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The Arban and the Saman

By Laurel A. Rockefeller

The Arban and the Saman is a work of fiction by Laurel A. Rockefeller set in the early years of the Mongol conquest of the Jin Dynasty (金朝).  All characters are works of fiction without direct reference to any real person, living or dead.  While inspired in part by historical persons, any names or characteristics similar to any person, past, present, or future, is purely coincidental.

Love the song “Spring in Luoyang?” that appears in English and in Chinese in this novella? Find sheet music for it in Jonathan Condit’s Music of the Korean Renaissance: Songs and Dances of the Fifteenth Century. Published by Cambridge University Press (2009).




Copyright © 2017 Laurel A. Rockefeller

All rights reserved.

To my soul family—wherever and whoever you are!

May we merry meet again soon in love and peace.

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Historical Notes

Chapter One

Biya of the Aisin clan stood like a willow among her students. Petite yet nimble, she wore the white robes and white headdress of a newly initiated shamaness. One white gyrfalcon flight feather adorned the front of this ceremonial crown. In time, she would earn others as she continued to learn and grow. Though born and raised in nearby Mukden, Biya’s advanced training in the central capital of Zhongdu far to the south gave her a new appreciation for life in the smaller cities and towns of the homeland, towns focused on growing wheat and millet for bread, flax for linen, and sheep, oxen, and pigs for meat and milk. From the forests they cultivated wax, honey, pine seeds, and ginseng which her people discovered centuries before to be a most powerful medicine. So powerful were the medicines of her people that the Chinese adopted them despite their general disdain for the northern peoples, calling them “barbarians” and treating her people as little more than animals.

It was, finally, this attitude that soured the capital for Biya. How could she prosper and thrive as a person, let alone as a spiritual being, when so many of those around her hated her for being part of what they considered an inferior race? For all the charms of the beautiful capital with its many temples and shrines from cultures around the world, Biya discovered that peace came easiest among her own people, even if many of her students did prefer hunting or fishing over reading and writing!

Suddenly, Biya found herself shaken out of her reverie by the sound of many horses galloping at a ferocious pace. Biya turned to the children, “Ayambi! Go inside at once!” As the children scattered and headed for shelter, Biya stood to face the approaching horsemen.

“Taifin!” called the nűzhen officer as he arrived and dismounted. Surveying Biya’s costume he kneeled reverently, “You are saman here?”

“I am,” declared Biya.

“I bring you grave news. Mukden has fallen. General Jebe has taken it on behalf of Chinggis Khan.”

“Abka Hehe help us!” cried Biya. “Is the full force of the horde headed this way?”

“Not directly, not the full might of their warriors. By last report they were headed south, towards Zhongdu,” explained the horseman.

“Zhongdu?” asked Biya with alarm.

“You are frightened, my lady.”

“Not more than three years ago I finished my studies there and earned the right to wear the sacred gyrfalcon feather. Many of my teachers are still in the city,” remembered Biya.

“I am sorry for your loss.”

“Will we not fight them?”

“How can we with wars on two fronts? The war with the Song persists in the south. Chinggis Khan attacks the homeland here in the north. How can we stand against them?”

“Stand we must for if we do not we will lose all that we are,” declared Biya simply. Humbled, the horseman turned and led his horse in pursuit of food and water.

That night visions flooded Biya’s dreams. A face she’d never seen before floated before her, his eyes a piercing green that seemed to reach into her very soul. Twenty-nine charging archers seemed to fly around him, his deel glowing with fire and fury. Blood coated his hands. At first it seemed like the blood of an enemy warrior. A woman’s scream sounded. Pain, sorrow, terror. Pain inside her. Another cry, this one younger—a new-born babe. The blood on his hands—not a warrior but a baby’s! A thunderous voice sounded, “As I will it, it shall be! You will comply.” Panting Biya woke to find herself alone in her bed.

Two weeks later alarm bells sounded across the Jurchen town. The ground thundered in response as thirty warriors and their horses approached. Biya readied herself for this, adorning herself carefully to reflect her status. If the town was to fall it must fall without loss of life. Now was not the time to oppose the khan, not unless he pressed the issue.

Ten minutes later the hordes-men broke through the town’s simple palisade defences. Proudly the hordes-men’s arban paraded his warriors through the centre of town. Biya strode forth and met him, “Mini bata you have come to claim this city.”

