That spring Macbeth, Gruadh, and an envoy of eighty men on horseback set out to survey Moray. Gruadh insists on brining Lulach so she can look after him, to prove to observers that she and Macbeth have a happy marriage, and to make their party look less like a “war band.”
As she did in an earlier chapter, Gruadh explains to Macbeth that by making himself look less warlike and violent he will win over his people.
As Macbeth and Gruadh set out, he mentions Enya, Thorfin’s grandmother, who now lives in northern Moray. Macbeth has met with her, and can attest to her powerful magic, although he will not tell Gruadh what she told him about her future.
This is the first mention of Mother Enya, who will become an important character in Gruadh’s life, a fortuneteller and witch whose power proves aspirational.
On their journey Macbeth, Gruadh, and their party stay with many friendly thanes. Gruadh can see that “approval gather[s] for Macbeth like a wave.” Across the territory men pledge their “admiration and loyalty,” and Gruadh notices men pledging specific numbers of soldiers who can rally behind Macbeth if he needs them. She recognizes that Gilcomgan was resented by his people, and understands that Macbeth knew this, and saw that his people were waiting for him to return to power because they had loved his father, Finlach.
Macbeth retook Moray in order to get revenge on Gilcomgan and to honor his father and his heritage. However, Gruadh can see that the people of Moray have always considered Macbeth their rightful ruler and wanted him to retake the region as much as he did. Now, the support they offer him is also a kind of bid to support him if he attempts to take the crown.
One morning, Gruadh asks Macbeth when he decided he wanted more power than could be attained by simply avenging his murdered father and taking over Moray, and when he began to aspire to be king. Macbeth said that from early childhood Finlach had told him he should be king. He was descended from kings and princesses, and now feels that to fully revenge his father he must not just be mormaer but king.
Gruadh observes that, if they were to become king and queen, they could avenge both of their fathers. Macbeth agrees, and reveals that he had always planned to use her heritage to make his claim. But, he adds, he did not know she would be such a perfect partner, or that the fateful death of Bodhe would motivate her, too, to seek out revenge.
Although Gruadh and Macbeth have previously discussed how their heritages and temperaments make them good partners, now their desire to avenge their fathers perfectly matches their ambitions. This moment further reflects how their personal fates are intricately tied to the fate of their country.
While staying with a mormaer whose territory, Ross, borders Moray, Gruadh listens to a bard tell the story of Deirdre and Naisi. Although Deirdre was hidden from the world with her father, she elopes with Naisi to live in a remote glen. They live in happiness for a while, but in the end Naisi is killed, and Deirdre kills herself in grief. That night, Gruadh talks to Macbeth about the story—she feels that Celts and Gaels no longer have freedom, and cannot live like Deirdre and Naisi anymore. Macbeth says this is for the best, and life is less brutal than it was. Gruadh worries Scotland will become too Roman, or Saxon, or Viking, and hopes they remain Celts.
Gruadh and Macbeth have different opinions when it comes to whether the new order, or old traditions, are better. This will continue to be a debate even as they gain power, with Gruadh clinging to Celtic traditions and Macbeth believing that Scotland and its inhabitants need to embrace Christianity and other relatively new innovations in order to be competitive in the future.
Later in their journey, Macbeth gifts Gruadh with a small dagger with which she can keep herself safe. They travel towards Moray’s border with Argyll, where Graudh’s mother, Ailsa, was born, and these men promise Macbeth three thousand men whenever he needs.
Macbeth’s gift, like Bodhe’s gift of a sword years before, indicates that he supports her continued practice with the sword, and that he sees her as an equal who should have say in his political and military endeavors.
That Saturday Macbeth and Gruadh go to pray at the local church. Macbeth leaves gifts for the priest, who promises to pray for Macbeth’s soul, but Macbeth “asked him to say the prayers for Moray, and all Scotland, instead.”
Macbeth and Gruadh often see their lives and futures as entwined with Scotland’s, and here they put Scotland’s wellbeing ahead of their own—praying for their land and nation instead of themselves.