Provisional Text 1.0 (Comments welcome, as always.)
LEGIO XVIIII “SALAMANDERS”
Status: Loyal to the Imperium
The Salamanders are, unfortunately, among the most poorly covered of the original twenty legions of the Pre-Heresy era. Very little was revealed about them in the Old Chronology, and little else has been revealed, or changed, since the introduction of the New Chronology and the publication of the Horus Heresy novels. Indeed, much of what we know about Vulkan himself is told in half-remembered tales and stories shared in various iterations throughout the five successive Space Marine codices regarding his origins, and his subsequent discovery by the Emperor.
Vulkan, the adopted son of a Blacksmith, was discovered on the tectonically active agro-world of Nocturne fairly early during the Great Crusade. It would appear that Legio XVIII adopted its current name only after Vulkan agreed to submit to the Emperor following their famous series of strength and intellect based duels on Nocturne. The last of these duels involved the hunt of the massive, fire breathing beasts of the same name, who often terrorized the farms and villages of Nocturne. Vulkan, it is said, had proposed that the man who captured the largest Salamander would be declared the winner, with the defeated challenger bowing his knee and agreeing to serve the victor for the rest of this life.
Of course, most of the natives of Nocturne believed that Vulkan would, in fact, be the winner. Instead, Vulkan found himself caught on a precipice near a raging river of magma, and unable to extricate himself – being too proud of his kill to drop the body of the beast and therefore make his way to safety. The Emperor, by comparison, willingly sacrificed his own (clearly superior) kill in order to create a bridge across the magma and swiftly rescued Vulkan. Vulkan was so humbled by this act of extreme kindess, and so humiliated by his own overreaching pride in the face of it that he voluntarily bowed his knee to the Emperor, despite the fact that only he returned with an actual Salamander in tow.
What little has been written about Vulkan after this incident argues for a man of great intellect, with considerable abilities in tactics, artisan smithing, and leadership. Greatly beloved for his benevolence on Nocturne, it would appear that Vulkan learned his lesson in the early days with his father, and never again allowed pride to replace his judgement – perhaps a key factor in allowing the Salamanders to remain Loyal, and to survive their subsequent betrayal on Istvaan V.
As a Legion, the Salamanders deeds’ during the Great Crusade and the Heresy are less well recorded. Their martial prowess and absolute loyalty to the Emperor has been emphasized in the few accounts that we do have. Further, we are informed that the Salamanders were stubborn, voracious fighters, men who were capable of enduring extremes of terrain and opposition that would have weakened ordinary men, and perhaps even stymied “ordinary” Legions. The Salamanders are said to have fought along standard Astartes lines, with a preference for close combat and warfare in difficult terrain. Flamers and Meltas in particular were used with great expertise among the Salamanders, though these were hardly the only tools in their arsenal.
Most Salamanders were, in addition, reputedly smiths of at least above average ability. Virtually everything used by Legio XVIII was either crafted by the Legion itself or purchased and then improved with the expert skills of the Legion’s craftsmen. Master crafted armor, weapons, and vehicles were built both by the Primarch and the Salamanders themselves.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the Salamanders was their continued closeness to the people of Nocturne. Members of the Legion are reported to have been deeply tied to the villages, farms, and families from which many had originally come. Some remained as the political leaders of their tribes and villages. In earlier versions of the Old Chronology, it was even claimed that the Salamanders kept wives. This last part seems to have fallen out of favor with the writers at GW, but the closeness of the Salamanders to ordinary people remains one of the outstanding features of the Legion, a closeness shared by only a handful of their Battle Brethren.
Another unique aspect of Legio XVIII was its dedication, early on, to the Promethean Fire Cult, a fire worshipping religion that was as strong on Nocturne in Vulkan’s day as it was ten thousand years later. The cult was transported from Nocturne to the new headquarters of the Eighteenth Legion, a local moon called “Prometheus,” and subsequently Legio XVIII is one of the few pre-Heresy formations to have widely used Chaplains. The religion of the Salamanders has all the marks of a Greco-Roman Mystery Cult, and in the vein of such faiths, we know very little about its internal workings, doctrine, etc.
As part of this cult, members of Legio XVIII endured extreme trials upon recruitment; walking across hot coals, holding hot iron bars, exposure to extreme temperatures; these culminated in a hunt for Salamanders, with only the successful aspirants considered for elevation to full Astartes status.
The New Chronology tells us that the Emperor was a secular ruler who attempted to eliminate all vestiges of religion – but certain practices of the Space Marine Legions seem to indicate that these traditions were at least tolerated among some of the Astartes, and the Salamanders are perhaps the most notable exception to the rule. While not as fervently religious as the Word Bearers, neither were they as completely secularized as the Luna Wolves/Sons of Horus. This particular matter may be rectified or explained with the publication of a Horus Heresy novel dedicated to the Salamanders.
The most significant campaign undertaken by the Salamanders during the Heresy Era was the Istvaan V campaign (2 HE) in which the Salamanders, accompanied by the Iron Hands and the Raven Guard and their respective Primarchs, were marshaled for the destruction of the Warmaster Horus and his forces gathering in that system. The campaign culminated in the infamous “Drop Site Massacre,” in which four legions (the Alpha Legion, the Iron Warriors, the Night Lords, and the World Eaters) which had been intended as “reinforcements” for the Salamanders and their allies, revealed their true colors and opened fire on their loyalist brethren, breaking the backs of the three loyalist legions, who managed to survive only through the slightest of miracles.
