It was one thing to travel across the sea to find a demigod.
It was another thing entirely to follow that demigod down into Lalotai.
Moana took a breath, peering down the chute to the foggy light far below.
"Of course we have to go there," She hissed, pacing back and forth across the carved stone, raking her hands through still-damp curls. "It's not like he could have left his fishhook on a nice, safe island, could he? No~ of course it had to be down there."
She took another quick breath, steeling her nerves.
Here goes everything.
As soon as her feet left the ledge, she could feel something change in the air. Her stomach swooped at the sensation of falling, and the air instantly grew thinner - lighter somehow, with a faint fermented taste like the Palolo her grandmother loved. She wanted to scream, but the breath was quickly stolen from her lungs, rushing by with a blur of deep ocean and strange colors.
Something with far too many eyes dove alongside her for a moment, and she could feel her heart skip a beat, but it quickly swam away from the smooth vortex she traveled in.
A world of color bloomed before her eyes, and it was with no small amount of alarm that she realized she was falling and there was hard ground below her.
This was a bad idea.
Moana braced herself, hunching her shoulders and turning her face away from the quickly-approaching land mass.
She let out a startled womph as her remaining breath was pushed out of her upon impact, and an even more startled squeak as the ground caved under her, springing back up like she was just a coconut that had been dropped on water. Bright purple grass flung her up into the air, and then remained hard on the second 'thump'. She lay there for a long moment, heart pounding in her chest from what could have been a very unpleasant ending to her adventure.
She rolled over, groaning as she looked up at the strange sky. Everything felt... slightly off. Like she was looking at the world through a thin layer of water and was just barely at the wrong angle. The ground under her twitched. She froze. It shuddered again and she hopped to her feet, instincts screaming at her as she leapt to another ledge.
The 'grass' she had been laying on stood up, forming a slumped sort of humanoid with several long, curving arms. She peered over the edge, but was unable to see its feet through the thick green fog swirling below. It glided away. Was it even walking on anything?
Moana stood up, taking a deep breath and looking up to see a flash of Maui's thick hair as he turned to walk away from watching her. He didn't even offer to help?
She scowled, took a step back to steady herself and ended up tripping over a root, flailing back into a thick, spongy leaf. The root sank back into the earth as she stared at it. Something in her peripherals twitched, and she felt the hair on her arms stand on end. What she thought was a rock suddenly whipped around, a huge humanoid mask staring at her with glowing features.
It made a croaking, rattling noise, like something's throat had been half-crushed but it was trying to speak anyway. A pair of arms snaked out threateningly, and then a second pair of arms followed suit, and it rushed at her faster than she could react.
Moana flinched backwards, kicking her feet out and sending herself backward into the plants. She got a quick glance of the masked thing being snapped up and eaten by one of the other luminescent monsters, before the roots under her palms gave way. Strong fingers scrabbled at the roots, but it seemed like they were actively trying to wriggle out of her grasp, and suddenly she was falling again.
The acrid fermented smell got stronger, but her descent slowed. She was able to get her feet under her and... somehow land softly on her toes on the next bizzare purple island. Fog obscured the one she had fallen from, but she could see several other lush, purple islands floating about in a haze of twisting green fluid and strange life forms.
The heart pulsed softly on her sternum, reassuring in this otherworldly environment. There was no singular source of light she could see - no way of seeing north or south. With a start, she realized that her tiny island was starting to drift sideways - spinning slowly on an axis, while gravity still pulled her toward it. (or was the world just spinning around her?)
She climbed around the island, feeling her skin crawl as the sense of 'gravity' shifted as well. Trying to jump off it didn't help - she just fell back down to it again, and the thick, ever-moving fog made her doubt that she was even facing in the right direction any more.
'This was a bad idea.'
Her whispered words solidified in her guts, and with a startling clarity she realized that... Maui was probably going to leave her here. He was a selfish, uncaring trickster of a demigod. Sure, he liked playing the hero, but he'd tried throwing her into the open ocean several times. If it hadn't been for the sea favoring her - delivering her back to the boat faster than any human could swim - she would have drowned out there. He would have killed her, and he seemed disappointed that he hadn't.
Moana sat down on her little rock of an island, staring out at the endless fog and miasma of the underworld.
Her hands were shaking.
She watched countless glowing creatures twist through the fog - some humanoid, some shaped like animals. Some must have been animals, for they had familiar limb shapes, but she had never seen those beaks - or those claws. Once, she heard the rustle of scales and watched a twisting snakelike shape flap by with bird wings and wide, wide blue eyes.
It didn't seem to notice her.
One of the creatures did notice. It appeared from a swirl of thick fog, stepping away from the twisting smoke as it clung to his shoulders like a living thing.
It seemed... surprised. Uncomfortably red eyes met her own from across the expanse of (mana?) strange air. It had blue skin, and shapes upon its head that could be some sort of black horn. Humanoid, perhaps, but its limbs were hidden behind a long white cape, and many-limbed creatures seemed to be the norm here.
It glided toward her, looking around like it was expecting something to pop up and snatch her away.
Alas, no Maui. The last of her hope on that front had already trickled past
Now that it was closer, she could see the curve of tall, pointed ears. Bright blue was such an unsettling color to see a humanoid face in. She suspected it would glow brightly in the dark.
It said a word in a strange language she did not recognize, and tilted its head like it was waiting for an answer. (He?)
"I'm sorry, I don't understand you."
She watched it carefully, heart pounding with the knowledge that if it DID try to attack her, she'd be pretty helpless.
The creature made an odd face and mouthed a part of her words, a strange accent curling the letters. He gestured to his own neck, and she realized she had been tightly clasping the heart through her necklace since he had shown up.
"This is the heart of Te Fiti." She answered quietly, grasping it just a bit tighter. Red eyes blinked and he tilted his head again, frowning. Moana groaned, letting go of the hollow necklace, leaning back on the rock with a sigh of exasperated exhaustion. It was getting to the point that she was tired of being scared.
Her hands had stopped shaking. Finally.
"Look, I don't belong here, so if you could call Maui or direct me to Tamatoa's lair, or to the real world in general, I'd really appreciate- HEY!" Moana yelped, grabbing at the creature's cape as it flitted away again, her necklace held in one clawed hand. fast!
The black claw flicked open her grandmother's shell necklace, eyes widening at the pulsing green stone nestled inside.
He looked at her, eyes narrowing to calculating slits
A moment later, the green world around her went black, and her mind snapped to unconsciousness.