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We Have Lingered in the Chambers of the Sea

Chapter Text

“Ariel! Where is that girl?”

Sebastian frantically paced atop a corral reef, scanning the horizon frantically for the youngest princess of Atlantica. So much so, that he neglected to check behind him from whence he came, thus missing the flash of red that came from behind a boulder.

Eyes of sapphire peeked their way around the stone, eyeing the crab cautiously. As he frantically began to comb the reef, hoping to spot a princess hiding between two shells, the mermaid sighed in relief.

“Thank Poseidon that we lost him,” Ariel whispered to the guppy swimming beside her as she crept further out of sight from Triton’s right-hand crab. “Sebastian gets so flustered, he wouldn’t see us right now even if we swam /right/ in front of him!”

“Um, Ariel?” Flounder inquired, his small fins working overtime to keep pace with his friend’s giant, sweeping tail. “Shouldn’t we let him know where we are? I mean...he would help us stay out of trouble.”

“But that’s /boring/!“ The princess huffed, her hair flowing behind her like waves of fire as she sped up, Sebastian far out of sight. “Gosh Flounder, don’t be such a guppy. Wouldn’t you rather have fun?”

“I’m not a guppy,” the fish muttered, nervously refusing to answer her question.

Suddenly, a low thrum of music could be heard vibrating through the water. Ariel stopped, her tail swishing with the effort of remaining in one place. Her ears strained to listen, and—there! That /was/ music!

Blue eyes widened at the thought; they were too far away from the kingdom for it to be the merfolk. So where was it coming from?

The noise raised in pitch and her eyes seemed to follow the sound, being drawn upward to gaze at the surface of the sea. There she could see a huge shadow slowly covering the reef, accompanied by smaller shadows trailing behind it.

Ships!
⠀“Um, Ariel, I don’t think that we should—” Flounder’s words were lost to the princess as, with a mighty flick of her tail, she was propelled upwards, speeding towards the surface. She frantically swam towards the sun, an action that would earn her great disapproval from her father later—if he ever found out, that is.

A rush of cold blasted Ariel’s face as she surfaced, followed by a rush of heat from the sun. The music grew much louder, the ships just a few meters away from where the mermaid bobbed.

Flounder surfaced beside her, his face full of worry. “Ariel, don’t you think that we should maybe—”

“Shh, Flounder! Can’t you hear that?” Ariel whispered in awe, her eyes devouring every inch of the vessels that she could see. Her gaze was drawn to the one at the forefront of the legion, curious to see who led such a fantastic herd of boats (and people).

She could only make out a hurricane of curls, unable to clearly see the captain due to distance. But that problem was easily solved.

“Ariel, don’t!” Flounder hissed as the mermaid dived back underneath the waves, racing towards the ship.

Chapter Text

As her boat sailed at the head of the fleet, Moana smiled to herself, feeling the sun hit her face as she swung from the rope trailing down from the sail, the length of the fibrous cord wrapped securely around one hand. The other came to rest above her brow, shading her dark eyes as she scanned the sea, upper body suspended over the thrashing waves, feet barely glancing the wooden edge of her grand canoe. The salt spray kissing her cheeks, Heihei interrupted Moana's watch with his garbled clucking from the small compartment below deck. Sighing, she turned to sort out whatever was bothering him, Pua gazing at her head cocked and with soulful, wide eyes. She ruffled his wiry hair with her fingers as she passed, before a sudden ripple far to the east made her snap her head around and abandon her return to her earlier post at the rope. She froze, squinting out at the glinting, oily water.

"Uh.... Pua, What is that?" She spoke softly. The piglet have a nasaly whimper-squeal in response.

"Gramma?" She tried, though The movement didn't look like a stingray. There was no surge of blue glow, no grey fin slapping at the side of the ship. Her face contorted into a brief grimace.

"M.....Maui?" She asked hopefully, though her tone sounded more uncomfortable and disbelieving as she turned to peer over her shoulder in case she spotted the sudden shift of a shark in the water to bird in the sky. The horizon was cloudless and empty. She quickly gathered her mass of hair into a neat bun atop her head, and raced up the mast in order to better see. The shape looked.... Almost like.... a girl. Moana shook herself and rubbed at her eyes with one fist. It must just be the long journey deceiving her mind; girls didn't swim this far out in the ocean, and since the return of voyaging, the people of Motanui had met many other tribes on various islands. None of them looked like what she thought she had seen: a girl with skin as pale as the smooth flesh of a coconut, and hair like crimson blood, turned a fiery gold in the sun.

