Back in the great hall at Fife, Macbeth and Gilcomgan face off. Fergus urges Gruadh to watch the fight, especially Macbeth, to learn more about swordsmanship.
Some people do support Gruadh’s fighting lessons and have become more comfortable with the idea of her fighting and studying violence.
Gruadh considers the argument between the two men. She realizes that even if Gilcomgan hadn’t killed Macbeth’s father, Finlach, there would still be “cause enough for a blood feud” because of the complicated way that sovereignty is passed down, which opens up the claim to the throne to many prospective warlords.
The feud between Gilcomgan and Macbeth has two layers. The first is that Gilcomgan murdered Finlach, and the second is that Gilcomgan might genuinely believe Macbeth’s father was trying to groom him to take over Moray, which would go against Celtic, nonlinear succession.
Gilcomgan slices Macbeth across the jaw, but the fight continues. Macbeth hits Gilcomgan’s arm, splitting the chainmail and cutting into the skin, but still the fight continues. Next to Gruadh, a man catches her attention, and she is surprised to see Ketill, who she had assumed had been killed or injured when Bodhe recaptured her from Thorfin. Ketill says only that any wounds have healed and “peace and restitution have been made.”
Ironically, although Gruadh has not yet forgiven Thorfin for kidnapping her, Ketill has forgiven her and her family for their retaliatory attack, which left him injured. Although Gruadh will hold on to her grudge for decades, she will eventually learn to accept agreements of “peace and restitution.”
The fight finally ends when Gilcomgan stumbles into Gruadh and Bodhe forces the men to stop. Dolina takes Gilcomgan to treat his wound, and Gruadh tells Bodhe that she will not marry him, because he is old and a murderer. Bodhe points out that Gruadh’s consent is not necessary for her to marry. Macbeth overhears, and asks Bodhe if it is true that Gruadh and Gilcomgan will wed.
Although Bodhe tolerated the violence in his house, he will not allow Gruadh to be injured—both because she is a woman and because she is so important to their family line. This is also why he wants her to marry Gilcomgan: he believes this will help situate her safely in a position of relative power.
Gruadh tells Macbeth that not only will she not marry Gilcomgan, she would not marry him either. Macbeth warns her again against an alliance with Gilcomgan, but Bodhe says the betrothal will happen soon nonetheless. Macbeth calls the pair of them fools and leaves the hall.
Gruadh acts as though she has a choice in who she marries, and can reject men who seem too violent or set on revenge; in reality she has no choice, and will marry whoever Bodhe tells her to.
Bodhe explains to Gruadh that she must get married and this is the best match for her. She counters that it is only the best match for him.
With time, Gruadh will come to realize that the choices she must make aren’t always what are best for her personally. This marriage, for example, will not necessarily bring her love and joy, but it will help her family, and help elevate the status of her children.
Thorfin Sigurdsson interrupts them. Bodhe explains they have made their peace with him, but Gruadh still holds a grudge. Thorfin tells her he beheaded Harald, the man who assaulted her. Then Thorfin turns away and continues his conversation with Bodhe.
Gruadh holds onto grudges for decades, not yet understanding or agreeing with the politics of dropping them when an alliance is made. However, Thorfin has done his best to curry her favor—killing the man who tried to rape her in order to show her there need be no bad blood between them.