There is much debate by characters in the Obernewtyn series as to the real identity of the slave trader, Salamander. Although it is not mentioned as a possibility by the characters in the book, I believe that Salamander is really Seresh, the twin sister of the Sadorian tribeswoman Jakoby. She is first introduced in TSK and most of my evidence comes from this book.
I haven't had a chance to see if IC has given us any clues about Salamander's identity outside of the books but it seems to be a fairly popular theory.
To try to avoid confusion, I have used "he" wherever I am talking about Salamander, and "she" when talking about Seresh.
We have not yet actually met Seresh, but heard about her in TSK from her twin sister, Jakoby. Due to the Sadorian practice of submerging pregnant women in the mildly tainted isis pools, Seresh was born with a deformed jaw. The two girls grew up with their mother away from the rest of the tribes until they were five, when her mother was forced to send Seresh to the Earthtemple as a novice. She was unhappy with this life and, after a few years, ran away and has not been seen since.
The main piece of evidence suggesting that Seresh may be Salamander comes from the rule of books: authors don’t include characters and information unless it is relevant. Although Seresh’s history explains Jakoby’s attitude towards the immersion practice, there is too much information about her for not to pop up later in the series. Supporting this is the fact that a kasanda told Jakoby Seresh had survived.
A kasanda summoned me and told me that Seresh had not died but had stolen coin and escaped upon a ship… The overguardian had dreamed it and dreamed that I must be told. – Jakoby, TSK, pg 954
IC has confirmed tis and said that she will become an important character.
Another indication as to the identity of Salamander is that, in all of their speculations, IC allows her characters to assume that he is male, even though there is no evidence to prove this. This suggests that he may, in fact, be female. This is particularly likely given IC's tendancy for strong-willed female characters.
Evidence revealed by characters in TSK eliminates several previously popular Salamander candidates. Daffyd discovering that he has dark, Sadorian coloured, skin, immediately discounts Ariel, leaving us with a Sadorian (male or female), or a Gadfian from the LotRQ. This took some time to discover as Salamander is fanatical about secrecy. To this end, he keeps his face and body covered at all times and uses a spokesperson for issuing orders. This would have the double advantage of hiding Seresh’s deformed jaw and the fact that she is female. It is also mentioned that the wraps covering his face are very similar to those used by Sadorians in the deep desert.
His head was entirely covered in a loose black cloth similar to that worm by the nomadic Sadorians when they travelled across the blazing white heart of their desert land, only he also wore black bandages about his face, concealing all but fierce yellow eyes. – TSK, pg 270
The yellow eyes are also a hint as they appear to be unique to Sadorians in general and Jakoby in particular.
Salamander is famed for his sea navigation skills and open water sailing. Seresh is in the best position to learn these skills. All Sadorian children are taught to sail from a young age. Although Sadorian sailing is predominately coastal, Seresh was adventurous as a child and often sailed out further than others.
It has always been the Sadorian custom to remain in sight of land when we take our greatships to sea. Indeed we have gone vast distances in that way, but even as children being trained, my sister and I were wont to venture further out from shore in the little children’s coracles made for us by our mother that she liked; my sister out of natural adventureness, and me for love of her. – Jakoby, TSK, pg 81
The Sadorians also have maps showing LotRQ, and may have records of open sea sailing methods from when the captured Gadfian slaver taught them seacraft to rescue their stolen women. His ship also closely resembles the Sadorian spicewood ships.
Another indication that salamander is Seresh comes in the form of his relationship with Ariel. We know that they first met each other when Ariel sold the survivors of Henry Druid’s camp, and that they have worked together closely since. I believe that they may have had a closer than business relationship and that the expensive, Sadorian-style clothes and jewellery found in Arial’s house on Norse Isle are Seresh’s. This would fit not only with Salamander’s wealth and Seresh’s Sadorian origins, but also with the fact that she liked beautiful clothes and things as a child.
Seresh loved pretty things. She would dress in my mother’s silks and jewels and dance with such grace it was pure beauty, and neither of us new that she was hideous to behold. – Jakoby, TSK, pg 954
Two of the main questions surrounding Salamander, other than his true identity, are why he enslaves people and why he avoids the Sadorian ships. The obvious answer to the second question is that he knows that
Sadorians despise slavers even more than murderers. – Elspeth, TSK, pg 977
and that if he was found
that he would be despised as a thief of freedom and captured and sentenced to the desert walk. – Elspeth, TSK, pg 977
A less obvious motive may be that Seresh is subconsciously afraid of being in the position where she is enslaving her sister, whom she still loves.
I believe that her wish to enslave and sell people, despite having already amassed huge wealth, is a form of revenge. She knows the Sadorian attitude to slavery and is flaunting the rules of the Earthtemple whom she sees as having stolen her freedom as a child.
The woman mentioned as being with Salamander when he is first introduced, is important only as being his mouthpiece. This is due to the fact that his true identity is unlikely to have been decided at that time.