Gruadh begins to practice fighting. Most of her father’s warriors don’t want to train her, and she has to endure comments about her weakness as a woman, but she practices with Fergus, and other men Bodhe has pressured into sparring with her.
Learning to use weapons is an uphill battle—most men do not think women should learn to fight, and no one wants to accidentally hurt the daughter of their boss, Bodhe.
Gruadh begins to practice with Finn, her foster brother. She’s offended when he wants her to use a wooden staff, but he explains that using other weapons will help her handle a sword. She learns during their lesson, and even gives him an accidental black eye. She feels “remorseful,” but is “aware warriors do not coddle each other.”
Learning to fight teaches Gruadh how to defend herself,f but it also teaches her more about violence. She must learn that sometimes violence is necessary or unavoidable, and she cannot waste time feeling remorseful when someone’s life is truly on the line.
Over the next year Gruadh improves—she upgrades to blunt metal swords from her wooden sticks and daggers. Still, she is expected to tend to domestic duties as well. She learns from Dolina, Bodhe’s mistress, how to run a household. She and her friend Drostan learn reading, numbers, and history from Father Anselm. Father Anselm doesn’t think girls need a through education, but Bodhe insists it is “Scottish custom to educate freely, including females.”
For the rest of her life, Gruadh will split her time between more traditionally masculine and feminine pursuits. This is the earliest example of the way she balances the domestic, and the military sphere. Celtic tradition is filled with women warriors, but Christian tradition is not, and therefore Father Anselm is one of the most vocal sources of opposition.
For her fifteenth birthday, Bodhe gives Gruadh a sword with a triskele engraved upon it. She is aware of the significance of this gift, although does not say what she believes that significance to be.
By giving Gruadh this sword, Bodhe is further endorsing her fighting lessons. The gift further serves to connect her to her mother, who gave her a triskele tattoo when she was a baby. It also is a nod to Celtic tradition, which has room for women warriors (unlike Christianity, which does not).