Vengeance at Great Cost – Extended Epilogue

Ygritte Bradley sat at the bedside of her father, Frank Gordon. It had been a fine five years since her marriage to Donovan Bradley, and he’d given her two fine sons. Harrison and Denning were growing fast and had brought their grandfather great pleasures and many moments of reward and solace after a hard life of enduring tragedy and torment.

The children delighted in his company, and they had brought out facets of his personality that Ygritte had either forgotten or never seen. He was animated and active with the kids, eager to embark on flights of fancy in which he would never have indulged earlier in life. So much of the weight had been lifted from his shoulders, and from Ygritte’s own. The previous years had proven that faith was worth keeping, that life was worth living, that love was worth risking all to have and to keep and to cherish. Without it, there was only existence, endurance, a prolonged exercise in patience and little more.

Ygritte was grateful that their communal patience had finally been rewarded, and in such a magnificent fashion. Donovan’s performance in his new position as sheriff was lauded by all. Frank often boasted about his son-in-law, the most respected sheriff in the Dakota Territory. His later years in town were filled with admiring throngs, men who reveled in Frank’s nostalgic stories. He’d become a man about town in his own modest way, a role he’d come to enjoy.

And that brought Ygritte joy, to know his isolation had at last come to an end. He was freed from the shackles of his regrets, and Valley City was where he could finally roam free.

But his health had only failed further after the rebirth of their family. Ygritte had hoped against such a thing, that the man would recover his strength and his will to live. He had seemed ready for a new tomorrow, just as Ygritte and Donovan had enjoyed. But he’d been lucky to survive the events that had brought the young couple together, and the intervening years had brought him calm, but no cure for whatever seemed to ail him.

In many ways, Ygritte suspected that her father harbored long-unsettled sadness for the loss of his wife Katherine, many years dead. But it was a loss from which she hadn’t recovered, and it seemed he never would.

Ygritte could look back with too much ease to the moment she felt her father was lost to the shadows in his life, that he was being consumed from within. At long last, the death that had consumed her mother and his wife had come for him.

There was nothing the doctors could do, nothing the priest could do, nothing anybody could do. There was no wild journey that might restore him, no dragon to face down and destroy, no villainous men to outwit and outgun.

Death had come for Frank Gordon at long last, and it was for his daughter to watch as she had her own mother’s death, and as someday her own death would be watched over by her own children.

Lord, she prayed, let it be a long way off! They need me, my children and my husband, and I’ve much work left to do.

He lay on his deathbed, sweating and pale, eyes gray and hands trembling. He’d faded in and out of consciousness for days, mumbling and muttering when he could. At times, he was clearer and almost reasonable, but he broke into streams of hallucination and jabbering that was beyond Ygritte’s ability to understand.

She retired often to Donovan’s loving embrace. He hovered nearby, the boys too young to comprehend what was going on. But his strength was a solace to her in the worst of times, as it had been since they’d met. He’d never let her down, and he never would. Her life had begun again when they’d met those years earlier, under the worst of circumstances. She’d taken him fleetingly as something like a guardian angel, sent from heaven. And he’d proven himself that in every measure, never failing to protect her or stand for her or beside her.

But even Donovan could not stand against the insistence of natural death. Every man and woman had to bow their heads to that dreaded figure cloaked in black, white bones peeking out from within. Ygritte and Donovan and Frank Gordon himself had been close enough to the old fellow before, they’d ridden alongside him and would do again.

This time, the ghostly rider had come for Frank Gordon, and all of them knew it.

And while Donovan could not forestall or prevent the events that were to come, he could always provide the loving shelter that he always had and always would. But that would not keep poor Frank Gordon alive another day.

While his life and been fairly short and sad for the most part, he’d managed to find peace in his final years. His heart had softened and he’d managed to leave behind the shadowy sorrows of his past. It hadn’t been easy, and he’d very nearly lost his life in the doing. But he’d managed to find new life, as well. And as father-in-law and then a grandfather, he’d found new hope and new happiness.

