As Gruadh and Macbeth travel for a wedding they pass three black ravens, a bad omen.
Ravens often symbolize death and violence. Later, after Macbeth is fatally wounded in battle, Gruadh will realize it was at the same spot she saw these ravens decades earlier.
At the wedding Gruadh is excited to see Bodhe, Dolina, and Malcolm mac Farquhar, her nephew. She still feels some resentment towards her father, though, and the next day when they are hunting with their falcons in relative privacy she approaches him. She wonders why he didn’t protest her second marriage, and wonders if he knew of Macbeth’s scheme to kill Gilcomgan and marry her all along. Bodhe denies any foreknowledge of her husband’s murder but reveals that while he thought she would be safe enough with Gilcomgan, he knew she could marry Macbeth, his first choice for her husband, if Gilcomgan was murdered. Still, he notes as much as he could hope for this outcome, “fate lent a hand.”
Gruadh loves her father but is upset with him. Although she is now happy with Macbeth, it took her a long time to get there, and she’d expected Bodhe to come offer support. Bodhe reveals that he’d hoped she would be able to marry Macbeth all along; Macbeth was his first choice for her husband, but because he was already married he was out of the question. Instead Bodhe tried to arrange the second-best first marriage he could for Gruadh, anticipating that it wouldn’t last.
Gruadh reports that Macbeth wants to be king. Bodhe knows this already, thinks Macbeth will be a good king, and believes Scottish leaders will rally behind him. Bodhe also tells Gruadh that Macbeth saved her life on the night Gilcomgan died. He sent his uncle Banchorrie to warn her, because he worried King Malcolm would try to kill her if she was left unprotected.
Gruadh realizes part of grudge against Macbeth was unfounded. Although he did murder her first husband, his marriage was for her own protection. He knew Malcolm would try to kill her and cut off her bloodline.
The pair returns to the hunting party, and Bodhe asks Gruadh to say a prayer for “the sake of those who share your bloodline.” He believes he will die soon.
Although not a prophet, Bodhe has a sense of his future. Once he is gone, he hopes his daughter will carry on as the family’s only heir of age.
Back in Elgin, Gruadh has a vision of men fighting. Both Macbeth and Gilcomgan are there. To the north is a ship that is also like a monster, and to the south are hordes of men. In the dream Macbeth is suddenly beside her and points to King Malcolm and Duncan, who are approaching, and says they must be stopped. Gruadh wakes up and realizes she has had a vision of the future: Scotland in chaos after old Malcolm’s death. Macbeth wakes up and she tells him everything.
Now that she and Macbeth are close, she shares all her visions with him. In this vision, the ships to the north are likely Thorfin’s Vikings. King Malcolm and Duncan, his grandson and next in line to the throne, together are ruining Scotland. Macbeth is Scotland’s only hope.
One day, as Gruadh stands outside, Ruari rides into Elgin and announces that Bodhe and Malcolm mac Farquhar have been killed. Although the attackers were anonymous, Ruari could see they belonged to “a man of note.” Gruadh goes to her bedroom to mourn and Macbeth joins her. Gruadh recognizes her bloodline is slowly being whittled down, and suspects King Malcolm is responsible. Macbeth, like her, is upset, and this comforts her for the night. By the next morning, however, Gruadh wants revenge.
Bodhe had predicted he would die soon, and he was correct. His and Malcolm’s deaths leave Gruadh and Lulach as the only living members of their bloodline. She knows she must work extra hard to protect herself and her son now, and believes one aspect of this will be proactively taking revenge against those who want her dead.
Gruadh and Macbeth travel to Fife for the funeral. They bury Bodhe, young Malcolm mac Farquhar, and Fergus, who was killed with them. Gruadh only cries in private and can feel herself “hardening within.”
After a lifetime of tragedy, Gruadh becomes more and more violent and traditionally masculine. This mirrors Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which Lady Macbeth prays to the gods to make her more masculine and therefore more capable of violence.
Gruadh must take care of loose ends at Abernethy. She allows Father Anselm to stay, because although she never got along with him, Bodhe did. Father Anselm is happy to remain in his home. He tells Gruadh he respected her father, and advises her to emulate him, “rather than fostering your pride and female independence.”
