The ocean has been Moana's friend for as long as she could remember.
It talked to her, taught her things even the village elders didn't know. It told her tales of legends long forgotten, showed her the creatures that lived deep beneath the water surface, and when she awoke at dawn, the ocean would welcome her with a new shell, colored like the many hues of the sky.
Moana never did try to get the other kids to join her on her many exploits of shiny rock collecting (Not that any of them cared much for spending time looting for stones with the chief's weirdo daughter). Instead, to all the adults' dismay, she allowed that to be her own little thing. No boring lectures or unsure children. Just her and the ocean.
It was one of the only things separate from her day-to-day life of being taught how to lead her people alongside the countless other chores that came with being the future chief. A time to spend away from people who continuously told her to "Consider The Coconut" or children who feared the mere thought of monsters that crawl around, veiled by the dark (Moana never got that. The idea that she could stumble upon a monster at any given time sounded pretty cool).
The sand crumbled beneath her feet as a ten (pushing eleven!) Year-old Moana skipped happily along the beach. The ocean's waves barely touch her toes as she goes, carrying more and more colorful stones and fish towards her. Giggling at the fish flopping their way back to the water, Moana readjusted the fabric around her waist, raising the ends so it serves as a basket to the bouquet of shimmering colors.
"Moana!" A voice called from behind. The girl turned her head to find her father calling her from his place at the edge of the ferns "We've got to leave, the storm is getting closer!"
Moana suppressed the urge to groan in resignation and roll her eyes. Instead, she casts her gaze at the horizon where rumbling clouds of grey swirl ominously toward Motonui. Rain wasn't a foreign occurrence at Motonui, but it definitely wasn't common.
Nonetheless, she looked forward to the cold rain pouring down and the soft, its calming pitter-patter against the soil and how the plants seem to glow afterward. It's one of the only exciting things the young girl got to enjoy without hiding or having to worry of adults reprimanding her.
She wondered if the dance he ocean taught her had brought on the rainclouds.
"Okay! I'll be there in a minute!" She shouts back at the top of her lungs, unable to use her hands as microphones with the barrage of multi-colored stones and shells. Her father waves in acknowledgment and leads a rush of villagers cradling woven baskets filled with fruits, fish and - lo and behold - coconuts.
Moana hikes her skirt up and twists on her heels, following the path made by her not yet erased footprints as she runs across the beach. She skips over sharp rocks and shakes off any seaweed that decided to stick to the sole of her feet. But right before she could leave the shore and to the grass, Moana slips. She falls with a yelp, landing dramatically on all her dropped loot. And next came a sharp CRACK!
"Gah! Oh no, no, no!" Moana cries, lurching up and away, only to -oh God- find her prized treasures cracked and splintered into little bits and pieces "Ugh! Why, why?!"
She lets out a frustrated breath, dropping her head to her hands. Well, isn't this just great! All her hard work and for nothing. She lets out a raspberry as her fingers drag down her face, wanting to fall face first and scream into the sand. After heaving another sigh, Moana bends down and begins picking them up, one by one, grudgingly grumbling to herself.
It's when her hands hover over a luminescent emerald pebble that her complaints came to a halt. Moana blinks, retreating her arm back in surprise.
"What...?" She curiously cocks her head to the side, leaning closer until a soft green light casts upon her face. Her hair flutters down around her face like a curtain, concealing the green glow in a cage of black tendrils. Feeling brave, her index finger reaches out, experimentally poking the smooth surface of the rock.
--Before a burst of greens exploded around her.
Moana gasped, stumbling away with a yelp of shock. She stared in stunned silence at the flowery avalanche, her eyes wider than the ocean. The plants around her hum gently as they sway, the pebble resting in the center. Barely aware of the raindrops now falling on her head, Moana takes a step closer, much more curious than ever. She licks her lips, legs tucked beneath her as she crawled over to the little oasis. Wonderful, bright, multicolored flowers seem to open wider as she approaches, their petals glowing brighter before fading out completely when Moana smoothes her hands over them.
The mini-garden wilts, swallowed back into the sand.
Moana's mouth hung agape with no reference on how to react, opting for hesitantly cupping the now dull rock in her hands and standing up so very slowly, fearing that, somehow, any sudden movements would cause it to disappear in the wind.
"There you are, Moana!" Her body seizes up, and Moana hurriedly shoves the mysterious rock between her skirt and its belt.
