Gruadh and Macbeth return to Moray in late August. Macbeth transfers his household from Elgin to Craig Phadraig in the northeast. As they ride noisily from one fortress to another, Macbeth notes that a warlord trying to intimidate his enemies “should not travel about with puppies and children.” Gruadh counters that by doing this he shows his strength and rallies his constituency “with the humble appeal of your escort.”
Although not traditionally a woman’s role, Gruadh increasingly understands what it takes to be a successful warlord. She offers her husband sound advice on how best to rule—advice that proves especially helpful because it increases his power without violence.
A few weeks after their move, Gruadh and Macbeth receive a letter from King Malcolm, announcing he’s installed Black Duff as Fife’s mormaer. Malcolm acknowledges Graudh’s lineage and gives her lands and property but strips her of her inheritance and rights. She is unhappy, but glad to own a small part of Fife—some of which she gives to Dolina who she is sure will want to leave Abernethy once Duff arrives.
This letter is an insult to Gruadh, whose land King Malcolm is taking away because, as a woman, he doesn’t trust her to oversee it. Although she is angry, she understands that she must not act on her anger and instead should enact revenge in a subtler way.
In the hall one evening Dermot tells the story of “The Three Sons of Tuirenn.” One aspect of the story involves a man diving into the ocean and encountering dozens of bana-ghaisgeach, or warrior women. The next day Gruadh considers these warrior women, and how she is part of their Celtic legacy of women who took up arms and fought on their own or beside their husbands for hundreds of years.
Gruadh has often faced criticism for her fiery personality and interest in swordcraft, but her behavior fits into a long tradition of Celtic warrior women, who have been immortalized in stories.
Gruadh notes that although the church does not approve of warrior women, it is too far away to control the actions of the Gaels. She adds, “warlike behavior in a woman is not sinful heresy, and is sometimes even necessary.” She also thinks to herself that she has an obligation to her legacy to protect herself and her sons through any means necessary.
Gruadh believes that her interest in war and occasional violence is in fact a part of her femininity. She wants to protect her family, and sees fighting as the best way to do it.
Gruadh has another dream of the future; in this one, Macbeth fights a single opponent as a bloody battle rages around him. Gruadh feels an intense foreboding when she wakes from this dream and does not share it with her husband.
Gruadh doesn’t fully understand what this dream means, and therefore doesn’t want to upset Macbeth by sharing it with him.
Macbeth rides into his territory to curry favor with his people. Gruadh spends much of her time with Lulach. She prays daily, and occasionally finds time to practice with her sword.
Gruadh manages to find a way to incorporate both her more traditionally masculine and feminine interests into her life.
That winter Gruadh and Macbeth return to Elgin. Gruadh and Macbeth often have sex, but she has not become pregnant again. Maeve suggests that Gruadh’s continued insistence on practicing with her sword and her desire for revenge are physically changing her body and making her unable to carry a child. Gruadh ignores Maeve, but later—when reflecting back on this time in her life from middle age—wonders if she should have heeded her nursemaid’s advice.
Gruadh often has to deal with advice about her infertility. Maeve repeatedly argues that Gruadh’s negative thoughts along with her interest in masculine pusuits like war and sword-fighting make her body too masculine and therefore inhospitable for a baby. There is no scientific basis for this, and Gruadh ignores her nurse.
Gruadh sends a request to Duff asking for Bodhe’s hawks. Two weeks later, Ruari arrives with hawks and hunting dogs, and asks to stay at Elgin with her. Later that winter Elgin gets a new priest, who Gruadh likes more than she ever liked Father Anselm. He tells her that “your wish for vengeance is sinful” but “understandable,” and hopes that she can find peace with time.
Although Gruadh continues to want revenge, she realizes that her desires are ruining her life. She looks to the Christian church for guidance, which is often where she turns when trying to find forgiveness and release. This reflects the fact that she, like many Scots at the time, merges both pagan and Christian traditions.
That winter Lulach takes his first steps, and sometime later Gruadh is pregnant again. She prays to the goddess Brigid for protection, but miscarries not soon after, before she even has the opportunity to tell Macbeth. She returns to her swordcraft and feels “a bitterness growing in me like a hard kernel nut.”
Gruadh desperately wants to be a mother again but her miscarriage makes her wonders if she is unable to carry life. Despite Maeve’s warnings, she continues with swordcraft, reasoning that it is not her hobbies that are preventing her from carrying a baby to term.