Inspired by but not identical to the legends of the Polynesian Islands.
Moana and its characters are the property of Disney. This story is non-profit.
Chief Tui had named the island as soon as he had seen it.
Tifaimoana. Treasure from the Ocean. Named for both his daughter and the ocean that had brought her safely back to him.
Moana claimed the new land on behalf of her people and began a large settlement there. The coconuts were ready for harvest and the fish were rife around the island, meaning there was no shortage of supplies as she set her best men and women to work. After a short few weeks, they had cleared the trees and erected a new village, docks, and farms. The new sister to Motunui was ready to make its own mark upon the maps and forge its own stories and traditions.
Gramma Tala always said that every island had its own secret, however.
And it was just like Maui to stumble across them.
On the eve of the fourth week since the discovery of Tifaimoana, Maui convinced the new chief out into the dark night. She joined him reluctantly, knowing full well that the tropics awaiting them were still vastly unexplored and likely dangerous, but the other, more adventurous side of the young woman craved the unknown and the mystery she had experienced while out on the open ocean. Her method of ruling didn't exactly feature much sitting and ordering about. She much preferred to be doing things herself, creating, or finding new stories to tell.
Cautiousness swiftly transformed into a vibrant eagerness. Laughing brightly in the light of her torch, she chased Maui through the dark, tropical land as the demi-god used his magical fish hook and his great girth to forge a path through the trees. At first, she barely noticed the chill that cut cleanly across her skin, a chill that should only have existed out on the open waves and not within the warm jungles of the islands.
As the environment became darker and the air colder, Moana ceased running and thought it wise to cease laughing, too, because a sudden and uncomfortable feeling in her gut gave way to the awful sensation of being watched. Not unlike the feeling she had felt in the realm of monsters, Lalotai, the chief fell ill at ease and held her torch aloft in an attempt to shed more light on her surroundings.
She didn't expect to see masks clung to the trees around her. They were certainly nothing like the smooth, wooden tributes to ancestors that her own people carved. The totems and masks of Motunui were crafted beautifully with the best wood, paint, and feathers, but the idols that she had stumbled across here barely seemed to have been forged by human hands at all. They were crudely made and the expressions on their faces ranged from furious to tormented, and glowing paint had been splashed across them in violent clashes of colour.
The trees fell silent. Shadows cast from Moana's flame gave the masks the illusion of life, like they were watching her from their cold, black eyes.
Something brushed against her bare ankle. She shrieked, and then kicked whatever it was with all the strength she could muster.
That something was Maui, having mischievously frightened his friend by nudging his foot against her leg. Adopting a somewhat offended expression, he leant down and rubbed at his freshly assaulted shin, apparently both resentful and amused, given his evident fight to hide a small smile.
"Don't do that!" Moana demanded, placing a hand on her chest as if to still her rapidly beating heart. Regardless of her irritation, she was certainly pleased that the demigod hadn't left her behind to face the suspected dangers here alone. Curiosity swiftly replaced anger, and she gestured almost frantically at the masks placed sporadically around them. "Look! There must be another village hidden on this island somewhere. Do you think they'll accept my people here?"
Maui raised an eyebrow, briefly glancing up at the foreboding ornaments.
"Look, d'you really think they'd hang up things like that as a gesture of welcoming?" the demigod quipped, hoisting his fish hook over his shoulder. "There isn't another village here. I'd know! I scoured this entire island, just like you asked. You guys place your masks around sacred places, right? Well, this isn't any different, only it's not a place sacred to humans."
Feeling a chill race down her spine, Moana placed her hands on her hips and offered up a glare so ferocious that Maui was forced to back down a little. He held up a hand as if to placate her, but it wasn't quite enough.
"You told me this place was safe!" the chief said loudly, swatting her friend across one of his massive biceps.
"Hey! These things weren't here the day I checked this place out! This is why I brought you here; so we can go in and see what these things are trying to ward us away from! Doncha wanna see, Moana? There could be all kinds of cool stuff lying around!"
