The young Green Nimmo recalled hearing stories of the famous Gorunda every night. His father would lean over his bed and tell magnificent tales about all of the famous Nimmos in history, the Skilled Ryshu, the mysterious shop keeper Orrin, and the simple and nameless Nimmo Traveller. Yet, Gorunda stood out the most in the little Nimmo's memory.
Her wisdom was unmatched; she knew all, saw all, and told all to those willing to brave the haunted woods and visit her small cottage.
Of course, the little green Nimmo had always thought it was just myth, legend, stories. As much as he wanted to believe Gorunda was just as real as he was, it was hard. It only got harder as he grew up, where his friends used to look on in interested, they now only laughed when the green Nimmo repeated his father's stories to them.
Many years passed and the tales of Gorunda nearly slipped out of the Nimmo's mind forever. Until something happened, until Tonglen had the adventure that would change his life forever.
"Tonglen!" the green Nimmo's father called.
The green Nimmo, named Tonglen, was now much older. He had learned his lesson. He knew that stories were stories, and that reality was something else all together. The two world's did not overlap.
"Tonglen, are you all packed?" his father asked him, as he rounded the corner and stood in the doorway of his son's room.
"Yes, Pha." (That is what the Nimmo called his father.) "Yes, I am all packed," Tonglen said quietly. He was nervous to leave home. It was something he could never imagine as a child. Leaving the fields, the misty mountains of Shenkuu. he was home and he would miss it terribly.
Still, the promise of adventure tugged on his heart, first gently, and then stronger.
It was time.
"I will miss you, Pha," Tonglen said, as he rose from the tatami floor.
His father, a kindly brown Nimmo farmer, just smiled at his son. Pride beaming from his eyes.
"My son, I am so proud of you. You will do wonderfully, you will discover many things. And I know you will return," his father replied, his voice comforting but slightly sad.
The green Nimmo's mother rushed into the little room, and embraced her child.
"My love, you must be safe. The Haunted Woods- are you sure you want to go there first? Brightvale I understand, but...."
Tonglen stopped his mother,
"I have always wanted to visit the Haunted Woods, I will not change my mind," he responded.
His mother smiled, and embraced her son again.
Then Tonglen said a final goodbye, and gathered his pack. That day he left his home for the first time in his life, he saw the mists shrink back in the distance as he continued forward.
He journeyed for many weeks, on land and on sea, and after some time had passed he arrived at his destination.
It was nearing night fall when the Nimmo first set eyes on the Haunted Woods. Perhaps had it been morning he would have a different first impression, but it was dark, and the sun was leaving the lands. Tonglen looked on at the place before him, the trees like claws, the bright eyes of the Brain Tree, the towering Haunted House. It was all he imagined it would be.
Suddenly a little voice spoke in his head. It was a voice he had not heard in a long time, it was the voice of a child. It was him when he was young. Before he knew it, Tonglen was asking the locals if they knew of Gorunda the Wise. Stories of her swam in his head as he neared locals and shopkeepers.
"Nope, never heard of her," one grouchy Wocky replied, rushing away quickly, and looking back on the traveling Nimmo with distaste.
"You mean Edna? I know where Edna is!" an enthusiastic but unfortunately incorrect young Aisha responded.
Tonglen wandered the woods further, asking everyone he passed if they knew of Gorunda. He was only greeted with the same answer, no.
Finally he reached the borders of a Gypsy Camp, lit by dancing flames, a Yurble was sitting there, roasting something over the fire.
"Come out of the shadows, young one. I don't bite," she said aloud.
Tonglen gasped but took a bold step forward.
"There, there. You look a long way from home. How might I help you?" she asked. Though she was a bit weathered looking, her eyes were kind.
"Um, well, I don't think you can help me. No one has helped me actually. No one knows the answer to my question," Tonglen said, fumbling over his words, and wringing his hands.
"I'm Ursula," the Yurble said. "See the Barbats? Some say they in bring the night with their wings," she added strangely. Then she spoke again before the green Nimmo could say anything.
"Tell me, what is your question."
What do I have to lose? Tonglen asked himself.
"I'm looking for someone called Gorunda," he said.
The Yurble was quiet for a moment, her face unreadable.
"I see," was all she said. Then she spoke again, this time her voice sounded old and strained.
"Gorunda. I haven't heard of anyone asking for her in too long. I know where she is, young one. You must be very brave to inquire her whereabouts, and even braver to actually seek her. I will tell you where she is though, as you seem of sound character," Ursula said, her face reflecting the flames. She set down whatever she was cooking, and turned her full attention to the Nimmo.
