Magnus, the so-called Crimson King, destroying his physical form, and thereby banished the daemon primarch to the Warp.
At the climax of the Siege of Terra, when the reawoken Emperor, Sanguinius, Rogal Dorn of the Imperial Fists, and a party of Adeptus Custodes all boarded Horus Lupercal’s flagship the Vengeful Spirit to put down the rebel warmaster once and for all, Vulkan elected to stay behind.
As the last remaining Primarch on the ground, Vulkan commanded the final defence of the Imperial Palace against the incoming horde of traitors at the gates – and stood guard over Malcador the Sigillite and the Golden Throne.
Vulkan after the Heresy
Like his brother Leman Russ of the Space Wolves, Vulkan did not stay long with his legion after the end of the Heresy. After attempting to kill Fabius Bile of the Emperor’s Children, he departed the Salamanders legion for good, informing his sons that he would return in the End Times.
1500 years later, during the War of the Beast, Vulkan appeared once more to lead forces against a never-ending tide of Orks. On the planet of Caldera he led a force to destroy a huge Ork vessel known as an Attack Moon, before joining the crusade to Ullanor to slay the warboss known as The Beast.
In fact, our last record of Vulkan’s whereabouts puts him at Ullanor at that time. In the closing moments of the war he boarded The Beast’s Temple-Gargant – a gigantic walking war machine the size of a 40k Titan – killing the Ork Warboss and setting off an explosion that destroyed the Gargant, but seemingly Vulkan too.
Though the wider Imperium of Man now believes the Primarch finally dead, Vulkan’s Salamanders still search for him, even in the 41st millennium – believing that, if they reunite all nine of the sacred Artefacts of Vulkan, he will return to lead them once more. The old, heresy-era acclamation of ‘Vulkan Lives’ remains in the hearts of many Salamanders (and Salamanders players in tabletop Warhammer 40k).
Available through Forge World, the Vulkan model depicts the Salamanders Primarch as he stands over one of his fallen Space Marines in the middle of battle.
Armed with his hammer Dawnbringer and his custom bolter known as the Furnace’s Heart, this model can be used in Horus Heresy games or slotted into its diorama base for display.