The night before Gruadh’s official betrothal she sneaks out of the castle to perform a ritual. She brings with her a stone with a hole in the middle (one of her Ailsa’s trinkets), a bowl of water, candles, and feathers. She walks around the stone and recites a chant to “invoke help and protection.” She looks into the bowl of water and hopes to see her future, asking “before dawn is done this day […] before the sun rises full, I ask that my future reveal itself to me.”
In times of trouble, Gruadh turns to religion and ceremony. Although she is not sure her spells will work, magic connects her to her mother, whose memory helps her feel strong and safe. She wants assurance that she is making the right decision by listening to Bodhe and marrying Gilcomgan, although in truth, she does not have another choice.
Before Gruadh can see anything in the water, Ruari, Finn, and Drostan interrupt her. They followed her into the woods in case she had planned to run away, although Drostan comments, “better she runs or fights, rather than casts spells.”
Although Gruadh sees Celtic tradition and magic as nothing to be ashamed of, others in medieval Scotland are skeptical, if not outright frightened of it.
Gruadh’s friends return her to the castle. As she enters the fortress and the sun begins to rise, Gruadh suddenly has a vision. Instead of seeing the future, she sees the present with a special kind of clarity: Macbeth is riding by and she sees their paths crossing as the sunlight “halo[s] his head with gold.” Above her fly two eagles, and a raven sits nearby. She sees two swords crossed in the practice yard. The sun rises and the sky around it is “like a spill of blood.” Gruadh sees that “the signs had appeared as a dazzling weave made of ordinary threads.” She understands some of the omens, and as a Celt, and the daughter and granddaughter of women with Da Shealladh, or second sight, has been taught to look for signs all around her. In this moment she realizes that she, like her mother and maternal grandmother, is able to see the future.
For the first time, but not the last, Gruadh has a vision of the future. Her mother, too, had Da Shealladh, and so she feels connected to her past and heritage even as she looks ahead. Gruadh is not able to decipher all the symbols, but some stand out: her path crossing with Macbeth’s suggests they will be important in each other’s lives. The sun like a “spill of blood” signals war and violence, as do the swords. Ravens symbolize death. The sunlight haloing Macbeth’s head, like a crown, suggests he might be king.
After breakfast, Aella and Maeve help dress Gruadh. She wears a green dress, even though it is an unlucky color, because it belonged to Ailsa. Gruadh feels as though she is being dressed for a beheading but participates in the betrothal ceremony anyway.
Gruadh continues to be unhappy about her betrothal, but knows as Bodhe’s only daughter, she has no choice. She does what she can to draw strength.
That night, Gruadh has difficulty sleeping, and gets up to wander the fortress. She runs into Bodhe in the great hall, and the two of them discuss her future. He tells her Moray will be a good home for her, and that it is powerful enough that the rulers of Moray are called king and queen of their land. Additionally, Moray holds enough power that its leader could potentially revolt and become king of Scotland.
Each time Graudh discusses her future with Bodhe she receives a little clarity on why he has matched her with Gilcomgan. Bodhe knows that Gruadh will be powerful as the wife of the mormaer of Moray, and that she will essentially be a queen whose position makes it likely she could one day be Scotland’s queen.
Gruadh understands that her marriage to Gilcomgan will make him even more powerful, will give Bodhe better access to King Malcolm, and will ensure his powerful lineage. She wonders why her father has never claimed the kingship himself, and why he uses her instead. Bodhe explains that he is happy having his heirs be kings and queens, even if he never himself ascends to the throne.
Bodhe understands what it will take Gruadh a lifetime to learn—sometimes, strategically, taking power for oneself does not make sense. Instead, Bodhe has done his best to install Gruadh in the highest possible position, so that through her political gains, his family line can be satisfied.
Gruadh wonders why, if Macbeth has a better claim to Moray, she isn’t marrying him. Bodhe explains that Macbeth is married, and although he has a strong claim, he does not officially hold the land. However, he adds that Macbeth and Gruadh could still marry if something were to happen to their spouses. Gruadh calls this “hateful scheming,” but Bodhe insists it is “strategy.” Their lineage has a claim to the throne, and since Farquhar has died it is Gruadh’s duty to make a bid. Because she is a woman she cannot be king, and Bodhe understands that she “need[s] a strong and ambitious husband.” Gruadh corrects him—she personally doesn’t need a husband; instead “our blood needs one.”
Bodhe continues to explain his grand plan to Gruadh. Because she is his only heir, and because she is a woman, he wants to marry her to the most powerful available man, understanding that her bloodline makes her powerful but that she cannot rule alone, and needs a partner whose position and lands will complement her. Because Macbeth is already married, he is out of the running. Gruadh understands the marriage is as much for the future of her family as it is for her own wellbeing.