“Who are you?” asked the arban.

“Biya. I am saman here. The gods forbid you from trespassing in this place. You have ignored them. There will be a price.”

“Father sky has given us this land as our own,” countered the arban.

“Is that the word of your sama or is that yours? We heard your khan goes south to Zhongdu. Have you abandoned him?” countered Biya.

The arban dismounted from his horse and met Biya’s eyes with his own, piercing green ones. Biya gasped as she recognized the face from her dreams, “My khan sent me here to make sure his new subjects in the north recognize him as their new ruler. Your khan has abandoned Zhongdu and fled. These lands and all we survey are ours now.”

“We will resist,” asserted Biya.

“I dare you to try!” smiled the arban as he motioned for his warriors to fan out into the city in search of resistance.

“Then I will resist!” proclaimed Biya bravely.

“One woman against the might of the khan? Not likely,” dismissed the arban. Without thinking Biya swung her fist at his face. The arban caught her by the wrist, “I was hoping you would do that!” Smiling he bound her hands behind her back. The arban raised his voice towards his men, “I will deal with this one. Do not disturb me. If I am successful we may yet take this town without loss of life for either side.” The arban pushed Biya through the streets, “You will take me to your home.”

Angrily Biya complied until they reached her modest wooden house, “This is it; I live here.”

The arban shut the door, “What was all of that about out there? You know better than to try to hit me. Did you want me to kill you?”

“I would strike you down if my vows did not forbid it!”

“Of that I am certain. I am certain you want me dead or think you do in any event. But that is not the real reason. You will tell me. Why do you want to die? Why did you stumble when your eyes met mine?”

“I am saman; my reasons are my own.”

“Stubborn! Defiant! I should kill you now. You would like that.”

“I know what you have come here to do. Death would be easier than what you have in mind for me.”

“I see! You are not the only one with visions, saman. I have the sight too and I knew you from the moment our eyes met. I know who I was to you in lives long past and who I will be in lives still to come. Do not fear me and do not resist me. For I am your future.”

“I will die first!” yelled Biya resolutely.

The arban met her eyes, “Yes you will, but not as you intend.” Using the force of his superior size and strength, the arban pulled Biya towards her bed. Unfastening first his belt and then his outer deel, he partially undressed himself before undressing her as far as her bindings permitted. Slipping his right hand under her underdress he touched her breast tentatively before massaging it deeply, his fingers probing to undermine her resolve with physical stimulation. Biya gasped as his efforts succeeded. Without a kiss, without meeting her eyes again, the arban set about his task. Against her will, Biya’s flesh betrayed her. Tears escaped her eyes as a strange mix of sounds escaped her. At length the arban closed his eyes and let his body finish. This was not the way he wanted this to begin, even if some part of him relished in the conquest, in the euphoria of sex with someone new and undiscovered. Soberly he unbound her and let her hands escape her garments to leave her fully naked before him, “I am sorry for this. You left me no choice.”

“Rape is always a choice.”

“You would not come to me willingly,” protested the arban.

“You come here as a conqueror and expect me to immediately whore myself to you? Why would any woman do that?”

“A wiser woman would have,” insisted the arban. “But you are not wise yet. Only one gyrfalcon feather adorns your priestly headdress. Do not think I failed to notice, saman. You are barely a woman as you Jurchens count these things.”

Biya met his eyes briefly before looking away, “Are you done despoiling me, Sir? May I not cover myself or must you continue to look upon me in my shame?”

The arban handed her her underdress, “Cover yourself if you must for now, Biya, but I am not done with you. I will make this place my lodging for the night and I will sleep at your side whether you will it or not.”

“I have no choice in the matter?”

“Did you think you would have a choice? Do you really expect my leave to go before I am ready to let you go?”

“I had hoped you were done with me now I am deflowered and despoiled.”

“Abka Hehe does not let her people off so easily, Biya. She is like our Father Sky. Perhaps she is his wife. You will do as She commands. You will not be allowed to run. I am your future. As your Mother and my Father command, so shall I do. They command me stay here and so I shall,” asserted the arban.