Gramma Tala appeared in her line of vision, her expression amused and body language easy as she stares at the sky; An arms folded behind her back while the other held a wooden cane.
Moana, on the other hand, stood stiff and upright. A forced smile was plastered on her face, stretched out so far that it hurt. Tala looked down from the horizon and to her granddaughter, eyebrows raised as if she was holding back laughter.
"Moana," Tala starts "I never knew your skirt could turn green!" She pointed out, a laugh behind her tone. The little girl snapped to look down at where a soft glow filtered through the fabric of her belt. A loud gasp escapes Moana and she begins blubbering panicked excuses while Tala stared at her, expectant.
"Keiki... are you, by any chance, hiding something from me?"
Moana jumps, eyes going somehow wider. She flails and bumbles frantically, wildly made up excuses falling from her lips. It's after a minute of her rapid-fire explanations that Tala's hearty laughter broke through.
"Oh, Moana," The older woman chuckles under her breath, her brown eyes shining with a humorous glint "Let's walk on, the storm is getting worse"
Tala moves first, using her cane as leverage over the soft sand. The little girl hesitates, adjusts the fabric around her waist, and follows.
"Um," Moana folds her hands in front of her. Her fingers tangle together as the nerves radiate off of her "You're not angry?"
"And why would I be angry at you, Moana?" Tala laughed, softer this time, and a smile spreads across her features.
"Because I hid this..." Meekly, Moana put out her clasped hands and unraveled them to show a shimmery emerald pebble resting in her palms. Tala looks it over with lidded eyes and gives an approving nod towards her granddaughter.
"That's the heart of Te Fiti, alright"
"The heart of what?!"
"Well, of course. I have told you of her tale, haven't I?"
Moana blinks in astonishment "Uh, yeah. Maui, the Demi-God, took her heart out of selfishness," Tala hums "And 'cause of a need to please the humans --B-but wait! Do you mean... that this is the heart? The heart?"
Gramma Tala gives offers a wide grin, using her cane to move a leaf from her way while Moana settles for ducking beneath it. Beyond appears the village in their line of sight.
Lanterns have been set up out in front of the houses, illuminating much of their path as they closed into the rumbles of hurried villagers, who were swarming from place to the other. Supplies were placed into crates within small huts. Animals lead into pens sheltering them of the now soft drizzle coming down.
Moana stumbles in her step, becoming hasty in her attempts to hide the heart. Panic stabs at her chest, and the thought of a villager or --god forbid-- her father, finding out about her secret sent her on a frenzy.
A strong hand rests on her shoulder, and Moana looks up to see her Gramma's reassuring gaze. She holds out a necklace made of twigs and a blue shell held tightly in the middle. It takes a second before Moana realizes that it was meant for her.
"But isn't this--"
"Oh, its nothing I wasn't going to give you at some point. The ocean is quite eager to have you obtain Te Fiti's heart, so it's only reasonable that I give you something to keep it in."
Moana giggles "But I thought 'reason' was for losers"
"It is," Tala assured "Unless I'm the one being reasonable"
Moana smirks and drops her gaze to look at the necklace hanging before her, Provoked by her curiosity, Tala holds the accessory closer and, with both her index and thumb she presses on either side. The necklace clicks open.
Wonder fills up Moana's eyes like sunlight in a bucket. She stares at the hollow inside, gently taking the locket in her hands. Baffled of words yet positively blown out of her mind, her face splits into a toothy grin. "Wow..."
She turns it in her palm, studying the royal blue of the compartment. Carefully, she places the emerald heart within the safety of the Locket and snaps it shut.
"'Wow' indeed, Keiki. If you are to take up this responsibility, I might as well aid you in your journey."
"Journey?" Moana gasps loud "I'm going on an adventure?" Her confusion switched into excitement in an instant, sending her to a bouncing frenzy.
"No, no" Tala laughs when the little girl's expression fell into despair "You're still so young Moana. There is much for you to learn." Her calloused hands go to raise Moana's chin so shes meeting eyes with her Gramma "But when the time comes, and you are ready to face the world, your adventure will truly begin."
"You think so?"
"I know so."
Before Moana could say anything else, villagers rush around them and coax the two away from the cascade of rain and towards the dry, warm safety of their own home. Just before they part ways into their respective rooms, Tala turns to her granddaughter and squeezes her hands.
"This is your destiny, Moana" She affirms "The ocean chose you"