The Kapiʻolani sat at the water's edge, idling her hand about in the shallow water. She was dressed without her garlands today, as she had spent the morning amongst her people, raising huts and repairing sails. Her thoughts drifted to the sea… to him.
Sighing, she looked to the midday sky, picturing the rippling muscles beneath inky flesh in her mind's eye. The deep brown eyes, the long tresses, the large hands and fabled fish hook of Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga.
The last time she had seen him was a few months prior, when he had flown past the seafarers on their maiden voyage. Since then, they had arrived to their first island, this island, which they aptly named Ainalani: the heavenly land.
Almost as if on cue, a black dot appeared on the horizon, becoming larger and larger as it approached. Wide wings spread, the hawk flew into the nearby trees.
The angry screech echoed loudly through the palms, carried heavily by the ocean breeze. Maui glanced up quickly to see a figure leaping at him from her perch on a higher branch, a weapon aimed for his throat. The demigod's assailant was deflected immediately by a single flick of his thumb and pointer finger. The small woman tumbled backwards with a shriek. Righting herself and huffing, the long-haired warrior jabbed her pololu in his direction.
"Maui, Shapeshifter, Demigod of the Wind and Sea– what are you doing on my island?"
Maui scoffed, nonchalantly eyeing the spearpoint poking his jawline. Ignoring the happy thumping of Little Maui currently jumping heatedly 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. She immediately tossed her harpoon to the ground and leapt into Maui's arms, hugging her old friend as tightly as she could; the demigod hugged her back in fervor, reveling in the unfamiliar softness of her feminine body against his own hard flesh. Little Maui excitedly hugged the tattoo version of Moana somewhere near the demigod's shoulder blade.
"How've you been, kid?"
"Better than you," Moana joked, pulling away to lightly punch Maui's thick bicep. "You're wasting away. What did you have for breakfast?"
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 years 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 sparkled like the sun on the ocean as he gazed 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 thousand miles per minute. Seeing her friend brought her joy, an elation she couldn't rightfully express.
Grinning, 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… chief?"
Self-consciously but gracefully, Moana tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. 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 now. 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.
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 collection of huts sat at the base of the mountain. Only a few stood completed, while many were still in medias res; a few villagers were working together on a thatch roof here, while another group of villagers were 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. "I'm not a kid anymore."
Despite the time that had passed, the familiarity between them made things easy. A few curious villagers approached the chief and her new guest, humbly welcoming him to their island.
As Moana watched on, she felt her body begin to tremble. It was an external force, vibrating up through the pads of her feet. Then there was a low rumbling– distant, but also nearby. Face contorted in confusion, Moana turned toward the source of the rumbling, just as the ground began to shake in violent tremors.
A few people around her gasped and shrieked, and a child began crying. The dirt beneath them began to shift and shook back and forth with an urgent frequency, and Moana had to throw her arms out to balance herself to stay upright.
"Kapiʻolani! Chieftess!" a man– a member of the council– cried as he ran toward Moana, away from a half-built thatch hut that collapsed behind him. Moana whipped around to look at Maui, her fear-filled eyes meeting his dark ones.
"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 turned back to the source of the rumbling, now low and deep and fading.
"The mountain," she whispered.
"Lua pele. Volcano."
Moana locked eyes with the demigod who had spoken. She had heard tales of volcanoes. Ancient stories passed down through the generations. Eruptions were manifestations of the wrath of the Fire Goddess. Nobody in her village had ever had experience with such a thing before, but they were devastating for mortals. That she knew.
Moana addressed her people. Doing her best to hide the fright in her own voice. She had to be brave for them. As chief, she was their pillar. Their strength.
"Do not fear. I believe the worst has passed. Please, go about your day and do not worry."
Then she addressed her council members, calling them to a meeting. With a nod, they followed her into the village. The large, tattooed newcomer followed as well.