Evening came to Biya’s town. With a knock on the door two of the arban’s warriors entered with prepared food for them and laid it across Biya’s table. Quietly the arban gave them instructions to rely across all their warriors, including for Biya’s home to be guarded at all times against any attempts to escape. Biya tasted the Mongol food tentatively, “I am surprised they brought so much food. I thought as your prisoner you wished me to hunger so I might weaken against your advances.”

“Why would I want you to weaken or suffer in any way, Biya?”

“You raped me, didn’t you?”

“Did I beat you? Was I unkind?” asked the arban.

“Rape is violence, an assault and the worst kind of assault. I wish I were dead!”

“Do you really think there was malice of any sort in what I did?”

“Malice is at the heart of what you did.”

“Malice is personal, Biya.”

“And forcing yourself upon me is not?”

The arban rose from the table, “Biya! Biya, please! Stop fighting me! I am not your enemy!”

“Then why did you do what you did? Why won’t you release me now that you have made your point about Mongol power over us?”

“Because that is not why I am here!”

“Why are you here?”

“I told you already. I know your soul. I have known you in lives before this one and I will know you in lives still to come. Our souls are one, Biya. Now I have met you I cannot turn away from you nor can I will you pain or sorrow of any sort.”

“Then let me go!” plead Biya

“No, not until the visions I have seen come to pass and I know my time in this life with you is over. Resistance on this matter is futile,” declared the arban as he picked up his spoon and continued to eat.

An hour passed in silence. Not trusting Biya, the arban stayed up as long as she did though sitting several feet away from her to give her some space. Finally, Biya gave up, went to her bed, and went to sleep.

Four hours later Biya woke to find the arban curled up contentedly against her like a tender lover. Biya tried to distance herself. The arban stirred, “Not so easy to escape me. I did not become arban of this unit by being neglectful in my duties.”

“What do you want?” asked Biya.

The arban smiled quietly, “You.”

“Then take your prize, conqueror. I cannot stop you.”

The arban stroked her cheek romantically, “Not the prize I want right now.”

“Then what?” asked Biya. The arban raised himself up a little onto an elbow and draw her face closer to his. Sweetly he landed a tender kiss, the first kiss of Biya’s life. “What was that for, Mongol?”

“Your pleasure,” smiled the arban as he kissed her again, this time with a psychic wave attached to it. “Stop fighting this and look at me, Biya. Stop seeing the deel and the ornaments of my rank. See me. You know me! Let me show you who I am!”

Obediently Biya opened her mind. A thousand images flashed before her in rapid succession, many of them romantic or erotic in nature. Biya’s eyes widen, “Impossible! You are a myth! This must be a lie!”

“Let me show you it is not a lie! Will you let me show you?” asked the arban, his spirit racing.

“Yes! Be beware! In the spirit realm I am very powerful. I have never entered the realm through that door. I cannot say what will happen,” warned Biya.

“Paradise!” replied the arban as he kissed her again romantically, his hands caressing her body to stimulate her into readiness. With his soul still locked intently upon her, he felt his body shift into position to begin. Biya felt him ready and nodded her consent as mind, body, and soul made love to her.

Inside her head voices blended together, “You will comply. You will give yourself to him fully. You will cease in your resistance. He is your past. He is your present. He is your future. Hear us and obey or rescind your vows.”

“I do not understand,” answered Biya.

“You will,” answered the arban as he continued his lovemaking. “Lower your shields and be mine now! Hurry! I cannot hold this off much longer!”

“I don’t know how!” cried Biya’s spirit as she felt the arban’s body finish.

The arban sighed with disappointment at Biya’s spiritual weakness. Spent physically he knew there would be no more trying again to reach her that night.

Morning came. Quietly the arban tested Biya by putting his arm around her shoulders. Facing no resistance, he slipped a hand under her underdress and touched her breast. Probing a bit, he watched as she responded contently to his touch. The arban turned her around and kissed her sweetly, “Will you consent to be my lover, Biya? Have I proven myself to you that much at least?”

Biya nodded, “I will yield in this so long as it is for the right reasons.”

“You did not lower your shields last night. I tried to reach you, but I will not violate you. I cannot violate you. We are one,” affirmed the arban as he kissed her hands.

“You wish to try again.”

“Yes. You must pass this test, Biya. I cannot yield on this matter until you do.”

“I understand. When do you wish to try again?”

