King Malcolm and his men arrive at Elgin, and Macbeth greets them. Gruadh hopes that the King has come to avenge her dead husband but is disappointed when Macbeth invites him inside and he peacefully consents.
Gruadh is disappointed to see the king’s men, who have come as a diplomatic party, not a war band, which means that King Malcolm approves of the marriage and will not liberate her.
Gruadh also returns inside. A man introduces himself as Banchorrie. He is Macbeth’s uncle, and sent a messenger to Gruadh the night Gilcomgan died. She appreciates this “unexpected ally.” In the great hall the men drink. Gruadh wishes she had poison on hand but notes that she would spare Banchorrie.
Banchorrie sent Gruadh a messenger to warn her Macbeth was coming. She appreciates this. Still, she holds her grudge against Macbeth and now against King Malcolm, who seems to be on his side.
Macbeth suggests that Gruadh leave the room while he discusses politics with King Malcolm and the others, but Gruadh refuses, insisting she is interested in their conversation. Malcolm is unhappy to find Gruadh alive and is distressed to hear that Macbeth has married her. Macbeth claims he did it to protect her, but Gruadh protests this. She confronts Malcolm and “appeal[s] to king’s justice.” Malcolm asks Macbeth to send her away.
Macbeth incorrectly assumes that Gruadh will be uninterested in politics because she is a woman. Additionally, he and Malcolm will be discussing the death of her husband, which he doubts she will want to hear. Gruadh thinks his claim that he married her to protect her is a lie, but it is actually true—he knew Malcolm would send men to try and kill her once she no longer had Gilcomgan’s protection.
King Malcolm insists that his descendants must continue to rule Scotland for the nation’s own good. Macbeth disagrees, and argues that the old Celtic way is better. Malcolm insists Macbeth pledge his loyalty, especially since he gave him Moray. Gruadh understands that the two conspired to kill Gilcomgan.
Although traditionally royal succession has transferred nonlinearly, King Malcolm claims it is better for the nation if his direct descendants become kings. He might believe this, but it also is a way for him to ensure the longevity of his bloodline.
Gruadh turns to go, but before she does she grabs her sword, which leans against the wall. She swears to protect her unborn child, and declares, “No more of Bodhe’s blood shall suffer for your ambitions.” The men stare at her, shocked, before Macbeth finally escorts her from the room.
Gruadh will stop at nothing to protect her family. Although, as a woman, she is relatively politically powerless, she wants to demonstrate that she will go to any lengths to save her son, herself, and her bloodline.
That evening, Maeve and Aella comfort Gruadh as she cries. Gruadh knows women, especially ladies, are not meant to be impulsive and vengeful. Still, she stands by her oath.
Gruadh understands that her behavior is unfeminine, but she doesn’t care—her first priority is not performing gender roles but protecting her family.
Two weeks later Gruadh is happy to see the banner of Fife and Bodhe in the yard of Elgin. She is disappointed when she finds that her father has not come to save her. Instead he has sent thirty men and horses as a wedding gift and a sign of his approval.
Gruadh assumes that her father will be as angry as she is. However, she discovers he is happy with her new husband, leaving her alone in her misery and thirst for vengeance.
As time goes on, Gruadh realizes she is the only one who has not accepted Macbeth as the new mormaer. She comes to understand that he had broad popular support even before he took power.
Gruadh understands that her grudge is only hurting her—it will not lead to the dissolution of her marriage, and it just makes her life unpleasant.
Gruadh tries to find peace in her precarious situation, and one day goes to the chapel to pray. She is surprised to see Macbeth there, already praying. For the first time, she feels sympathy for him, and begins to soften.
Although Gruadh often turns to Celtic traditions for comfort, this is a rare instance of Christianity giving her the peace she seeks. Seeing that Macbeth is remorseful for his past actions, and is actively seeking forgiveness, she begins to forgive him herself.