"Gorunda resides in the heart of the Forest. If you think Sophie the Swamp Witch is difficult to find, then you have no idea how hard it is to find old Gorunda. I won't argue with you, though," Ursula said. She pulled out a map from her cloak and handed it to the young Nimmo.
"She lives here." Ursula pointed a stubby finger to the center of the map. The area was surrounded by what looked like symbols representing trees.
"You must cut through the marsh lands if you wish to reach her house, and circle Howling Lupe Hill. I wish you the best of luck and I suggest you leave at dawn. These woods are far too dangerous to wander at night fall."
Tonglen thanked the Yurble sincerely for all her help.
"Please, feel free to stay at camp. The camp fire keeps away many shadows, you will be safer here than anywhere else," Ursula said, smiling.
The odd Neopet was really growing on Tonglen. He thanked her and took up her offer gladly.
Morning came slowly, shining light on the dewy grass around the campsite. It was a chilly morning, and Tonglen brought his coat around his shoulders. He had just finished Ursula's shared breakfast minutes before, and now he faced the forest head one. It was just as menacing in the daylight.
"I honestly hope I see you again, young Nimmo. It has been a comfort knowing your kind still exist," Ursula said kindly from behind him.
"Thank you, Ursula. You have shown me much kindness. I will not forget you."
Tonglen walked through the woods, passing similar scenery along the way. Dark trees, dense undergrowth, sharp rocks. The path he walked only grew fainter and fainter as he continued. The one good thing about the journey was that the sun was not too bright, and during the day he felt comfortable, not too hot or cold. Though as the sky darkened he began to have his doubts, was he going the right way? Where were the marshes? Where was Howling Lupe Hill? Tonglen checked his map for what could have been hundredth time that day. He was on coarse, he recognized the large rock on the map to his right.
The Nimmo took a seat on the ground, leaning against the rock as he did so. He regained himself. Everything would be okay. He was going the right way. It was only getting dark. No big deal. Not like there were tons of monsters lurking in every shadow, no, it was fine.
Tonglen's hands began to shake, but he took a deep breath, and against his protests he closed his eyes. He pictured the calm mists of Shenkuu, rolling over the sea, rolling over the cliffs, never stopping, as changeable as water, embracing all.
When he opened his eyes again, he felt a bit calmer. He rose from his seat, shouldered his pack, and continued down the path.
Hours had passed when he heard a cold howl that sent shivers down his spine. He was not surprised to see a hill in the distance. Large and menacing in the dimming light. He could have sworn he saw a lone figure up there, head tilted towards the sky. Tonglen skirted around the edge of the hill at first, before plunging forward, up the path, towards the top. There was no going around it. A circle of rocks stood on the crest of the hill like a crown on a grassy head.
He half expected to be greeted by a Werelupe, but was still shocked to run into one. Literally. It was a full on collision.
The Werelupe looked on at Tonglen with blazing eyes.
"Well, well, a bit far away from home now are we?" he said.
Tonglen took a step back, trying not to stare at the Lupe's sharp teeth.
"I- I, I'm just passing through. Sorry to bother you!" Tonglen replied, his voice cracking.
"I'll be going now, um, sorry to disturb your um- howling," Tonglen added hastily.
"Not so fast there," the Werelupe responded, grabbing hold of Tonglen's pack before he could get away.
"Tell me one reason why I should let you pass, and why I should spare you. I am very hungry after all." The Lupe smiled a hostile smile.
"Because I promised myself I would meet someone before the end of my days," Tonglen said, strangely calm all of a sudden.
The Werelupe's eyebrows rose in surprise.
"Hmm, not bad," was all he said.
"Who is this person, and why are they so important to you?" the Lupe pressured, the question was simple enough, but something about it struck Tonglen. Why was Gorunda so important to him? He didn't even know her. For all he knew she would shoo him away.
The Werelupe bared his teeth, and tapped his foot on the ground impatiently.
"Well? I'm waiting here!" he said.
"I, um, well, I heard stories about this person ever since I was very young. I thought she was the bravest of the brave, all knowing, all seeing, all telling. She was my hero," Tonglen said solemnly, mostly to himself.
"My, my," the Halloween Lupe said under his breath.
"You really want to meet her don't you?" he added, his face softening.
