The Briny Maiden: the changing house over the shifting waters.
Copyright 2016 James J. Kinley
The Briny Maiden: a tavern of long, twisting history on the docks of a great American city. The Maiden is a vast, many roomed, thick-timbered edifice built on the dock itself over the shifting waters of a bustling port. She is a revered destination for adventurers and voyagers from every land known and unknown. She is recognized far and wide as a place where the food and drink are excellent and where the rules are different and strange.
The Maiden is notorious for serving as hostess to an exotic stew of people from every station and type, people who lead lives that burn across the world like fire. Sailors and nomads, priests and professors, aesthetes and roughnecks, artists and thugs, academics and lawmen, villains and poets, heroes and fools, all gather under her high roof to drink, talk, sing, argue, suffer, plot, and most of all to tell their stories.
The stories that are told at the Briny Maiden can be heard nowhere else in the universe; stories of fantastic adventure and of pedestrian, banal suffering; stories of wild terror and baroque hilarity; tales of misadventure and lore, unimagined lands and weird delights. Stories bright and blinding. Stories deep and foreboding. Stories that conjure, astonish and blur. Stories that sadden or inspire. Stories to chill you and stories that will change your life.
Yet for all of the stories we know little of the Briny Maiden’s past itself. References to her history confound and entice more than they explain.
–Excerpt from the Encyclopedia of Unreliable Information (3rd Edition)
“One night early last century, stillness choked with seaside fog and the quiet before a last breath. The sounds of the port city are masked by the thick air. The darkness shuddered as an ancient wooden ship (the Briny Maiden by name) smashed into a dilapidated, abandoned dock with the sound of horrendous snapping bones. In the following months the dock was hidden by barricades preventing the curious from observing whatever strange work was being done. Reports of the noise of construction mixed with strange wet sounds not accountable by the lapping of the tides. Birthed from this strange and violent union was a deep and charismatic tavern, way post for all and sundry and home to every description of tale. Over the bar was mounted the Maiden’s masthead from which the edifice derives its name.”
-Excerpt from the diaries of Sorano Clee; artist, essayist, satirist and traveler.
“17th February. America. Hear tell that the ship that was the free sailing Briny Maiden– before its transmogrification into the dockland tavern– has a history that is lost in shadow. I can’t, by the way, take credit for that delightful turn of phrase “…lost in shadow”, it was used by that decrepit old man who told me the story of the tavern while we enjoyed deep steins of excellent beer at the very location (on my tab of course). To continue with what is known of the story: the vessel was built in the shipyards of Liverpool “in the midst of an earlier century”. Well-made and sturdy it had a reputation of being dependable on long journeys and it plied the many seas on voyages of trade and exploration. Ownership seems uncertain (should look into it further). It was taken on the trade routes to the southern climes and then its story becomes clouded. Apparently it drops from the knowledge of my fellow men (such as they are termed for some reason) and is presumed lost, until, much later, the masthead over the tavern’s bar was recognized by a traveler who reacted with fear and confusion. It seems this sensitive soul fled the building before he could communicate the cause of his distress. Now isn’t that interesting?”
The One Hundred Percent Club member known as Mademoiselle describes the discovery of some undefined “ship documents” from the Briny Maiden on a rocky island off the coast of Antarctica. She did not record the eventual fate of the documents but her journals relate that from that period forward she is on the alert for the weird unhuman call of “tekili-tekili-li”.
“Folk Tellings Monthly” the official periodical of the Urban Folklore Society (June 1950 issue) offers the following:
“Society’s desire for mystery does not limit itself tales to lost, bygone eras but extends itself to the construction of stories referring to modern day personalities, organizations and businesses. Take for instance the well-established dockside bar and hostelry known as The Briney Maid (sic) tavern. Despite the popularity of the establishment and reputed friendly demeanor of the bar staff, there are persistent legends about what goes on in the mysterious barred rooms that patrons are not permitted under any circumstances to see. There are also rumors regarding the establishment’s owner or possibly owners. It is claimed that the owner very rarely appears into public view and when he does he takes pains to hide his appearance. Even more unusual is that the reports of his appearance alter from sighting to sighting, for instance one time he will appear to be tall and stout and the next description he will seem to be short and hunched. Thus he has become known in local lore as the “shifting man” or the “changing man”. Attempts to elucidate this situation have been inconclusive.”