A/N This story is related to my other DA story "Eternal Waking Dream", but can also be read as a standalone. As usual, Bioware owns everything and I am simply borrowing the characters a bit. Also I'm looking for a beta for some DA stories, so if anyone would be interested, please say.

Silence… she needed it… she craved it. Silence and darkness wrapping her into a protective cocoon to shield her away from the anguished cries of the wounded, the screeches of the darkspawn and the roars of the Archdemon that stood collapsed on top of Fort Drakon in front of her. The huge dragon was lying on the concrete, unable to move, blood pouring from all his wounds. He lay dying and he knew it… so did she… But she would remember all this for so long…the cries, the yells , the pleas would follow her in her sleep and would accompany her as she stood awake even if she was one step from ending it all…

Close to her, three figures watched her with caution… flaming red hair blew in the wind as the bard's blue eyes watched with caution for any sign of danger. Standing by the ballista, the elven assassin kept the machine aimed at the dragon's body ready to shot in case the dragon found strength to raise its head and charge. The last of them was the human man whose hands were grasping the handle of Duncan's sword painfully tight. She watched him, knowing that he wanted to be the one to deal the blow in case the ritual went wrong. But she couldn't let him, he was the king, she was a mere elf mage.

She slowly made her way towards the fallen dragon despite the protests she heard from the others. He was defeated, he knew that, but he looked her square in the eyes without fear. And there, under the shimmering darkness of the taint she saw a flicker of light and knew what these Old Gods were forced to go through.

"You're still there, aren't you Urthemiel?" she asked with sadness in her eyes. "Despite the corruption running in your veins there's still a small part of you there. And that part is forced to see the destruction you bring upon a land you once loved. I pity you, Urthemiel." The dragon roared, but the mage kept her eyes trained on his. She unsheathed Maric's sword that she held strapped to her back and came even closer to the dragon.

"Neria!" an anguished voice shouted from behind her, but she paid it no heed as she kept her attention on the Archdemon.

"I forgive you, Urthemiel…We all forgive you!" As she grasped the handle of the sword tightly, she ran forward and climbed on the dragon's back. "May you find peace!" With a strangled cry she brought the sword down and everything erupted in a column of light.

In that moment as she stood frozen with her sword embedded in the Archdemon's neck, Neria Surana saw all that passed, all the events that brought her to this moment: Jowan's desperation, his betrayal, Duncan's decision, Ostagar's fall, Alistair's sorrow, Recliffe burning, The Circle of Mages filled with abominations, Niall's sadness, Zathrian's curse, the werewolves' plight, the dwarves' political battle, Morrigan's suggestion… Denerim burning…

And then nothing… the sweet darkness embraced her and she welcomed it, succumbing to oblivion. When she opened her eyes, she knew she was not yet awake. Tall pine trees were surrounding her from all sides and a crystalline waterfall was shimmering softly to her left. She wore a soft, blue dress and her feet were bare. The place was so familiar it ached; it was the place where her mind hid when the loneliness of the tower was too much, when the cries of the children and the curses of the apprentices could no longer be muffled. It was the place that embraced her when templars threw leering glances at her and humans pushed her aside because she was an elf.

Neria Surana, one of the last two Wardens of Ferelden and vanquisher of the Archdemon of the Fifth Blight was in the Fade.

Suddenly she saw someone approach her and knew she was no longer alone in this portion of the Fade. The stranger was neither man nor woman, nor any race she had seen while walking across Ferelden. It had long hair that shimmered in a myriad of colors and eyes that shone like molten gold. A pair of silver horns adorned its head and when it spoke the creature had a soft voice that resembled the wind in a warm, spring morning.

"I see you have woken, Warden."

"You are… Urthemiel!" Neria realized surprised."You're dead… I killed you… or maybe not exactly dead…"

"Yes, you killed me, Warden." Urthemiel laughed brightly and one could really see the Old God of the Arts. "Yet, you showed compassion and forgiveness. Something no other Warden has showed before. Why did you?"

"It's not fair to be judged for something beyond your control."

"Indeed it is not. And you know all about it, do you not, young Warden? An elf and a mage! Yet others were the same as you and the only thing they saw in my brethren were beasts that need to be slaughtered."

"You were still there," Neria argued "I do not know about your brethren, but I could see you somewhere deep inside. It was not your fault…at least not now…"

"But in the past it was?" Urthemiel asked. "Perhaps, young one, perhaps. We were too trusting, yet I hid my secrets well and gave them only to those who were worthy. You are worthy…"

"I do not desire your secrets!" Neria interfered. "I am perfectly content with what I know, I do not need more. Where are we? This is the Fade is it not?"

"It is your version of the Fade, young mage. It is as you see your shelter. Others who freed my brethren saw their own version of the Fade, but passed on as there was nothing else waiting for them in your real."

"You mean to tell me that a Grey Warden's soul is not destroyed when the Archdemon is slain?"

"Why should it be destroyed?" Urthemiel frowned in confusion, "The Grey Warden's soul acts as a beacon leading my brethren into the Fade. Then they are given the chance to go on or return. None of them returned because they had nothing to return to. However, you wanted to return… so you sent me on another journey."

"Do you hate me?" Neria nibbled on her bottom lip, "For doing the ritual? You would have been at peace."

"I would, but it was simply not meant to be. Perhaps I have been given a new chance, perhaps nothing will change. It is even possible that my conscience will not awaken during the child's life span. After all, only great and terrible things wake the Old Gods from their slumber. We shall see! There is a new beacon waiting to guide me and there is a whole life waiting for you. You will cry, you will laugh, but in the end you will have to fight in order to be able to truly live."

The forest started blurring at its edges and Neria knew it was time to make a choice. Go on or go back! Urthemiel turned around, no longer facing her and started shimmering as well.

"This world you know as home is about to change. Friends will turn against each other and enemies will fight together in order to survive. Should you return you will be given the chance to make a change. Choice...There is great power in choices… make your choice young mage."

Urthemiel turned around to face her one last time, nothing more than a white shimmering feature in a constantly changing world. It appeared the Old God knew her choice even before she uttered it, because Urthemiel smiled and gazed at her proudly.

"We may meet again, young Warden, or we may not. You desire nothing of me, yet I shall give you a gift. Dream can never be touched, only seen, yet they lead each person's life. I give you the power to touch dreams and use their power to face your destiny."

It seemed as everything started shimmering around her once Urthemiel parted… nothing was real anymore, only a mold of different colors and textures, swirling around her maddeningly. She closed her eyes and willed herself to move, then started falling until her silence was filled with a cacophony of sounds. For the first time in years she heard laughter… only then she truly opened her eyes and met several pairs of worried and relieved glances… she was home.