She massaged water in Iyo’s hair – brushing it with her fingers.
“Wish I had a comb. That’d be easier…” She gathered his hair and began braiding. “Iyo is your battle name. What’s your birth name?”
“Promise you’ll protect it?” he asked.
“I won’t tell a soul,” she said, “Names have power.”
“Mark Skorn,” he said.
“Mark? Mark Skorn,” she repeated in a quiet voice. “Do you swear your life to the true crown of Shiloh – and promise everything in your power to keep it safe?”
“What?” Iyo asked.
“The braids are oaths,” Arrow explained. “I told you this earlier remember?”
“I thought you were joking. Can’t you give me a haircut without owing my life to the princess?” He turned around gazing at her. She leaned on his chair. Her face close to his.
“Look at this mess, Iyo,” she held up his tangles. “You’re unable to think straight. You don’t know why you’re fighting this war. Your dark hair is an expression of your soul – your inner mystery. It’s a tangled confused mess. It’s time to change. Come be a Royal Bodyguard to the princess – with me.”
He looked into her eyes, her face still inches from his. She didn’t break deep eye contact. Iyo without forethought grasped her strong hand.
“Yes,” he said, “I’ll be a Royal Bodyguard – with you.”
He turned, stopped, and glanced over his bare shoulder.
“Braid me,” he breathed in a low seductive voice. She inhaled a quick breath.
“Don’t say that,” the smile on her face disappeared into a scowl.
“It’s a joke,” he said.
“Yeah. OK,” Arrow took his long hair in her hands. Her razor glided close to his head. Clumps of hair fluttered to the cave floor. A stubble ran from the base of his neck to the crown of his head and around to his temples. His long top hair dangled. Arrow straightened his hair once again with her fingers.
“Mark Skorn, swear now your life to the true crown of Shiloh – and promise to keep it safe.”
“I do,” he said with a nod. She finished the main braid. Power surged in his chest.
She continued now braiding a smaller braid alongside the first,
“And do you swear to protect me, your sister in arms and fellow bodyguard?”
He paused and exhaled.
“Yes. I do.”
“I do swear it,” he uttered with pride.
She finished the traditional braiding.
“It’s done. You are no longer Mark Skorn,” Arrow pronounced.
“Rise. Stand a new man – and a servant of Shiloh.”
He closed his tired eyes, a slow smile creeping across his closed lips. And she overwhelmed his smile with a spirited kiss.