“If you think that is all I want from you, then you are gravely mistaken. Perhaps you think that men’s lives are all about war or toil or hunting or sex, but it is simply not true,” corrected the arban.

“When will you dismiss the guards around us?”

“When you have passed the tests from the gods and goddesses and when I know you will no longer flee from your destiny.”

“And if the khan should order you away from here?” asked Biya.

“He won’t—at least not for a very long time. I am only an arban, the lowest officer rank.”

“Why haven’t you told me your name?”

“You know why. Names have power. Mine comes at a price: the complete lowering of your shields in the spirit realm. Once you have done that and stopped sabotaging your healing abilities you will find my name quickly enough. Until you do that, you lack the power you need to help your people. Yes! Ironic, isn’t it? I come to you to empower you to help your people resist the very government I represent. Our Father Sky and your Mother Heaven have a sense of humour!” laughed the arban.

“They do indeed!” agreed Biya.

Three days passed. As the arban ordered the continued occupation of the town by his warriors Biya found herself stunned that in all that time he never kissed her, caressed her, nor did he make any sexual advance upon her. It left a strange void inside her after the intensity of the first twenty-four hours she knew him. What puzzled her more, she minded the lack of his touch. Finally, as the sun set she confronted him as he served their dinner, “Why have you not continued with the test?”

“Who says I have suspended it?” asked the arban.

“You rape me, you seduce me, and then after I am fully willing to be had you leave me alone for three days? What are you doing?”

“How do you feel about that?” asked the arban casually.

“I’m furious!” yelled Biya unexpectedly.


“I don’t know why!”

The arban laughed, “Yes, you do!” The arban took her hand sweetly, “You have to want this, Biya. Making you wait, making you yearn is the best way to get you to lower your defences. I am ready to begin right now if you like.”

“And let our dinner get cold?”

“It will keep,” reassured the arban as he moved her towards her bed and kissed her. Nodding, Biya closed her eyes as she felt the warmth of his hands on her breasts, her mind drifting into a meditative trance as she let his body do the work of readying them for love making. Quietly she felt herself lowered into her bed and his body into position to meet her.

Biya called to him with her mind, “Where are you? Where are you?”

“I am here, Biya. Let me in! Receive me!” replied his spirit.

“Come to me! Show me your name!” called Biya. In response she felt his body obey, filling her with a physical rush that felt incredible after days without it. “Show yourself to me! I want to know you! Whatever this path is, I want to walk it with you!”

“Then marry me, Biya! Be my wife again as you have so many times before in eons long forgotten!”

“Yes, I will marry you, but who are you?” called Biya’s spirit.

“I am Mongke Gal, the Eternal Fire,” laughed the arban’s spirit.

“But who are you?” she asked again.

“I am he whose spirit touches your spirit always. I am in your dreams, in your mind, in your heart. What you do affects me and what I do affects you. This has always been so since the dawning of everything and shall be until the world, the universe is no more!” answered Mongke Gal’s spirit as his body accomplished its task. Mongke Gal opened his eyes and spoke with his voice, “Will you have me? Will you marry me?”

Biya kissed him, “I will marry you, Mongke Gal. When the light of day comes, I will marry you.”

Joyfully Mongke Gal held her close, happy for the first time in his life.

Dawn broke over Liaoning. As Biya slept comfortably, Mongke Gal dressed himself near the fire and took up his weapons for the first time since first entering Biya’s home. Opening the door quietly he slipped out secretly, his hand signal to the waiting guard indicating Biya was not to be allowed to leave. Furtively Mongke Gal found his second in command, a gifted archer named Sumny Gal.

Sumny greeted him, “How goes your quest, Mongke Nachin?”

“She has given her consent, though how far I trust her I cannot say.”

“Do you doubt the visions that brought us here?”

“No. I trust Father Sky on this and I trust what I’ve seen and felt in the spirit realm. But let us be realistic, Sumny. I am the enemy to her and as such must be resisted. She knows she cannot fight me with her flesh. For one, her vows forbid it. But she can fight me with cunning. In her position I would do whatever it took to create a sense of security in my captors so I might find a means of escape. Even for her, a promise made to the enemy cannot be enforced. Until I become precious to her, fully and completely, there is always a reasonable chance she will lie to me to survive,” explained Mongke.

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