The following spring, Gruadh spends her days embroidering and eavesdropping on Bodhe’s conversations with other noblemen about politics and threats to Scotland. She knows that “a mormaer’s wife must be aware of such issues, and the wider scope of the world beyond her household.”
Gruadh has always been reluctant to practice exclusively feminine hobbies and is interested in more traditionally masculine pursuits because she suspects she will need this knowledge later in life.
According to the Roman church, women practicing swordplay is heresy, and so Dolina forbids Gruadh from practice in advance of her wedding. Bodhe doesn’t believe sword-fighting will put Gruadh out of favor with God, but does worry about their relationship with the pope, and so bans Gruadh from practicing as well.
Even as Gruadh begins to eavesdrop on Scotland’s political happenings, Dolina does her best to mold Gruadh into a model of femininity. Once again, the church opposes actions that Celtic tradition embraces.
Overwhelmed by Dolina’s wedding preparations, Gruadh visits her cousin Bethoc and Bethoc’s mother Mairi, who live in the hills outside of her fortress to ask them about her vision. Mairi believes that the signs Gruadh saw “speak of Scotland’s future even more than [her] own.” She sees that Gruadh will have two husbands, and her life will be marked by happiness, sorrow, and power. Mairi tells Gruadh she has strength within her and can draw upon the triskele on her shoulder for protection.
Bethoc and Mairi are excited by Gruadh’s second sight, in a way that Gruadh’s more Christian friends and relatives would not be. They understand that Gruadh’s future is tied to that of Scotland, a theme present throughout the novel and also often be applied to Macbeth, who links his own future and ambition to that of the nation he loves.
Mairi and Bethoc also advise Gruadh to participate in the tradition of kissing people on the new moon after she returns to Abernethy. This tradition is said to reveal the truth. When Gruadh returns to Abernathy a few days later she sneaks out during the full moon and finds people to kiss. She kisses Finn, her first love, for good luck, and clarifies that she wants his friendship. She also kisses Ruari, who pulls away surprised.
Gruadh is always looking for charms and spells to give her strength and guidance. This relatively harmless tradition is supposed to reveal truths. With Ruari, it seems to reveal nothing, but with Finn, it cements a life-long friendship.
Gruadh then runs into Macbeth. He cautions her again against marrying Gilcomgan, warning that her future husband is “hated by many,” and that the match is unwise, both for her and for Fife. She counters that joining Fife and Moray is a good decision, but he points out that this would only be true if Moray “had a fit leader.”
Macbeth’s hatred of Gilcomgan stems primarily from the man’s murder of his father, but also, perhaps, from jealousy. He’s upset that Gilcomgan has claimed the land he believes is rightfully his, and perhaps that Gilcomgan will marry Gruadh, whose heritage make her a valuable bride.
Macbeth has grabbed Gruadh’s arm, and she finds herself drawn in towards him. He is drawn to her, too, and they kiss. Gruadh has never felt this way before—it tastes like “the water of life.” Macbeth eventually pulls back. He warns her that if she kisses for luck she might “open the door to fate,” and leaves her standing alone in the courtyard.
Macbeth’s name means son of life, so Gruadh is likely making a pun when she describes him as “water of life.” The truth this kiss reveals is her intense attraction to and compatibility with Macbeth, a connection that will serve her well years down the road.
As a present, Bodhe gives Gruadh a hauberk and a brass helmet. He has begun allowing her to sit in on military and political meetings and believes that since she will soon be married to Gilcomgan, “it is time” she see “more of the world.” Although Dolina disapproves of the armor as much as she disapproves of Gruadh’s sword training, Gruadh recognizes this as a huge honor.
Although his wife disapproves of Gruadh’s sword fighting, Bodhe’s gift shows that he supports her. By letting her sit in on his councils he is allowing her to more adequately prepare for her future as mormaer’s wife, and even as queen—roles that will require her to understand what is happening beyond her domestic sphere.