The fortunes of the Gordon farm had turned around in those final years, as if God had at last lifted His divine missive against their success. But it had as much to do with their united campaign against Silas Palmer and his men as anything else. They’d been behind the Gordons’ misfortune, at least in that late era. What had happened during Palmer’s incarceration had to be laid at the altar of fate.

And Frank had at long last come to terms with that. He seemed to accept death as the natural end of life, and his time had come to be reunited with his adored Katherine. He spoke of her often, more than of the Lord or of life.

Knowing the disease would soon overtake him, Frank had consulted with the local priest, the judge, and a lawyer, but most of all with Donovan. The two men had formed a bond of equals, and it had gratified Ygritte’s heart to see that her father’s true love and acceptance of Donovan has been secured, that there was also respect and admiration, which Ygritte had found so easy to come by for each man.

But the time for consultation had come and gone. Frank’s consciousness faded in and out, and he was sweating in his bed as he muttered.

Ygritte felt terribly helpless, but she knew her poor father felt it even more so. The man’s very life was slipping away, and all she could do was to bid him farewell.

“No, no,” Frank said, eyes fluttering to open, mouth dry.

Ygritte turned to him, expecting to hear his final words. “Papa?”

“No, I… I can’t, I won’t!”

She took his hand and patted it to calm him. “It’s okay, Papa, it’s all over.”

“Leave me alone,” he said. “Get away from me.”

“Papa?” 

“I said to get away!” He barked out his command, sending Ygritte instinctively stepping back, sliding the little chair away from the bed. Frank pushed himself up a bit, looking around the room, eyes wide, sweat pouring down his face. “Where am I? Where am I?”

“Papa, you’re in our home, in your bed. You’re not well!”

He looked around the room as if blind, as if not seeing Ygritte at all.

“It’s me, Papa, it’s Ygritte, your daughter. I love you, Papa!”

Frank emitted a long, low groan before pushing himself up to a sitting position. He seemed lost in a dream, delirium swimming around his head in an invisible cycle to dizzy and distract him.

Death was preparing him for the grave, the last of his brain’s notions playing out to leave his body and soul at rest, at peace.

“Papa, lie back.” 

But Frank didn’t seem to hear her. Looking around with increasing intensity, Frank threw his feet over the side of the bed and tried to push himself out of bed. 

“Papa!”

There was no getting to him, no controlling him. He was ending his life, that seemed plain; there was nothing more to preserve him for or protect him from. Frank was so weak that he fell back, feeble.

Hot sorrow pushed up from the bottom of Ygritte’s belly, flooding her heart and choking up in her throat, escaping in a gasp and a pulse of quick tears.

“Papa…”

But her father ignored her, pulling himself up by use of the headboard and nightstand, barely managing to find his footing. 

Once on his feet, Frank reached out as if blind, groping in the dark.

“You,” he said, pointing an angry finger, “you’re the one who did this to me!” 

Ygritte was certain that he was talking to her, reprimanding her, having still fostered all that misguided bitterness for so many years. 

“You, the bane of my existence!” Frank stepped forward, pointed finger trembling on his weakened arm. But he walked past Ygritte, still pointing and addressing some imagined enemy. “You haunt me even to the grave.”

Ygritte knew then that she was innocent in his eyes, relieved to be reassured that his last years had been as happy as they’d seemed, that his good turn of fortune hadn’t been lost on him. But their other enemies had been vanquished long since, leaving Ygritte only one suspicion of whom her tortured father was facing in his mind, at long last.

Frank stepped awkwardly across the room and turned, clearly having some fateful confrontation with the looming ghost of his life. It wasn’t pride at all, Ygritte realized, not the devil.

It was Denning Bradley himself, Donovan’s late father, killed by Frank’s own hand years before. The fateful night had sent Silas Palmer to prison, it had inspired his reign of revenge that had taken so many lives. And unlike the others, even Donovan could not kill what was already dead.