Maui excitedly made for the trees and beckoned for the woman to join him. She did so, but only so that she could grab hold of one of his wrists and attempt, in vain, to keep him from running anywhere and doing something potentially disastrous. She should have expected to simply be dragged along through the underbrush, because Maui's strength was legendary and there was little she could do to physically halt him whenever he risked getting himself into trouble.
Holding onto his arm for dear life, Moana managed to tug herself up high enough that she could wrap her arms around her friend's neck and allow him to carry her as he ran. It was something of a preferred method of travel for the two when they weren't on the ocean, though it had taken her some time to become accustomed to it. She did prefer to do things herself, after all, but she knew the man well enough to acknowledge that he often liked to show off just how fast and strong he was.
Maui's great feet pounded across the undergrowth. If there was anything dangerous nearby, it had undoubtedly already heard them.
What they came across, however, wasn't a village, nor a den of demons or monsters. It was a bizarre set-up in a rounded clearing that crowned a cliff-face leading straight down towards the ocean. A tall and jagged rock that sat atop the cliff had a lavishly carven hole cut out of it – one that, Moana suspected, would perfectly encapsulate the Moon when it moved into the correct position.
Around the rock were torches lit with an eerie, purple flame. In front of it, above an ancient stone pedestal, was a smoothly rounded pebble that hovered there as if in wait.
"Maui?" Moana questioned quietly, completely confused by what she was seeing. Quickly thinking back to all the stories and legends she had been told as a child, she couldn't recall any kind of tradition or ritual that looked anything like this. The pebble was hovering above the pedestal as if by magic.
She received no response. Untangling herself from the demigod, she dropped lightly onto her feet and made to approach the strange scene that they had uncovered, only to find one of Maui's arms holding her back.
"Well, this isn't good," he commented, forcing a jovial tone. "You know what? We should probably head on back before we end up in all kinds of trouble."
Moana glanced up and inspected her friend. She spied a trace of nerves there in his eyes. It wasn't often that such a thing occurred, and when it did, it was usually because there was a genuine cause for concern. One that he seemed entirely and frustratingly reluctant to talk about.
Though growing increasingly worried, she couldn't help but duck underneath the arm holding her back and march towards the clearing. Grass turned to stone beneath her feet, and as she approached the garish purple light of the torches, it became clear that the stone was carved with pictures and inscriptions, but she couldn't tell what any of them displayed due to the old, worn down nature of the ground. Had they stumbled upon an ancient temple of some sort?
The atmosphere certainly had that kind of feeling to it. Quiet, reverent, and rather daunting. Moana felt small in this place, and she still couldn't shake the feeling that they were being watched, even if there was nothing of suspect around.
"Hey!" Maui barked, darting forwards to place a heavy hand on the woman's shoulder. "When I say we should go back, that means we should really go back."
His tone and expression were sincere. Still, the young chief's curiosity was currently taking precedence, and so she merely shook off his hand and again placed her hands on her hips, perhaps appearing bolder than she truly felt.
"You know what this place is," she realised, forcing a steady kind of authority into her voice. "Don't you? If it's dangerous, I need to know whether I should remove my people from this island. We'll move on and find somewhere else to build, but only if we have good enough reason to leave and waste all the time we spent making a new village."
Maui anxiously scratched the back of his head. "Well, uh, I guess. Somebody might turn up who doesn't like me very much. As for your people? I don't think they're in any danger."
A foul wind blasted suddenly over the edge of the cliff, blowing out all of the torches and pitching them into pure darkness.
"Oh," Moana heard Maui croak. "Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, no -"
The magical fish hook lit itself up with its pure, blue light and allowed the pair to see. Moana turned to see that her demigod companion had temporarily been attempting to hide behind her much slighter frame. Surprised more than anything, she found herself wondering, amongst her fear, just what could terrify an immortal hero to the extent he was nothing short of being scared out of his wits. Maui chewed heavily on his fingernails and turned abruptly at the slightest sounds. The Mini-Maui tattoo on his chest performed in a likewise manner.
