By ‘call of the Sea’ we mean Skellige and as for the offering… well… Easha will get to that later because that is really not my favourite topic. The Skellige cards of the expansion are not really related to the Thanedd Coup, but keep adding the Cult of Melusine that has been introduced with the expansion’s first part Once Upon a Pyre.
Bloody gods of old
Nowadays most of the Skelligers worship the goddess Melitele like most of the Continent does. To them she is known as Freya, goddess of fertility love and beauty. However, in the old days the religion of the Isles was much bloodier: The cult of Svalblod demanded human sacrifice by its Priests and Cultists before the cult collapsed, its totems were ordered to be destroyed and the members were cast out to the seas in boats with neither rudder nor sail.
A very similar cult was the one that worshipped Melusine, a powerful Siren (this is just an illusory camouflage, an aggressive Deafening Siren looks far less pleasant) inhabiting the caves below the island of Spikeroog. Maybe that is the connection to Thanedd, even though Thanedd’s silands were swarming with Scoia’tael during the coup.
The cult following her is not directly shown in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt quest that involves killing her, but the statue on which she sits enthroned can be found in a cave. It seems to be made of stacked parts from destroyed ships, one can still see remains of rope here and there. Melusine sits between the statue’s wings which look like part of a smaller vessel’s hull, the wooden head right below her is the only hand-hewn part while the other parts are just arranged: there are no nails or rope holding them together. Her cult seemingly vanished long before Geralt entered the cave and made the siren join her dead followers who-knows-how-much-later.
A possible reason to hunt down the cultists is mentioned in Melusine’s flavour text The Lady sits on her throne, devouring our offerings and demanding more. Yet, She does not try to rule over us in any particular way, so She is actually better than any jarl. questioning said jarls’ authority. And yet… they are not wrong.
Offering to the Sea
The offerings mentioned above are not just some fish, or the first grain of the new harvest, but human sacrifices instead. The card art depicts Bride of the Sea on her… wedding. It really is just a quite tasteless (or actually quite tasty? But that would make it a tasteless joke of mine…) euphemism for it.
The topic of semantics is also covered by the card’s flavour text Cultists proclaim that the maidens are “offered to the sea,” not “eaten by its monsters.” Yet, for the latter, the semantics makes no difference.
Something else worth mentioning: The cultist in the background has its own card, even though it depicts Fulmar during a much gentler ritual.
I am all for the gentler parts like the ritual shown here: Apparently another form of worship of Melusine’s cult is to sing to the sirens. Usually it is the other way round as the flavour text No human can match sirens in singing. Some, however, are talented enough to compel sirens to listen. mentions. Judging by her expression the siren in the upper right is still sceptical regarding the singer’s performance, the one in the upper left seems agitated enough to already drop her disguise. She better does not hit a single wrong note and displease the sirens around her or…
Let us focus on the positive things, shouldn’t we? While we do not see the faces of the sirens in the foreground, they definitely seem captivated by the songstress amidst them. The posture of the left one is very relaxed and enjoys her position in the front row. The siren at the right is at least willing to listen as a distraction while she does her own hair.
However, do not forget this is still a ritual and not just a free time activity – at least not for the cultists. The whole performance is overlooked by other cultists. All of them look older than the songstress, the right one of the two women seems to wear a similar pattern like the singer on her dress, so maybe she is her senior and watches her pupil perform for the first time? I would be terribly nervous in such a situation, not only a teacher and fellow villagers watching, but also an audience that might downright ki—
We really should focus on the positive sides.
Like fish! I do like to eat fish! And so does the Hermit who prays for a good catch to Melusine in his flavour text Oh, good Lady, bless your faithful servant with a fat flounder.
The fresh blood on his knife and the trace of rain the slash left behind indicate he just killed the fish in his hand. Whether to actually eat it while speaking a prayer before a meal, or as sacrifice for his Lady is not entirely clear. He definitely looks somewhat skinny and could use a decent serving or two, especially since the two other fish to his feet look rather small. Maybe the flounder he asks for is just his favourite kind of fish or is the emphasis on ‘fat’? It is also possible the ritual slaughter of the fish is meant to ask for calm weather. The storm raging in the background would make it very hard to fish after all.