Gruadh respects Father Anselm on behalf of her father, but understandably struggles to deal with his sexism. Although his advice, to be less prideful, isn’t inherently bad, it comes from a sexist place.
Gruadh can see Bodhe’s kinsmen from Fife are want revenge as much as she does. She asks Macbeth to keep her involved, but he tells her to “leave it be.”
Gruadh is fixated on revenge, but Macbeth realizes it will take time, and fixating will only hurt her.
Black Duff, a cousin of Gruadh’s who is now a close associate of King Malcolm, comes to pay his respects. Gruadh realizes this means she must be careful not to say anything that can make its way back to the king, and seeing her understanding of politics, Macbeth observes, “we shall make a queen of you yet.”
Although Black Duff is her relative, Gruadh knows he has no loyalty to her. A lifetime of observing politics has given Gruadh a keen political eye. Macbeth increasingly sees what Gruadh already knows—she will be a good queen.
That night, Luag, the bard, recites the names of the significant men and women in Gruadh’s linage, from her ancestors to Bodhe to Lulach. She realizes Lulach will never be fully safe until King Malcolm, his children, his grandchildren, and his supporters are dead.
The bard’s account of her family’s history reminds Gruadh both of her obligation to her ancestors and to her living son, whom she must protect for the sake of their bloodline.
Drostan has returned from his monastery to pay respects. He is on official business, keeping a record for the scribes. Gruadh is happy that he will “record old Malcolm’s evil deed forever.”
Drostan, a monk who records history, has the power to make or break the legacy of politicians and kings This is thus a small, but powerful act of revenge.
During the funeral Gruadh thinks how she wants “mourning over so revenge could begin.” As she and the funeral party return to Abernethy after burying the bodies, Duncan, Crinan, and a group of men approach on horseback. They represent King Malcolm and have ostensibly come to offer condolences. When pressed, they deny that the king was involved in the Bodhe’s death.
Gruadh is single-mindedly focused on revenge. It has become an issue, superseding all other more normal emotions. Because she doesn’t give herself time to mourn, she will never truly be able to move on after the death of her father and nephew.
Duncan promises that when he is king the feud between Bodhe and King Malcolm will be forgotten. Gruadh promises that once she is Lady of Fife, although she will make an effort to make peace, her “men will never forget the death of their leader.” Duncan and Crinan are confused—they feel Gruadh cannot rule Fife as a woman. This frustrates Gruadh, which Macbeth recognizes, and he quickly ends the conversation.
Duncan knows he will be king, indicating the nepotism at play in Scottish succession. Gruadh knows that Duncan and his family were responsible for the death of her father, and so subtly suggests Duncan and his family will pay. Unfortunately, because she is a woman Malcolm plans to take the lands that belong to her away, only angering her further.
Gruadh is frustrated that as Bodhe’s daughter she cannot enact revenge herself and must wait for men to avenge her father for her, whereas if she were his son, she could seek revenge herself.
Although Gruadh places no limitations on herself, society makes it more difficult for her to enact revenge as a woman with no military or true political influence except though her husband.
The next week, while still at Abernethy, Finn, Macbeth, Gruadh and others discuss revenge. They wonder who sent the men who killed Bodhe, whether it was King Malcolm, Duncan, or even Crinan. Gruadh wonders when justice will be brought. She places her hands on the table and considers how she has “such feminine hands for such masculine thoughts.” Macbeth warns her it will be a “bloody matter,” but Gruadh is not put off.
Gruadh’s line about her feminine hands references similar lines from Shakespeare’s play, in which Lady Macbeth asks to be “unsex[ed]” so she can more easily enact violent fantasies.
Gruadh wants Macbeth to kill Malcolm, but he refuses. He argues installing someone from Bodhe’s bloodline in a position of power would be better revenge. Gruadh complains Lulach will not be old enough to fight for years, but Macbeth clarifies he’s talking about her as “rightful queen and claimant.” Gruadh knows she must be patient, but she wants swift violent revenge.
Gruadh wants to avenge her family as soon as possible, but what she has difficulty understanding is that revenge doesn’t always have to be immediate and bloody. Macbeth knows that the best revenge will be taking power from Duncan, the same power Duncan’s family tried to take from them.