I have been traveling all day and half the night; ’tis starving I am indeed. I hope I can find an inn soon which will perhaps serve me a tasty meal. Ah. . . it looks as though there is an inn a mile or so away; I wish this horse of mine would trot faster. Yes, here it is. . . The Dew Drop Inn. It looks like a humble but decent place to stay. I shall tether my horse to that tree. . . Whew! It feels good to get off that horse; my legs were falling asleep and I am beginning to feel light-headed. Now, let’s see about a bed for the night — but first — food!
The traveler walks to the large wooden door which has a brass knocker and knocks. There is no answer. He knocks again, this time even louder.
After waiting a moment, the door finally opens with a loud creak, revealing an old woman with only one eye visible; the other being covered with a black patch. She has straight white hair peeking out from a ragged faded blue scarf. She is wearing a plain brown dress, visibly thread-bare, which reaches to her feet. On her feet are a pair of dirty old black boots which have a hole in the toe of the right boot. Her face is worn with age; a multitude of wrinkles covering her skin. Her nose is rather large, but her mouth is small, and when her lips are open, one can count the number of teeth on one hand. Her eyes are the most striking feature of all. They are the most remarkable shade of green and sparkle with some hidden knowledge.
“Yes?” she manages to creak out.
“Good evening, ma’m. I have been traveling so long and am very weary. I need a bed for the night.”
“Come in; I have just the thing for you, my dear.”
The traveler enters the inn and notices it to be really a quite humble abode.
“I was wondering, ma’m; I am half-starved for something to eat. Do you think you could provide for my needs?”
“Certainly my dear, certainly. Please sit down,” she says as she points to a small wooden table with only one chair behind it.
The traveler sits down, and begins to wonder exactly where he is.
“Here is our menu.” She hands him a large parchment scroll, which when unfurled, lists five different dishes penned in beautiful calligraphy:
- Caput capitus cruentus cariosus finis, boiled.
- Caput capitus cruentus cariosus finis, baked.
- Caput capitus cruentus cariosus finis, fried.
- Caput capitus cruentus cariosus finis, roasted.
- Caput capitus cruentus cariosus finis, broiled.
“Uhm . . . there does not seem to be much variety here. It seems there is basically one dish, this caput . . . stuff, made five different ways. What is it? It seems to be in some other language — I think Latin, but I failed Latin when my master tried to teach me.
“Yes, my dear, it is Latin. We prepare only this dish because it is the smartest way to go. It is brain food, so to speak. The aroma is quite heady stuff, I am told. It is made with only the finest ingredients. The meat is butchered in the back of the inn, so as to be fresh. I use only the best butcher in town.”
“I don’t know that I am in the mood for a meal with meat.”
“Ah, but this is flavored with the best spices such as basil, oregano, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. But the secret is the fennel we use, and the slow-drying process beforehand, of course. We let this dish simmer for at least three days before we allow anyone to partake of its delicate flavors. Our cook is very fussy about this dish. It is his specialty!”
“But still . . .”
“You really must try it, my dear. Before it is even flavored, we slow-roast it to keep in all the natural flavors. It is really quite a noodle of a dish. It is also a very difficult catch, this particular type of meat. It really does not come around very much at all.”
“Well . . . I am so starving I guess I could eat just about anything. I guess I will try Number 4, roasted whatever it is.
“Quite a good choice, my dear. You will be ahead with that choice, I assure you. I will be back in a wink with your food, my dear.”
The traveler sits back in his chair, begins to relax, and soon cannot help but close his eyes because he is so weary. Soon he is awakened by a loud “Ahem!” His eyes open in a flash and standing in front of him is the old woman holding a huge silver platter with a silver cover over it.
Perhaps she is not so poor as I originally thought. That silver platter looks as though it could fetch a pretty penny!
He sniffs and smells something . . . odd. He cannot quite place the odor, but it certainly does not smell very appetizing, or does it? He sits up in his chair and places his hands on the arms of the chair expectantly.
The old woman places the platter down in front of him. As she does so, he suddenly feels his arms being strapped to the arms of the chair by someone. Now he is quite alarmed.
“What. . . what is going on? I don’t understand!”
“Well, my dear, I am afraid you are about to eat your last meal.”
As she finishes her sentence, she lifts the cover off the platter with a relish. The traveler’s eyes nearly pop out of his head as he finds himself staring into the eyes of a previous traveler.
“I forgot to warn you, my dear — this dish may give you quite a headache!”
Latin translation of the dish:
- Caput capitis: Head
- Cruentus: Bloody
- Cariosus: Rotten, decayed
- Finis: Final
Translation: Final, bloody, rotten, decayed head