"Ocean.... what was that?" She muttered, climbing down with a practiced ease, and not expecting an answer. Moana shivered; people did NOT look like that. They looked like her, like her parents, like her people, even as far out as they'd voyaged, the people always somewhat resembled them. That was how people WERE. Not...not whatever slender sunbeam she had seen slip below the surface of the waves, and not come back up. Fatigue. That was all it was, she reminded herself, taking a deep breath. She was stressed, she was tired, she had been chief of this expedition for a week now, and it was turning her weary enough to make believe she saw strange girl-creatures out on the water.

"Moana!" Her father's voice rang out above the crash of the surf lapping at their boats. He had his own large canoe filled with half their people in his command, while Moana had opted to take her own smaller boat for the voyage, as she had her first trip out beyond the reef. "Are you alright? What did you see?"

The way finder hesitated. It was just her imagination. No need to worry her father just when he was beginning to see she was a good leader to their people. She was NOT incapable just because she succumbed to ONE illusion after DAYS out at sea, okay? "Uh... Nothing, Dad! I thought maybe I saw Maui's shark tale... but it was just a bunch of kelp. Keep north, we should reach the next island by sunset!"

Chapter Text

Ariel surged forward beneath the waves, her powerful tail propelling her toward the dark underside of the ship.

“Ariel, wait!” Flounder panted, struggling to keep up with her.

When the shadow was almost above her the mermaid stopped, craning her neck back to gaze up at the surface. Her heart pounded with excitement; above her were /humans/. Real, live humans.

Her hidden cave full of sunken human treasures couldn’t prepare her for the giddiness she felt. Ariel had spent hours pouring over every detail of each object, imagining what kind of human it must’ve come from. She’d imagined every possible scenario. But despite all that, her body quivered with ill-contained excitement.

Full of adrenaline, the princess swam up to the surface, cool air brushing against her pale cheeks once more as she poked her head above the water. Scales like emeralds glittered as they were waved back and forth through various beams of light, her tail moving to keep her in place. The songs and shouted commands of the legion enveloped her, the crashing of wood upon the waves sending salty sea spray her way. It was an enormous commotion—and Ariel loved it.

She was so close to the ship, she could /touch it/.

“Keep north, we should reach the next island by sunset!”

Blue eyes quickly sought out the speaker, the girl she had seen earlier with a mane of untamable curls. Her skin was the color of sweets that Scuttle had shared with her once—a creamy, delicious brown. She stood tall, like Ariel would if she had legs. Like royalty.

“Ariel!” Flounder surfaced next to her, blubbering with fear, his voice rising anxiously. “We shouldn’t be this close, and your father needs you home for singing practice, and he’s going to kill you and /literally/ kill me if we don’t go back, and I’m too young to die Ariel I have my whole life ahead of me, and—”

“Flounder! Shh,” Ariel murmured, well aware of how easily his voice carried.

Moana's eyes narrowed, but only for a moment. She thought she'd heard the sounds of shushing... But that was ridiculous. It must have been the wind. And that irregular shine on the water? Must be the light reflecting off some surfacing school of fish, or some shells, or-or.... algae on some rocks!

She shook herself, clearing her thoughts of anything but wayfinding. Wayfinding. She was a wayfinder. She needed to get everyone to their next island safely. It wasn't long after the sun began to dip behind the horizon that they grounded their canoes ashore and set up camp for the night, Moana using their flint to spark a large fire in the cluster of large logs gathered by her father and some of the villagers.

“/Ariel/!”

“/Quiet/, Flounder! If you’re so scared of humans, why won’t you be quiet?”
Ariel hissed, frantically looking upwards to see if the head of a human was poking itself over the side, staring fiercely at the mermaid floating below. But there was nothing; the commands from each passing ship did not cease, and the fleet surged forward.

The ship of the curly-haired captain began to move toward the horizon, and another vessel took its place. The creaking hull floated past Ariel, and the princess had to resist the urge to grab ahold of an oar and pull herself along.

She /had/ to follow them. This was the closest she’d been to humans in—well, forever! Who knew when she’d get another chance? And that captain...she had to talk to her; surely she could explain the life of a human to Ariel.