"What? Meet who? What do you mean?" Tonglen asked, slightly taken aback.
"You are looking for Gorunda the Wise, aren't you Nimmo?" the Werelupe stated.
"Well, yes, I am," Tonglen replied. He could scarcely hide his surprise.
"Answer me this, what would you ask Gorunda if you met her? What do you want from her?" the Werelupe asked, weirdly curious and attentive.
Tonglen thought for a moment.
"I don't think I would ask her anything. I would just, well, I'd just be glad to meet her. To talk to her. Questions might arise if we spoke together, but I don't have set questions to ask. I just want company. Too see one so wise, that is what I would like," Tonglen stated. He was a little shocked at how it all spilled out.
"You are worthy. Come this way, I will lead you to her," the Werelupe said quickly. It was an order.
The Nimmo eyed him warily, but the Werelupe just shrugged.
"Do you really have any choice? Follow me, or risk being discovered by something more dangerous than I am," he declared.
Tonglen followed the Werelupe down the hill and through the marsh lands. Though his companion was fast, he still slowed his pace. It might have been awkward conversation if they had spoken.
"This is the place," the Werelupe finally said, motioning to a low wooden cabin on the edge of the marshes. The lands around were actually quite beautiful, in a rare way. Red and orange pines grew around in thickets, and there was a lake there.
"You will find her inside. Tell her Ebillan showed you the way," the Werelupe, Ebillan, told Tonglen.
Tonglen tried for a smile, and thanked the Lupe.
"Don't mention it. It's been, well, it's been a pleasure meeting someone who still cares." After Tonglen heard the words of the Lupe, he was reminded of the Gypsy Yurble miles away.
Taking a deep breath, Tonglen made his way towards the little cabin. This was it. Here was there. Even though the house did not look imposing in the slightest, Tonglen had never felt so nervous.
He knocked against the worn wood door. Once, twice, then three times.
"Do I have a visitor?" a voice called from the other side of the door.
Tonglen felt frozen there, unable to speak.
"Well, come in, if you've made it this far, you are welcome," the voice said again, before the door swung open.
The room inside was bright and welcoming. A little woman sat by the fire in a rocking chair. She was a faded blue Nimmo with an unusual face. She was aged, but somehow ageless.
"You are welcome here, take a seat," she said in a worn voice.
Tonglen found a seat on an old crate that he brought up closer to the fire. He had forgotten how cold he was.
"So," the Old Nimmo said, rubbing her hands together for warmth. "What do you want to know? How long you will live? If you will have fortune or adventure in your life? Why the sky is blue? Why the stars are so far away? Old Gorunda has heard it all."
"No, well, honestly, I just wanted to talk with you," Tonglen responded quietly.
Gorunda raised her eyebrows, and stared hard at her visitor.
"I heard stories about you when I was a child, I wondered how lonely you felt. How much you had seen, and what you had learned. I don't know, what advice would you offer me?"
Gorunda was speechless for a moment, before she spoke.
"I haven't met one like you before. What is your name?" she asked him.
"It's Tonglen," he replied, staring into the flames.
"Ah, well, Tonglen, the only advice I can offer you is to be kind, understanding and forgiving. That is a very good place to start. Listen to other people when they talk to you, really listen, don't think of what your going to say next. And assume the best of others."
Then Gorunda burst out in a fit of laughter.
"Or something like that!" she said, between laughs. "I'm sorry, I'm just very happy to have company. It's been so long. I think everyone's forgotten about me sometimes," Gorunda said in a quiet voice.
"I haven't forgotten about you, and as long as I'm around I'll be telling stories about you," Tonglen said kindly.
"It's funny how scary it is, being forgotten I mean. There was a time when pets lined the woods trying to get council with the famous Gorunda. Now it's just silence at the door," she chuckled, though she was not joyful at that moment.
"But that is beside the point. Thank you for visiting me," Gorunda added, looking at the young Nimmo across from her.
"How about a story? And some tea?" Gorunda asked, standing up with surprising nimbleness for someone her age.
She boiled a kettle over the fire, and turned to her visitor once more,
"I'll tell you about the days when the world was new."
When Tonglen returned to the Haunted Woods he did not stop there. He traveled across the lands, to Faerieland, Altador, Brightvale and beyond. He never forgot what the wise Nimmo had told him that evening in the middle of the Haunted Woods. Everywhere he went he told stories about the famous Nimmos of the world, but most of all he told the tale of Gorunda to all who would listen.