A dense, dark fog began rolling in from the sea, crawling over the edge of the cliff like a thousand rotting hands. A stench that smelt like a repugnant mixture of rotting fish and sulphur assaulted Moana's nostrils, but she did her best to remain composed even in the face of this new danger. She had faced the strange and paranormal before, and so this was nothing new. If Maui was scared then she supposed that it would be wiser to be the brave one in the situation at hand.
She squared her shoulders and kept her feet shoulder-width apart, not backing down for a moment. Even when the fog began to gather into a defined mass past the edge of the cliff, she stood solidly, ready to give whatever it was a good telling off for trying to frighten them.
A pair of bright, yellowed eyes formed from the fog. Then came the rest of a giant face, the top half concealed by a silver mask forged in a demonic shape. Moana spied flesh that had apparently spent so long deep beneath the waves that it had turned a dull shade of greyish teal, and barnacles and whatever else had become fused with the enormous countenance presenting itself to them.
The being smiled slightly. Rows upon rows of sharp, shark-like teeth glinted from beneath the shadows of a dark, rotting hood. While it was difficult to see the entity's face, there was no doubt that her enormous size and power suggested that this foul behemoth was indeed some sort of goddess, perhaps one that had become forgotten by mankind over time.
A giant pair of hands splayed nearby, dripping with cold water from the ocean. One was corpse-like and blackened and missing its fingernails. The other wasn't actually a hand at all, upon closer inspection, and appeared something more like a black lobster's claw. The being leaned in and inspected the pair closely, the fingers on her good hand rapping threateningly close by.
Moana dropped down to her knees and showed her respect by lowering her head. Too frightened to move much further, she couldn't even manage to convince Maui to follow suit, instead keeping her gaze fixed upon the monstrous goddess that they had apparently disturbed by coming across the ancient clearing.
"Te Po!" Maui exclaimed suddenly in the manner one might greet an old friend. "Well, it's been a while since I've seen you, buddy! You're looking, uh … well. Have you done something new to your face? How're things in Abokas?"
Moana felt her heart sink. It seemed that Te Fiti hadn't been the only deity that Maui had succeeded in insulting, once upon a time. If this was indeed Te Po, a goddess of fire and ruler of the Underworld, then they were in for a whole heap of trouble. While nobody knew much about this goddess in particular, she didn't seem to be quite as benevolent and compassionate as the Mother Island, given the sheer hatred that ignited in her eyes the moment Maui spoke.
"Swell," Te Po hissed in return, her voice like a cold wind howling down an old cavern. A pair of crab-like antennae sticking out from underneath her mask began flashing red, and Moana was suddenly reminded of the various monsters they had encountered in Lalotai. "I thought you abandoned to the ages, Maui, for stealing that which did not belong to you."
"He gave the heart back!" Moana cried firmly in defence of her friend, quickly rising to her feet. She somewhat regretted her outburst when the goddess's attentions turned to her, instead, her head tilting in what looked horribly like amusement.
"After a thousand years, this is how mortals speak to their gods? You forget yourselves and your place."
Moana searched for the signs of a vacant spiral upon the god's chest. What she saw upon the dark exoskeleton that made up her torso, however, was a symbol of an upside-down triangle with wavy lines set above it. No heart shone within the marking, and so she again bowed her head, this time not out of respect but out of pity. Te Po was corrupted and she had been for however long. What did that mean for the ocean and the people that dwelt upon its islands?
"Forgive me," she said quickly, holding a hand over her heart to demonstrate her sincerity. "The Heart was returned to Te Fiti. I delivered Maui across the ocean myself. A thousand years of solitude was enough punishment for what he did."
Te Po's slight smile dripped away.
"I was not talking about Te Fiti."
Confused, Moana looked up at Maui and saw the demigod looked, rather alarmingly, panicked. He was holding his fish hook defensively before his chest. It wasn't like him to be nervous, but then again, he was facing a being likely greater in strength and power, one that he evidently shared a dark history with.