“C’mon, Flounder,” Ariel said, starting to swim after the ships.

“But, Ariel, what will your dad say?”
“Who cares what Daddy says? Flounder, this is the closest we’ve EVER been to a human!”
“But Sebastian—”

“Sebastian will live,” the princess said with certainty, turning back towards her friend. Blue orbs were lit up in excitement, light freckles seeming to dance along her nose with ill-contained eagerness in the fading sun. “We’ll be back long before Daddy notices I’m gone,” she soothed. “Now are you coming or not?”

Flounder waved his fins anxiously. “Of /course/ I’m going to come,” he eventually said grudgingly.

A bright smile flashed across Ariel’s face, dimples showing the extent of her joy. “Great!” She giggled, turning back towards the disappearing legion and diving under the waves, her best friend in tow.

Chapter Text

Stars were beginning to peek out from behind daylight’s curtain as Ariel finally drew level with the humans. They had stopped at an island for the night, pulling their ships ashore. The princess slowly swam along the border of the island, looking for an area where she could get closer.

Eventually, Ariel found a deep pool of water gracing the sandy shores, home to only a few crabs. Inching as far as she could, the mermaid gazed from behind a large rock embedded in the sand of the pool. Flounder surfaced beside her, taking note of the dark sky above them.

“Ariel, isn’t it a little late?”

“Yes but—look!” Ariel pointed to where she could see the captain from before, huddled in front of a pile of logs and striking something in her hands. Flares of light leapt from her hands and the princess audibly gasped, her eyes wide. “Flounder, what is that?”

The fish looked nervously at the human. “I don’t know, but I don’t like it.”

A few sparks flew and landed atop the logs, sending a flurry of flames across the surface of the wood. Ariel shrieked in surprise, watching as the whole pile was consumed in vibrant reds and oranges. What /was/ she doing?

Humans were so incredible.

“Ye-ow!” Flounder yelped, frantically shaking an annoyed crab off his tail. Ariel laughed, both voices echoing in the still air. Her breath caught in her throat; they were too close. The girl /had/ to hear them that time.

Moana's head snapped to attention as laughter floating in on the nighttime ocean breeze caught in her ear. She turned her head, hair billowing softly in the wind, trying to discern the source over the crashing waves upon the shore. She had DEFINITELY heard it that time; it wasn't just her imagination now that they'd made it to the island and her stress had diminished. It was a cove... a little ways off from where they'd set up camp. Moana furrowed her brown and stood slowly, waving a hand to interrupt the story someone beside her was telling.
"M-Moana?" He squawked in surprise, snapping his mouth shut. "My chief?"

"Im gonna.... Have to finish this later." Moana murmured distractedly, trying to avoid her father's eyes on her as she grabbed Pua in one arm and a small torch in the other, the question in his eyes reflecting in the glare of the blaze as she lit her piece of wood and began to pick her way across the sand in the dark. Sorry, Dad, she thought before turning her attention to the task at hand. Luckily most of the villagers were distracted with cooking, eating, dancing, or talking, so few noticed her departure. Moana's dark eyes squinted as she scanned the black shoreline, only the light from her small torch casting orange shadows in a small pool around her. "H-hello?" She called out. Oh WHERE was Maui at a time like this? What if it was a spirit? A monster? MORE KAKAMORA?? She hefted the torch in her right hand, preparing to fight if need be. She wished she had her oar, just in case she needed to give some sea creature a smack. "A-anyone there?" Pua gave a curious little whimper, hiding his face in her neck.

“H-hello?”

The captain’s curious voice reached their ears and Ariel felt her heart thud with excitement. This was her chance—to meet a real human!

But what would Father think?
His stern words floated through her brain as she recalled speech after speech of Triton claiming that humans were barbarians: selfish, cruel, and unfeeling monsters who would hurt his daughters if they even dared to stray to the surface. He used fear to keep them within palace walls, told them that humans would kill a mermaid as soon as they saw one. Or worse: capture them. The thought of being locked up for the amusement of others made Ariel’s stomach turn; the thought of being torn apart in order to enlighten a scientist with how a mermaid functioned made her squirm. Her father’s words were harsh and full of pain—humans killed Athena, after all.

Her mother.

