The young chieftess sat at the water's edge as she idled her hand about lazily in the shallow water, enjoying the way that the sea's jewel-toned waves reflected the light of the island sun like thousands of glittering diamonds. She leaned this way and that as she played in the wet coolness with her fingertips, her dark, wild curls falling over her shoulders and down her back like a waterfall. She was dressed without her garlands today, as she had spent the morning amongst her people, raising huts and repairing sails; her red-and-white garb was simple and easy to move in.
Before long, her thoughts drifted from the sea… to him.
Sighing out loud, she looked to the midday sky, imagining those infamous muscles that rippled like waves beneath tanned, inky flesh; in her mind, she could still see his deep brown eyes gazing at her, his long tresses flowing in the breeze, his large hands gripping his fabled fish hook– the fish hook of Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga. She could still hear his hearty laughter and the stern, scolding tone of his voice as though she were still a girl of only sixteen, crossing the vast ocean on her way to Te Fiti.
Although she often thought of the demigod, it had been years since she had seen him, and in that time she had grown into a rather formidable young woman; her chest had swelled and her waist had thinned, her hips now wide enough to bear children. Her face was slimmer and her lips were poutier and even her eyelashes appeared thicker. Her body was made up of curves and edges that she had lacked prior to arriving by canoe to Ainalani– the "Heavenly Land" that her seafaring people now called home.
Not that the chieftain had any plans for childbearing any time soon; she had turned down every single suitor who had come calling since she had turned eighteen. No man seemed to match her well enough to become her husband; no man seemed strong enough, or adventurous enough, or righteous enough– no man loved the sea as much as she did.
Almost as if on cue, a black dot appeared on the horizon, becoming larger and larger as it approached the island. The chieftess squinted her eyes, placing a palm against her forehead to shield her vision from the blinding sun, daring to see what the creature was; it was a hawk, larger than any average bird of prey that the young woman had ever seen on Ainalani, its body and wingspan adorned with brightly colored feathers. Wide wings spread, the hawk flew into the canopy of trees on the other side of the island.
Unable to contain the excitement that bubbled up within her and grinning to herself, Moana scrambled up from her seat and bolted towards the village.
Moana crept along the bough of the tree she had climbed, listening, anticipating the moment that the demigod would appear. Below her, a twig snapped underfoot, giving her the confirmation that she needed that he was here.
Her angry screech echoed loudly through the palms, carried heavily by the ocean breeze. The demigod glanced up in time to see a figure leaping at him from her perch on a higher branch, a weapon aimed for his throat; his assailant was deflected instantaneously by a single flick of his thumb and pointer finger against her forehead. The small warrior tumbled backwards with a shriek, before she righted herself and jumped to her feet, huffing as she jabbed her pololu in his direction.
"Maui, Shapeshifter, Demigod of the Wind and Sea– what are you doing on my island?"
The aforementioned immortal scoffed, nonchalantly eyeing the spearpoint poking his jawline whilst ignoring the happy thumping of Little Maui jumping excitedly on his left pec.
"Ahem, you forgot Hero of Men– wait, your island? I specifically remember pulling this particular chunk of paradise from the bottom of the sea myself. You're welcome."
A moment passed between them before Moana's tough demeanor cracked, and she couldn't help but smile wide at seeing her old friend. She immediately tossed her harpoon to the ground and leapt into Maui's arms, hugging him as tightly as she could manage; her hands hardly touched when her arms wrapped around his neck. Maui hugged her back in fervor, reveling in the unfamiliar softness of her feminine body against his own hard flesh. Little Maui hugged the tattoo version of Moana somewhere near the demigod's shoulder blade.
"How've you been, kid?" he asked softly, inwardly cursing the nostalgic sentimentality that somehow crept into his voice.
"Better than you," Moana joked, pulling away to lightly punch Maui's thick bicep. "You're wasting away. Have you been skipping breakfast? What did you eat today?"
Maui smirked and playfully counted off a few items on his fingers. "A whale, a shark, a whale shark… cooked medium-rare, of course."
Moana beamed at him. It had been too long since she had spoken to the demigod face-to-face. Maui could see she had matured in that time; she was taller, and her body had filled out in a way that was not unnoticed by him. She was thicker in places, and curvier in others. Her full bosom had swelled with maturity; she was a woman now. Her tawny irises– flanked by endearing black lashes– sparkled like the sun on the ocean as he looked into them, reflecting a cerulean blue despite their earthy color.
"Why are you here?" Moana asked, still smiling at him. She was beside herself with emotion; her heart beating a million beats per minute. Seeing her friend brought her joy, an elation that she couldn't rightfully express.
Smirking, Maui dropped to his knees, bowing to Moana, and she felt her chest balloon with pride at the gesture of respect. "To congratulate you, Princess. Or should I say… Chieftain?"