"Let this be known to you, Moana, mankind's ambassador and the Ocean's chosen," Te Po continued. "A gift cannot be a gift when it was stolen from its true owner. A great comet brought a magical fire to this land, and I learnt to master it. I brought the flames to Abokas, the realm beneath the waves, and gave light to the dead. Since the fire was stolen and dispersed by Maui, my land has been shrouded in darkness."
Feeling a sharp stab of sympathy, Moana stood and gingerly moved closer to the corrupted entity, assuming a gentle expression that conveyed a willingness to help.
"Can we not give you a flame to take back to your realm?" she asked.
"My dominion over the flame was tarnished the moment this false hero tricked me into relinquishing it. When before I ignited everything I touched, I now drain the life from all. The flame would be extinguished. I slept for a thousand years in wait for this moment, when the Moon is at her largest in the sky and I can more easily drain her powers into a new Heart to bring light to Abokas."
"Then what happened to your Heart?" Moana managed, her voice small with dread.
"The moment I heard the cries of souls lost in the darkness, it fell from my chest. When it touched the ground, it broke into pieces and its power created Lalotai and all the monsters within it."
A dark cloud slowly sailing across the tranquil sky moved to display the Moon in all her beauty. Indeed, its face was more enormous than usual, and Moana could make out silvery terrains upon its surface. The pure, blue light lit the sky like a divine torch, and in that moment, the Moon perfectly aligned with the ring carved out of the stone spire nearby.
Te Po raised her hands and laughed. To Moana's horror, light began trickling down from the face of the Moon as if it was being sucked away, stolen by this dark goddess in her state of pure contempt. The light was drawn through the stone ring and into the floating pebble behind it.
Horror-struck, Moana scrambled back towards Maui and grabbed one of his arms, shaking it desperately because she had happened upon the dire realisation that Te Po was quite literally stealing the Moon.
The demigod seemed equally disturbed by the revelation. Still, he did not charge loudly into battle as he usually would have, and merely remained where he was stood without so much as an attempt to convince the goddess not to go through with her plans. That, more than anything, was probably the most terrifying aspect about the situation for poor Moana, who was completely powerless as a torrent of light from the Moon was swiftly drained and collected into the smooth pebble.
The night sky darkened. Little shone on the surface of the ocean, now. Only the stars and their meagre light.
Thinking quickly, Moana decided against seizing the new Heart for herself and instead turned to face Te Po again, running to the edge of the cliff and holding out her hands beseechingly.
"I will bring fire to Abokas!" she proclaimed with vigour. "I will sail the ocean and carry a torch into your realm if you swear to bring the Moon back to the surface! Without the tides, my people's way of life will be ruined. Tell me where the entrance to Abokas is and I promise that I will seek it and give back what was stolen from you."
Te Po leaned in and captured the Heart of the Moon into a small pendant so that her fingers wouldn't come into contact with it. Her twisted features turned to Moana consideringly, gaze drifting back and forth between the young chief and her demigod companion. Even with her mask, her doubt and distrust were as clear as day. Regardless, she offered another sharp-toothed smirk and leaned away, turning to face the ocean.
"Then act swiftly," the goddess advised. "The entrance sits in Lalotai." With that, Te Po began walking into the waters, sinking lower and lower into the waves as the ocean deepened. Her dark, twisted figure was swallowed by the black ocean, and the foul fog rolled back away from the land as her presence diminished.
Stunned by what she had just encountered, Moana brought her arms around her middle and remained there on the cool edge of the cliff, gazing towards the line of the horizon ahead. She knew the stars like the back of her hand, now, and she knew the way to Lalotai. If the ocean was kind and the winds remained at her back, she was confident that she could take fire back to the tormented souls below.
The horizon called to her again. She would heed that call, and she would bring light back to the night sky. She would bring back the tides and currents.
First, however, she stormed back to Maui, grabbed his ear, and yanked firmly on it.
"You were completely useless just then!" she chastised. Knowing full well her tugging wasn't actually doing any damage, she let go of his ear and replaced her attempts to maim with a hard punch to his bicep – which only succeeded in sending a wave of pain through her knuckles. "Ow! I mean – You just stood there and let her steal the Moon! You have your fish hook! Now I have to find my way through a realm of monsters!"