Vulkan and the remnants of his forces retreated to Nocturne, where they began the long, slow process of rebuilding Legio XVIII. Very little else is known about the Salamanders beyond this point in their existence. They probably did play some role in the remainder of the war, but the Legion had always been among the smallest of the twenty, and it was incapable of providing more than a handful of companies by the time the Siege of Terra had ended. It has been suggested that the Salamanders may have played a greater role in the last great act of the Heresy Era – the Scouring – but this has, as yet, been unsubstantiated by the New Chronology.
Oddly enough, while it seems clear that Vulkan did survive Istvaan V, there is no clear indication as to why he survived, or how he escaped. It is to be hoped that this information will be provided in future Horus Heresy novels covering the Salamanders. Power Armor Variants
Very few images of Pre-Heresy and Heresy Era Salamanders exist. In those few illustrations, the Astartes of Legio XVIII are depicted in MkIV, MkV, or MkVI armor. No other marks of armor are displayed. This may be explained by a cryptic reference in the Collected Visions, which says that the Salamanders re-equipped themselves with new equipment in the months and years following the Drop Site Massacre. Alternative possibilities are that the Salamanders had access to higher quality armor due to their unique affinity for forging armor and weapons, that the images of MkVI armor are in fact older suits of power armor worn with the “Corvus” style helm, or that these are simply errors in continuity.
It is highly likely that the Salamanders did make use of the earlier marks of power armor (certainly MkII and MkIII would be good candidates for use by a Legion recruited early in the Great Crusade), but in the absence of any illustration or description, this can best be called an educated guess.
Terminator armor certainly became an important tool for the Salamanders, and continued to be used as late as the 41st century, but we currently lack any depiction of Heresy-era Salamanders in Terminator armor. It is worth noting that there is an image in Collected Visions
which is sometimes attributed to the Salamanders Legion. The caption, however, does not indicate which Legion to whom the Terminaotr belongs, and no Legionary iconography unique to the Salamanders can be seen. Some have argued that he is, in fact, a member of the Adeptus Custodes.
Those who wish to use this scheme might be interested to know that it is almost entirely burnished gold, ornately wrought, with a golden eagle above the helm. An embossed flame emblem can be seen on the Terminator's right shoulder pad.Livery
The official Pre-Heresy scheme of XVIII Legion was medium green, with yellow or bronze power cables. The Legionary device, the head of a Salamander in profile, was to be displayed in white. <Ed.Note: The image below is rendered in the incorrect color.>
There are a few variations upon this theme in the illustrations associated with the New Chronology. These include different shades of green, and the occasional use of different shoulder pad colors (usually dark green or black), but the only major difference in coloration occurs in the case of a chaplain, who is depicted in Collected Visions. The chaplain is wearing an iron colored suit of what is apparently master crafted armor, with the typical “skull type” helmet that would become far more common amongst chaplains in the Post-Heresy era.
While Salamander Terminators are fairly well known to the Post-Heresy Imperium, they are neither depicted nor widely discussed in the New Chronology as it currently stands. It is reasonable to assume that, given their inclination to close combat and the superior smithy skills of Legio XVIII, such armor was available in at least reasonable quantity and quality. However, there is no definitive livery for such elements in Salamander service.
Some of the suits of power armor depicted and attributed to the Salamanders have some unique features, primarily in the form of dragon-like crests and occasional reptile skin trophies. Though the use of these unique decorations is sometimes emphasized in Post-Heresy novels and sourcebooks, it seems to have been fairly restrained among the Salamanders prior to the death of the Emperor. The Salamanders certainly limited their trophy taking to animal skins, bones, skulls, and the like; they are never described as being inhumane toward their enemies, and the use of severed heads, arms, hands, etc. would be anathema to a Legion that is, at least outwardly, depicted as being the most “humane” of the twenty.
The use of reptilian themed decoration for armor would not be unreasonable, but it would probably not be as garish or over-done as it might be, for example, in a Legion like the Emperor’s Children.Vehicle Livery
Once again, we are at a loss here. There are very few depictions of Salamander vehicles for the Pre-Heresy/Heresy eras. The vehicles shown are painted dark green, with the Legionary device depicted in bright red. It is popular among modelers to include reptilian scales and dragon-like flourishes with their vehicles, but this kind of behavior is not attested in records prior to the 41st century.Controversy over Appearance
From the point of the publication of Rogue Trader in the late 1980s through at least the publication of Warhammer:40k 4th Edition, the Salamanders were described and depicted as being “dark skinned,” in whole or part. In layman’s terms, they were men of predominantly African ancestry.
In 2009, however, Games Workshop published the 5th edition of the Warhammer:40k rules. Controversially, the Space Marines codex printed for this edition of the rules changed things significantly. “Dark skinned” was interpreted to mean “black skinned”, as in the color of night, with glowing, red eyes. The relatively small size of the Legion and the subsequent lack of any known successor Chapters was attributed to the “genetic flaw” causing this mutation amongst members of Legio XVIII.
While it is beyond the purposes of this document to discuss the reasons for this controversy and to debate the merits and flaws thereof, it is worth pointing out that the issue is still highly contentious, Many gamers continue to maintain that the Salamanders are, in fact, largely recruited from a stock of African ancestry, rather than being black skinned and red eyed. Officially, it would seem that they are indeed the latter rather than the former, but a painter who chooses to go with the “traditional” African route for their Salamanders would be just as acceptable to most Pre-Heresy Gamers as any other option.Prominent Astartes of the Salamanders