“I knew you’d come for me,” Frank said, “that you’ve been waiting to have your revenge! But I never meant to… even my family believes me. Must I spend eternity tethered to you, dark spirit? Won’t you find solace in your own funeral grave and leave me to mine?”

Terror began to overtake Frank’s features, and Ygritte’s heart felt like it was splitting open.

“No,” he said, shaking his head and stepping back. “I’ll find my own way!” A long silence passed, and Ygritte knew her dying father was listening to a voice that existed only in his imagination.

“Lead me into the pit is what’s on your mind, you devil! Leave me, I say; I’ve earned peace at last, Denning!”

Ygritte had heard of such hallucinations in the throes of death. And with a soul as tortured as her father’s, she could hardly wonder why his were so crisp and clear to his mind’s eye.

But she believed in God, and His angels, and His great deeds and protection. That made it possible that the soul or the spirit of Denning Bradley had indeed returned, somewhere between the plains of the living and the dead. Ygritte could not know and would not know until her own time came, hopefully many years into the future.

“I need no help,” Frank called out, backing into the bed and falling onto it, clumsily coming to a sitting position against the headboard.

“Papa!” Ygritte lurched toward him, but Frank held his hand out, stopping her and any other imagined allies who might be rushing to his aid.

“I need no help,” he repeated, pride crackling in his voice, the ultimate weapon to be used, the very method of his execution. “I… I…” His eyes rolled into the back of his head, mouth lolling open, head drooping to his shoulder.

“Papa…”

But Frank did not succumb. He looked up with new intrigue, a different air to his delirious reaction. There was no fear, but wonder. “Katherine?” 

Ygritte looked around the room again, unable to help herself. There was no apparition, no vision of her long-dead mother. 

“Katherine,” Frank repeated, “so beautiful.”

Ygritte said nothing, watching her father in the throes of his dying dreams. A long moment of quiet passed, and she knew Frank was hearing a voice he hadn’t heard in years.

Frank said, “Friends? No. No, Katherine.” He listened further. “No, it’s a trick, a ruse, a trap!” He leaned forward in his crooked position, cockeyed across the mattress, neither upright nor lying back.

“You get away from my wife, you fiend!” Frank’s head quivered, as if his mind were wrestling with impossible information. “No, it… it can’t be.”

He panted, head tilting, and Ygritte’s blood was flush with a sad warmth that she could almost feel pulsing through her father’s veins, as well.

“Forgiven? Am I… is it… it’s not a trick?” 

Ygritte wanted to reassure him, but she knew hers wasn’t the voice he was listening for or listening to. She stepped back to watch and listen and wonder for herself.

“I… I tried, Katherine, tried to do my best by our daughter.” Ygritte’s tears came faster, salty on her quivering lips. “I know I made mistakes, but she’s forgiven me!”

“I have, Papa,” she whispered between sobbed gasps, “I have for everything, for evermore.”

Is it a trick of his mind, or is it a divine visitation, an escort to the afterlife, three kind spirits united in their final reward? Does it matter?

“I didn’t mean for things to go so wrong, but… my daughter, I had to protect her.” More tears, too much emotion for Ygritte to contain, her body spasmed just to breathe. “I know… I know… But she has a good man now, a fine man, and she’s given him two very fine children.”

Frank nodded, a weary smile stretching across his face. “They are, yes, they truly are.” 

Ygritte could only guess as to what he meant. Happy? Beautiful? Blessed?

“Yes, yes,” he said, seeming to relax just a bit more, sinking into the sheets. “I’ve done my best; I’ve given my all. And there’s no more danger? No more to fear?” 

A long silence passed, with Ygritte’s attention fixed on her father’s expression. His smile was peaceful, head nodding, body reclining further still, as if lying back in his coffin.

“Good, good,” Frank said, “I will go, then, I will go with you.” 

Ygritte’s knees nearly buckled as she stood, watching her father pass from one life into the next, flanked by the woman he loved and the man he murdered, the instruments of his joy and his torment, finally reconciled. He would travel in peace and rest in peace, and Ygritte was glad he had the opportunity and that she had the chance to see it.