"Hey!" Maui griped back, wounded. "She's a goddess! If I couldn't defeat Te Ka, there's no way I can stop Te Po taking what she wants, is there? Besides, you heard her! She drains the life out of everything she touches! I don't know about you, Curly, but I'm not dying for some giant rock that floats around in the sky, 'kay? Just how are you gonna keep a torch lit all the way to Lalotai, huh? You're gonna be mince meat down there."
"Probably," Moana agreed, shoving her hands on her hips and flicking her hair back. "Which is why you're coming with me."
"Wow. Wow. De ja vu! In case you've forgotten, princess, I'm the demigod here, and there's no way I'm gonna let some kid start ordering me around again!"
"In case you've forgotten, Maui, the Moon is integral to the ocean! Fish will start dying out. We won't have enough food to feed everyone. Mortals will die and one day there will be nobody around to tell your stories and cheer whenever you save them from monsters or pull a new island from the waves. So you're coming with me!"
She was right, of course. It wasn't like he actually had a choice. If he was a hero to all, then it meant he had to join her in the realm of monsters. Moana knew well enough that he would detest letting a teenage girl get all the credit.
Moreover, she was completely terrified of the idea of facing monsters and corrupted goddesses alone.
There was goodness in this, however. Once again she could unfurl her sails and venture into the unknown. She might have only been mortal, but that didn't mean she lacked the very same courage and determination that Maui possessed. Her companion seemed more than aware of their oncoming adventure, too, given his sudden self-satisfied smile.
"We were shown the way here," Moana said confidently, gesturing at their ancient surroundings. "We were meant to be here. This place was a shrine to the Moon and she brought us here."
Maui nodded. "Yeah, I think so. I met the Moon, occasionally, y'know. She sang songs almost as much as you do."
Before Moana could ask for that story to be told, there came an odd sound from the trees surrounding them. At first, she thought it was one of the beasts that roamed the tropics, but then she discerned what sounded awfully like chanting. It wasn't a language that she knew, and the way in which the words were growled or howled didn't sound remotely human.
A chill raced across her skin and her hairs stood up on end.
Darkness bloomed near a corrupted god, and that darkness spread like a disease. If Te Po's broken heart had birthed the ocean's monsters, then just what would her corruption bring?
The answer revealed itself in a raucous screeching. The chanting turned to war cries. Small bipedal creatures swarmed out of the shadows of the trees, their claws long and their faces covered by the demonic masks that had once been placed around the forest to protect the entrance to the shrine. The reason Moana had felt like she was being watched the whole time was because that had been the truth all along. These masks, likely created and given life in Abokas or Lalotai, were owned by the minions of Te Po, the creatures born from the darkness and destined to terrorise mankind upon the islands and the ocean.
Hundreds of them scuttled forth, claws swinging and masks glowing. Moana gasped and attempted to dive out of the way when a group of them charged towards her. Before she could land, however, she was scooped out of the air by Maui and carried back to the edge of the cliff, where he stood and held her in one hand and his fish hook in the other.
"Grab hold of my feet," the demigod said, something entirely crude about his tone. "If you dare!"
With that, he dropped the young chief and she immediately wrapped her arms around his ankles, knowing full well what was coming.
Just as one of the demons took hold of the bottom of her skirt, there came a mighty pulse of power and flash of blue. Maui's enormous hawk form manifested and he took to the skies with powerful beats of his wings. Several of the demons were blown backwards with high-pitched wails, and others stupidly ran straight over the edge of the cliff and into the deep water below.
Moana withheld a shriek as she was pulled high into the air. With a small whimper, she clung tightly onto the great hawk's feet and allowed herself to be dragged out over the churning waters below. When she worked up the courage to open her eyes, she saw the demons continuing to spill over the edge of the cliff and into the ocean until none were left.
She doubted it was a complete resolution. More demons would appear and they would terrorise the island's new villagers.
Worst of all, Moana and Maui wouldn't be there to protect them.