"What danger?" asked Hi'iaka. "Shall we trip on vines or fallen logs?" "Must we wade rocky streams?"
"This beautiful forest belongs to Pana'ewa the great mo'o." The girls looked anxiously toward the forest and voices were full of fear. "If anyone dares to enter, the servants of the great mo'o make ready his im'u. Fog gathers around the unlucky one. As he wanders lost, he is attacked by wind and icy rain. He is struck by a falling branch or tripped by a twisting vine so that he falls over a cliff. Never again will he see the sunlight."
"The great mo'o!" Hi'iaka cried. "I am here to conquer him! Come my companions. Let us take the forest path."
Her companions felt the courage of the young goddess. They knew that she was protected by the power of Pele. "The forest path!" they cried.
The company of girls who had been so happy a few moments ago were all weeping now. "Do not go!" they begged. "You are too beautiful to be cooked in the imu of the great mo'o, and they tried to hold Hi'iaka back. Laughing she broke from them and the three entered the forest of the mo'o.
Hi'iaka entered the forest fearlessly, but she knew there was danger. She watched every tree and stump. She listened to every sound. The trail was very old and dim. The girls tripped over vines. They climed over logs and waded streams. Always they watched.
Darkness fell. "Lie here and sleep for you are weary." Hi'iaka said. "I shall stay awake."
Through the long night the young goddess watched and listened. The darkness was deep around them and the night was very still. Danger must be all around, but Hi'iaka could niether see or hear it.
In the faint light of dawn she saw a little bird high among the trees. It was gathering nectar from the lehua blossoms. "O little bird," she said under her breath, "are you a messenger sent by the great mo'o?" You gather nectar from the blossoms. Are you telling me to drink 'awa and sleep?"
The bird flew away. It must have carried its message to the giant mo'o, for suddenly Hi'iaka heard a terrible voice chanting through the forest, "Food! Here is food! Make ready the imu!"
Hi'iaka's companions sprang up from their sleep. "That voice!" they wispered. "That terrible voice!"
"A terrible voice!" Hi'iaka repeated and her words rang bravely through the forest. "But it is only a voice!"
Her shout was like a signal for an attack. Fog came from every side, seeking to choke the three with it's cold fingers, blinding them and wrapping them in shoulder capes of mist. "Keep close behind me!" Hi'iaka called to her companions. "We must not lose each other," and she drove the fog back with the sacred pa'u of Pele.
Then came cold rain and bitter wind. Branches fell about the three and vines twisted about their feet. Hundreds of little forest birds came screaming and dashed themselves against Hi'iaka and her companions. But the goddess whirled her wonderful pa'u and drove her enemy deeper into the forest. For a moment she could rest. As she rested she shouted a chant to her enemy: "O Pana'ewa bitter is the storm. Branches rattle about us, Leaves and flowers are falling. This is the growl of the mo'o, The mo'o is stirred by his anger! O Pana'ewa, I strike you! I strike you with my mighty pa'u!"
Pana'ewa heard her shout and sent his mo'o army. They dashed through the forest, leaping from the rocks, hiding behind bushes, then jumping out with open mouths and gleeming teeth.
But Hi'iaka whirled her sacred pa'u. She struck at the mo'o army, killing and wounding. Fearlessly her companions fought on either side. There was snapping of jaws and swinging of blows until darkness fell.
Night came at last. All about lay the bodies of dead mo'o. Silence came after the roar of battle. "Sleep," the serving woman told Hi'iaka. "Tonight you must rest and I will watch." And Hi'iaka slept.
Messenger birds went to the giant mo'o. "What news?" he asked them. "My imu is hot. Where are these women that I may cook and feast?"
"The women sleep," the messenger answered, "but our companions sleep in death. Those who went forth to fight lie dead, all except a few who took the form of trees."
The giant mo'o was very angry. He called all his servant who still lived and this time gave his orders in secret. Each mo'o was to take the form os a tree or bush. They were to surround the sleeping women and crush them with their power.
But the serving woman did not sleep. At dawn there was no roaring voice but a low murmur through the forest. It seemed to come from every side. It seemed as if a light morning wind stirred the tree tops. But there was an evil sound. The serving woman shouted a prayer: "O clouds pour down your rain! Let your lightning flame! Your thunders crash! O Pele, Great Pele, show your power! Send forth your voice like a war drum!"
Pele heard and sent her storm clouds to help Hi'iaka. The giant mo'o and his servants came in the form trees and bushes until they surrounded the women. Soon these trees and bushes felt vines climbing over them and holding them so they could neither move nor strike. Then they heard a mighty war call. It was as if the wind itself blew a great shell trumpet. This was followed by booming, as of a mighty war drum. Suddenly all the forces of Pele were let loose. Lightning flashed from the clouds, thunder roared, rain and hail fell until a great flood poured through the forest. The mo'o trees were uprooted and carried out to sea. The forest was swept clean of evil. Only a few twisted forms at the edge of the sea were left to remind the people of the evil that had once been there.
Hi'iaka looked over the wind-swept, rain-swept woodland. She was thankful she had won her first great battle. "This forest is safe now," she said. "Let us go on our way."
(to be continued)