Flounder could see Ariel’s obvious discomfort. “May-maybe we should go home, Ariel,” he stated, casting a wary glance towards the fiery glow. “We’ll just go home, tell Sebastian we found a sunken vessel, and no one will have to know that we—”

“A-anyone there?”

Ariel slid from her position atop the rock and sunk deeper into the water, peeking secretly around the corner. She could see the girl scanning the waters curiously, a torch in one hand and...some sort of creature in another. What /was/ that?

Flounder was right. They should go home. The princess was headstrong, but even she knew this was a bad idea—there were too many humans. But something in the captain’s voice made her hold back. She had come all this way—she couldn’t leave now!

“Hello?” Ariel responded, still staying out of sight. “Who are you?”

"aAH!" Moana let out a shout at the voice, fumbling with her torch and dropping in into the wet sand rimming the edges of the shallow pool. Ariel watched as the crackling light stick extinguished with a hiss upon touching the damp sand. /Fire/, she realized, she could ask this captain about FIRE.

The captain was currently on the ground, where she'd fallen over after letting out the shout. Her hair tumbled in all directions over her face, and panting with huge eyes, she pushed it back with one hand. "Oh my gods! Oh my... I didn't think anyone was gonna answer, somebody ANSWERED, WHO answered, there's nobody out here but us. Oh, gods, I thought it was stress!" She moaned, flopping back against the cool grains. Ariel cocked her head, watching the panicked girl seemingly mumble to herself. She reminded her of Sebastian when he got his exoskeleton in a twist. Moana had lowered her voice, but still glanced over her shoulder to make sure no one from camp had heard her. Releasing Pua, who squeaked and dashed, shaking, behind a rock, she pushed herself up suddenly and began to crawl towards the pond. Squinting in the dark she called out, "Who's there?"

— Ariel saw her own fear paralleled in front of her; the loud thudding of her heart in her chest seemed to match the panicked mannerisms of the human crawling about on the sand. She still couldn’t believe it—a real /human/.

The mermaid’s gaze fell on the smoking wood that the girl had dropped; the fire had extinguished on contact with the lapping waves. But why? Ariel couldn’t wrap her mind around it. She longed to feel the heat of the burning flames; crystal eyes drifted to the roaring fire in the distance, flames curling upward to lick the sky. A large group of shadows clustered around the orange and red flames and jogged Ariel’s memory: they weren’t alone.

The human in front of her wasn’t just a girl, she was a /captain/. A captain of a rather large amount of humans. A bit of unease began to creep into the mermaid’s mind and her stomach turned with nervousness, her head ringing with the tales Triton had told his daughters all their lives. Tales of how humans were cruel, fish-eating barbarians who wouldn’t hesitate to slaughter a beautiful maiden for their next meal. Tales of how they’d poke, prod, and tear apart a merperson just to figure out what sorcery ties them to this world.

The tale of how careless pirates killed their mother, Athena.

One human was fine, but if she called for her crew’s help—suddenly Ariel was unsure about her decision.

“Ariel?”
Flounder’s low tone brought the princess back from the depths of her thoughts. She blinked, focusing once again on the girl in front of her. His cautious words from earlier also echoed in her brain and she almost felt he was right. It was simply too dangerous; there were too many of them for it to be safe. They should slip back underwater and swim home, vanishing from sight and therefore the thoughts of any human who thought they may have seen something peculiar in the turquoise water.

But there was something about that girl...


Ariel slowly raised herself to peer over the rock, cold stone pressing against her midriff. Cool green scales glimmered softly in the moonlight as she gently swept her tail from side to side, helping to keep herself buoyant. She took a deep breath, mentally preparing for the worst possible scenario. /I can do this/.

“H-hello?” The mermaid ventured quietly, so as not to raise the attention of the humans in the distance. She tilted her head curiously, curls spilling onto the weathered rock. “Who are /you/?”

Moana gasped again, letting out a shout. "You-you TALK! Okay, okay, well.... that's... good! GREAT! I'm here. In the dark. By the ocean, who NEVER TOLD ME ABOUT THIS" she interjected this with a glare at the shifting sea, which Ariel found odd, but... cute. "Talking to some... some kind of.... sea spirit! Okay. Okay, that's... cool. Uh... Hi? I'm..." She stopped, took another deep breath, smoothed her rumpled hair back, and sat up straighter on her knees. "I am Moana of Motunui."