Gruadh continues to do her best to run her household. She observes Macbeth riding out into Moray and getting to know his tenants. She sees that the people of Moray love and respect him, and see him as their king, not as a usurper.
Seeing other people treat her husband as the rightful ruler of Moray helps her see him as her husband and not as a usurper.
One day Macbeth and Gruadh lock eyes as Macbeth plays with Lulach. Gruadh recognizes that he “yearns” for her, and that night he visits her room. He kisses her, and Gruadh feels “almost a forgiveness.” The two have sex, though it is more “courteous” than “passionate.” As Macbeth leaves he admits to her that he killed Gilcomgan. He hadn’t meant to burn him in the tower, instead anticipating that he and his men would evacuate. When Gruadh asks, Macbeth admits that he and King Malcolm planned it together. Macbeth does feel guilty, though, and explains “kin is the strongest bond […] even when murder is done, those ties do not break. Ever afterward, we must live with our deeds.”
Macbeth admits what Gruadh has long suspected—that he killed Gilcomgan. However, he did not do it in the cowardly way she had assumed—he did not mean to burn him in the tower. Although Macbeth is used to violence he is not always comfortable with it, and is uncomfortable with how Gilcomgan died because it was not a particularly noble or honorable death. He knows that for him to have a true partnership with Gruadh he must be open and transparent with her.
Catriona returns to Elgin in May to help with the birth of another child. Bethoc remains jealous and unwelcoming. One day Gruadh asks how Macbeth knew to fetch Catriona, and the midwife reveals she and Macbeth were childhood friends. Gruadh is jealous that Catriona knows details of Macbeth’s past and family, which he has not revealed to her.
Bethoc continues to hold her Grudge against Catriona. Gruadh, too, is drawn into this dislike. Both grudges are based on jealousy—Bethoc is jealous that Gruadh and Catirona are close, and Gruadh is jealous Catriona and Macbeth know each other well.
Bethoc, Aella, Gruadh, and Catriona discuss the prospect of Macbeth becoming king. Bethoc notes he would have to fight a war first. Catriona comments that men “understand life and death differently than women,” because women give birth and therefore “cannot bring ourselves to take life, knowing its struggle and value.” Gruadh pushes back. She says if killing someone would save her life or Lulach’s, she would do it.
Catriona has a fairly reductive idea of how men and women should behave. She thinks women are naturally more peaceful. Gruadh rejects this—although she has given birth she will (and has!) used violence to protect her son and herself, because she is caring mother, not in spite of it. Her embrace of both masculine and feminine traits will also serve her well when she eventually becomes queen.
Gruadh continues to argue with Catriona, who claims she “cast no blame” when her husband died. Catriona adds that women are “coals of the hearth fire,” whose role is to “accept and support.” Once again, Gruadh pushes back, asserting she “would rather be the flame than the coal.”
Gruadh is a fiery woman who holds grudges. Others see this as unfeminine, but there’s no reason that women should be more peaceful or supportive than men, a fact Gruadh realizes.
Over the summer Gruadh and Macbeth often lock eyes and Gruadh often feels a spark of attraction and connection, but she is too prideful to ask him back into her bedroom. She worries that without her pride she would be vulnerable.
Often, Gruadh’s pride and strength protect her, but in this situation they actively undermine her marriage.
Later that summer, Macbeth considers appointing a Catholic bishop in Moray. He asks Gruadh for her input and, impressed with her answer—that a Celtic man “who will think of Moray souls before himself” should be appointed—he muses that he should add her to his council. She points out he “already did”—that by marrying her he took on the burden of her advice and opinions. Furthermore, although she does not say it, her bloodline is more powerful than his, and so she feels she deserves a seat at the table.
Gruadh has long thought of herself as Macbeth’s equal, but this is one of the first instances where he acknowledges her power, influence, and expertise. Although he did not necessarily know it when they married, she has always expected to be an equal member of their partnership, who is able to speak on political and religious affairs.
Macbeth rides off to visit a thane for a few days, and Gruadh goes on a hunting trip with Finn and Angus. Gruadh, who once enjoyed hunting, is now more squeamish about killing animals, and her friends joke “motherhood had softened” her.
Gruadh remains tough in many ways, and will kill to defend herself and her family, but is now less likely to indiscriminately murder animals.
Gruadh realizes she is close to Catriona’s home, and decides to visit to mend their friendship. However, when she arrives she sees Macbeth’s horse tied outside, and realizes the two are likely sleeping together. Furious, she shoots an arrow into the door, and Macbeth and Catriona come out, half dressed.
Ironically, although in the previous passage Gruadh was unable to shoot animals, when enraged by Macbeth’s betrayal she is easily able to muster the strength to shoot an arrow at his door.
Gruadh returns to Elgin, furious. She plans to leave and return to Fife, but Macbeth arrives before she can and stops her. She accuses him of conspiring with her “personal enemy” Thorfin, of killing Gilcomgan, and of bringing his “mistress” and “whore” Catriona into their home under false pretenses.
Although Gruadh has been warming towards him, she is now overcome with anger at Macbeth’s perceived betrayal. Fairly, she’s upset that he has conspired with a man who she hates and has now cheated on her.
Macbeth tries to explain he and Catriona have been friends their whole lives and “sometimes sought comfort in the other.” Gruadh angrily observes “you take no comfort from me,” and he counters, “you offer none.” Gruadh asks him for loyalty, and he promises to break it off from Catriona. Still, he blames Gruadh’s coldness for his infidelity. She does not accept this excuse.
Macbeth blames his affair on Gruadh’s own coldness, but she points out that this is unfair. Although she was not acting like a traditionally warm and welcoming wife, in her defense he had married her by force, totally upending her life.
Macbeth tells Gruadh she can return to Fife, but she knows she can’t and won’t, as “obligation to [her] kin group” demands that she stay with Macbeth. She asks him what the purpose of their marriage is, and, explicitly for the first time, he says he believes their combined legacies will make them powerful enough to rule Scotland. Gruadh comments this will require loyalty. He agrees. Later that week, Macbeth and Gruadh begin to have sex again, sleeping together frequently and eventually sharing a bed permanently. Their relationship has reached a new stage—there is now a tender bond between them.
Gruadh knows that, as angry as she is towards Macbeth, she has an obligation towards him as his wife. Furthermore, she has an obligation towards her family to stay in their marriage. She understands that they will be powerful together, if they can forgive each other. For the first time, Macbeth explicitly acknowledges her family heritage, and the political potential of their union. Aligned towards the same goal, they are finally able to bond.
In July, Gruadh watches Macbeth oversee a judgment court. Seeing men clap and stamp for him, she feels as though the crowd is willing Macbeth into power, and this small noise will soon be a roar in Scotland.
Gruadh and Macbeth are increasingly a team. She understands that he can, and will, be king if they play their cards right.