Before reading Vulkan: Lord of Drakes, I only knew two things about the primarch of the XVIII Legion. I knew Vulkan was a hugger, and he’s a perpetual. You can’t throw a stone in the world of WH40k without finding some reference or meme about #VulkanLives.
David Annandale’s primarch novel won’t shed any additional light on Vulkan, and yet it encapsulates everything you need to know about Vulkan, how he feels about his Legion, and vice versa. It was a beautiful story, one where I did shed a couple of tears. It was just so sweet.
Before Vulkan Joined His Legion, There Were Orks
I know, another Annandale novel with orks, right? What can I say? He likes writing orks, and darn it if he doesn’t write them well. It also helps that the orks were one of the only real xenos enemies back then, but that’s neither here nor there. The XVIII Legion from Terra is in the middle of a massive war with the orks. For the last year, they have been fighting to free a newly conquered system from an ork krumpin’. The fact that I mentioned it’s from Terra is incredibly important, because Vulkan hasn’t reunited with his Legion just yet.
The Emperor only recently found his lost son, and He’s spent the last few years building up Vulkan’s Legion from his warriors on Nocturne. Even though Vulkan is eager to unite his Nocturne sons with his Terran sons, his father urged him to wait until the time is right. He claims that it has to be at the moment that the Terran Legion is ready to accept him as his primarch. Considering the other struggles we’ve seen between Terran Legions and primarch homeworld Legions, it makes a bit of sense. Also, if you’ve read Gav Thorpe’s Angels of Darkness, you’ll know that this strife was part of the reason for the rebellion against Lion El’Jonson.
So when is the perfect time for the Legion to meet their primarch? The Big E declares it’s when the Terran Legion is nearly wiped out against the orks. Swooping in to the save the day, creating instant adoring fans is a bit cliche, don’t you think, Big E sir?
But before Vulkan gets the news, he wrestles between obeying his father and wanting to be with his whole family. He almost doesn’t care about the right timing; he just wants to meet his family. Maybe to give them hugs? I haven’t read anything with him where he hugs, but I hear often that he’s a hugger.
Here He Comes to Save the Day!
Now when Vulkan does get the go ahead to meet his family, he’s rather upset to learn that they’ve been embroiled in conflict for over a year without his knowledge. Daddy E says it’s not until now that the time is right—you know, right before extinction is always the right time—and he must go to help them finish the war.
As of this point in the war, the XVIII has lured the orks away to an uninhabited planet, but they’re not doing so well. Only a handful remain, and their Lord Commander was nearly cut in half by an ork chieftain’s mechanical claw. Not to mention, the orks have a moon that they’re flying (somehow) as their base. Yes, I did hear, “That’s no moon,” in my head. The Legion’s last military battleship tried to disable the moon with ramming speed. They were QUITE unsuccessful. If that wasn’t enough, the planet is a volcanic one, full of active volcanoes at that. With each eruption, thousands of orks die, but then the Astartes lose places to hunker down. The moon, no matter how close it is to the surface of the planet, isn’t affected by the volcanoes.
It’s at this moment that Vulkan and his Legionaries from Nocturne swoop in. He sends half to attack the orks from one side of the planet, to draw them away from where the Terrans are bunkering. The other half, with his lead, are drilling into the moon. I went back and forth between awe and laughter during this battle between a tank fitted with a drill and hordes of orks throwing themselves on it to stop it. The worst they were able to do was slow the drill down, since their innards were gumming it up a bit. There was also an epic battle between Vulkan and the ork warlord that nearly cost Vulkan’s head, but of course he was triumphant in the end.
It was when the moon crashed down on the planet that Vulkan made his triumphant leap down in the middle of the orks trying to overrun Terra’s last stand. I totally imagined that he landed in the classic superhero pose (that, according to Deadpool, is really hard on the knees). As he fought the chieftain that nearly took down the Lord Commander, the Terrans instantly knew who he was. They had to force themselves to NOT bend down on one knee and continue fighting.
The Sounds of WH40k Family
The best part of the whole book was when Vulkan ripped off the chieftain’s claw and stabbed him in the chest with it. It reminded me of my Dad insisting that when Beowulf ripped off Grendel’s arm, he beat him on the head with it. That anecdote aside, yes, this moment was some rather obvious symbolism, but the point is just as powerful. You come for Vulkan’s sons, you will get done f***ed up. No one messes with Vulkan’s family.
His reunion with his sons, his conversation with the Lord Commander before he passes away, and his Salamander speech all brought the novel together with a sweet, yet powerful closure. I went into this primarch not expecting much, and instead came out oh-so-pleasantly surprised.
I kind of feel bad getting this as a pleasant surprise after Jen’s vastly disappointing experience with Angron: Slave of Nuceria. Then again, I guess that’s what she gets for liking the Traitor Legions.