Self-consciously but with all the grace of a ruler, Moana tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear as she absorbed his reverence. Hearing her title was still new to her, although she had been the designated chief of her people for the better part of a year. Her parents had already returned to Motunui to oversee the villagers left behind, trusting Moana to make her own decisions and know what's best for her people. She hadn't let them down yet.
"Here," Moana offered her hand to Maui, "Let me show you around."
Moana and Maui walked hand-in-hand through the lush greenery of the island, towards the village. Although Moana had grown, her hand was still small in his, radiating a mortal warmth that traveled up his forearm, tingling the small hairs that grew there. Despite the innocence of it, Maui couldn't help but feel a thrill at the physical contact.
The flora and fauna of the island were abundant, and Maui couldn't help but feel a smug proudness as he admired his work. But he also felt a twinge of pride for Moana and her people for discovering it on their own. Moana pointed out different features of the island as they walked; the volcanic rock cliffs, the waterfall that filtered their drinking water, the mountain peak in the center of the isle.
"The only downside," Moana lamented as they approached the seashore, "Is that the streams and lagoons are abundant in eels. Not much else."
Down at the shore, Moana introduced Maui to the seafarers who were busy repairing the fleet of open-water canoes. Most of them had taken a beating on the journey to Ainalani, and required repairs before the next set of voyagers set out to seek and settle another land. The men and women paused their work to pay their respects to the chieftess and her immortal guest, murmuring words of shock and awe at seeing the demigod before their very eyes.
Taking the path up to the village, Moana removed her hand from the demigod's grasp, jumping a few steps ahead of him to properly introduce him to her home.
"Welcome to Ainalani," she cooed in announcement, waving her hand through the air to gesture at the small village.
The impressive collection of huts sat at the base of the mountain, in towards the middle of the island. Many huts stood completed, while many were still actively under construction; a few villagers worked together on a thatch roof here, while another group of villagers sat weaving a wall of dried bamboo stalks and palm fronds over there. The village center was lively, with a myriad of men, women, and children cooking over fires, husking coconuts and other vegetation in preparation for consumption, and weaving baskets and tapestries. Though every person worked hard, there was a gentle, carefree atmosphere about the village. It truly was paradise.
"Wow," Maui cooed back, crossing his arms. "Color me impressed, kid."
Moana rolled her eyes. "Stop calling me that. I'm not a kid anymore."
It was obvious to Maui that she was no longer a child, but despite the time that had passed, the familiarity between them made things easy. A few curious villagers approached the chief and her new guest as they made their way through the village, humbly welcoming him to their island. A group of errant adolescents ran up and tossed a coconut to the demigod, initiating an impromptu ballgame; Maui showed off his best trick shots to the crowd of villagers that had gathered to watch, causing the children to giggle and scream with amusement.
As she watched on, the smile that had refused to leave Moana's face since Maui's arrival transformed into something else, her brows tightening and furrowing as she felt her body begin to tremble. It was an external force, vibrating up through the pads of her feet. A low rumbling started– distant, but near. Her face contorted into an expression of confusion, Moana spun toward the source of the rumbling just as the ground began to shake in violent tremors.
A few people around the chieftess gasped and shrieked; children began crying. The dirt beneath the villagers began to shift, shaking back-and-forth with an urgent frequency like a canoe caught in a storm on the sea, and Moana had to throw her arms out to balance herself to stay upright.
A man– a member of the council– cried out as he ran towards Moana, away from a half-built thatch hut that collapsed unceremoniously behind him from the force of the quaking island. Moana whipped around to look at Maui, her fear-filled eyes meeting his dark ones. He made a move as though to come closer to her, but it was then that the tremors lowered to a dull roar, and Moana could stand upright once again.
"Chieftess, what– what was that?" the councilor breathed when he finally reached the group. Others were now hurrying over, asking questions and hushing frightened children.
Moana looked back to the source of the rumbling, now fading.
"The mountain," she whispered.
"Lua pele." Maui murmured, his voice steady and deep. "Volcano."
Moana locked fearful eyes with the demigod. She had heard tales of volcanoes, ancient stories passed down through generations; eruptions were physical manifestations of the wrath of the Fire Goddess. Nobody in her village nor Moana herself had ever had experience with such a thing before, but they were devastating for mortals. That she knew.
Moana turned to address her people, doing her damnedest to swallow down the fright in her own voice. She had to be brave for them. As chieftain, she was their pillar. Their strength.
"Do not fear. I believe that the worst has passed." She gestured with both hands. "Please, go about your day and do not worry."
Then she quietly addressed her council members, who had collected around her, calling them to an emergency meeting. With a nod, they followed her into the village. The large, tattooed newcomer followed as well.