Frank’s eyes began to close, his mouth moving to form words she could not hear. Ygritte stepped closer to the bedside, sitting on the mattress by her father’s body, bent and weakened and easing into death.

She took his hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

“Our Father,” she said, “who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.”

Her father’s voice rose up just a bit, barely audible, as his last words came in concert with her own. “Give us this day, our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

Frank weakened further, voice almost no voice at all, the fading croak of his last words struggling to escape his tongue.

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” His voice trailed off, but his lips kept moving along with Ygritte’s lone voice, his last efforts rising up in words of humility. “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.”

His hand fell motionless, no vibration of life within it.

Ygritte said, all alone, “Amen.”

She sat with him in silence, knowing her place was with her husband and children, to bury her father and then revere and remember him. She was grateful to him for providing her with the life she had, for the protection he’d given her, for the lessons he’d taught and the sacrifices he’d made. Like all men, he’d been flawed, but his flaws never came from a lack of humanity or love. His crimes were beyond her judgment or consideration, just as he was beyond her forgiveness or protection. He’d had them all, and they’d sent him where he wanted to be, where he deserved to be. 

Finally, she pulled the sheet over him and turned to leave the little room in the house he’d built himself. He would be buried on the property, as he’d often made clear was his wish, next to the grave of his beloved Katherine. It was why he’d never wanted to leave the property, and he never would have to. The land would remain in the family without fail, for as long as such things as owning land would go on. There was little way of knowing what the future would bring to the United States, but Ygritte knew what the past had brought to it, and those two things were forever intertwined in the present.

Ygritte returned to the embrace of her loving husband and adoring children, to live the lessons her father had taught her, in word and in deed. His life was celebrated and remembered, and the farm upon which he had come to his final rest thrived for generations to come. Every generation heard the stories of Frank Gordon’s heroism, his sacrifice, his sterling example of the American man: flawed, imperfect, genuine.

THE END


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22 thoughts on “Vengeance at Great Cost – Extended Epilogue”

    1. Another excellent book Derek!!!!! As always could picture it as if I was there. The story was full of adventure and romance. Love it authors show that even a woman can kick ass. Lol

  1. The extended epilogue for this action packed story is hopeful. From years of hospice work I came into contact with many people during the transition -death, which included some amazing events, similar to the one Frank experienced. Although none of the people in my care had the life suffering experienced by Frank, I did hear their talking to unseen people to learn later from conversations with family members that it was someone that passed some years prior. Thank you for the story.

      1. This is a wonderful story and the death scene of frank is very realistic As a nurse for many years there have been many experiences from seeing a loved one gone before or feeling fire burning there feet

  2. I enjoyed this book. I especially liked the extended epilogue. It was very touching how you told of the last moments of Frank’s life. I’m sure I’ll be reading another of your stories soon.

  3. I enjoyed this book. The way how Donavan came into Ygritte life was an honorable saving way.
    The way Donavan excepted Ygritte Father, Frank. Donavan talking to God outside just the two of them God & Donavan.
    I also respect you incorporating God in with the dealing of life with Donovan,Ygritte & Frank. It was only believing in God that literally molded Donovan, Ygritte & Frank into a family. Donavan could of turned his back & walked away from Frank & rightfully so. Ygritte could of discarded her father, Frank. However, Donavan reached out to God before opening his mouth. Reaching out to God is what molded Donavan into Frank & Ygritte family.
    There were times I couldn’t put this ebook down. Being retired helps with my time to read. However, I like to read at night because no phone calls etc.
    Get this book to read you.will not be sorry!!!!

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was full of action, love, hate and revenge. The book completely illustrates the extreme conditions the people had to live with as our great country made it’s way west. The strong character Donovan, Thrifts and Harrison and in the end Frank exhibit the goodness of the people just as the evil in part of this movement. Very enjoyable and will recommend to many of my book friends

  5. Really enjoyed your book, it’s the first of yours I’ve read. I’m a big fan of JT Edson’s. Will definitely look out for more of your fantastic stories…..

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