An Idol of Motherly Love

They say that dreams were stepping stones for the dead to reach the living. When Cersei Lannister dreamed that night, the first time in days since the cruel death of her beloved little Joffrey, hope stirred within her like a feeble light. She yearned to see her son again, his face glowing with life just as his golden hair did.

The queen sensed another presence occupying her dream. She peered into the darkness. When the figure in the distance came closer, Cersei's tone was one of unconcealed disappointment. "Oh, Mother...it's you, isn't it?"

Joanna, the deceased wife of Tywin Lannister, smiled at her daughter. A ghost of a smile flitting across her ghostly face. "Indeed, it is. I know you were expecting someone else. I was hoping you'd be happy to see me, even for the present."

"I would have thought Joffrey would come," Cersei replied. "Wherever you came from...wherever all the dead end up...he is over there, is he not?"

"He is," Joanna assured her. "However...I'm afraid you won't be able to see him."

"Why not?" The two words Cersei shot back were fierce and threatening. "I have a right to see him. I'm his mother!"

"Cersei, dear...even if I could get Joffrey to come here at all, even if he'd stand right in front of you and before your very eyes, you won't be able to see him. In turn, he won't be able to see you."

"Why not?" Cersei asked again. "Stop speaking in riddles, Mother."

Joanna sighed. "The love you have for Joffrey is a blinding one. There's something blinding him as well. You two would be invisible to each other."

That hit Cersei hard, rendering her speechless. Invisible? But why? If ghosts and dead people could appear in dreams, why not make the invisible visible?

"That is the reason I came to you in the first place," Joanna went on. "I'd hope to make you see the error of your ways."

Cersei's eyes narrowed. "I didn't slip into my own dream to get a lecture from you. I want to know how I can see him, and for him to see me. Tell me, is it possible?"

Joanna hesitated, as if questioning to herself if she made a good decision to enter her daughter's dream. Finally she replied, "Yes. You can become solid and bright enough for your son to perceive you, but only if you learn to want someone else besides Joffrey."

"I know what it's like to want someone else other than my son. I've always-" Suddenly Cersei cut herself short. She shrank a little from her mother's gaze, both of them knowing well what the queen of Westeros was about to say.

"Jaime, you mean?" Joanna's face darkened, but it left as quickly as it came. "I'm not here to talk about you and your brother. I'm here to deal with the problem between you and Joffrey."

"The problem? And you mentioned earlier 'the error of my ways.' I love my son, like any mother would. You'd understand. What's wrong with how much I love Joffrey? It's a cruel world we live in, a cruel world you left. People dare to call my son a little monster...but I've always been there for him, sheltering him the best I could and giving him love no one else has ever had. What right have you, of all people, to say anything bad about mother-love? It's the highest and holiest thing in human nature."

"All love is good, Cersei. No love is better or worse, higher or lower. Love can go bad, of course, which is unfortunately your case, that has pervaded ever since Joffrey was born."

"My love for Joffrey never would've gone bad!" Cersei heatedly insisted. "Not if we'd live together for millions of years."

"That is where you're mistaken."

"Of course I know that! Joffrey is dead and cold in his tomb. Haven't I lived only for his memory all this time?"

"That was a mistake, Cersei. In your heart of hearts, you know it was."

"What was a mistake?"

"Your ritual of grief. Keeping his room exactly as he left it, depriving yourself of food and sleep, turning all of King's Landing into a mourning shrine for its last ruler, even when Jaime and Tommen and all the Lannisters are wretched there."

Cersei's eyes narrowed to slits. "Of course they don't care," she hissed. "I soon learned not to expect any real sympathy from them."

Joanna shook her head. "You're wrong. No man ever felt his son's death more than Jaime, and no sister and brother loved Joffrey more than Myrcella and Tommen. It wasn't against Joffrey they revolted. It was against you...against having their whole lives dominated by the tyranny of the past. Not even his past, but yours."

Cersei's voice rang with accusation. "You're heartless. Everyone's heartless. The past is all I have."

"It's all you choose to have. It's the wrong way to deal with a sorrow."

Cersei seethed and trembled with unsuppressed rage. "I've had enough of this. Give me my son. Do you hear? I don't care for any rules or regulations, or what I can see and not see. I don't believe in gods and dreams that keep mothers and sons apart. No one has the right to keep between me and Joffrey. Not you, not even the gods. Tell them that to their faces." Tears ran unchecked down her face and she clutched a fist to her chest. "I want my boy, and I mean to have him. He is mine, do you understand? Mine, mine, mine, forever and ever!"

Joanna stared in despair at the grieving, depraved mother her daughter had become. "Your power as the queen of Westeros has deluded you. It has given you a dangerously false sense of entitlement and ownership. You did not make him, Cersei. Fate and nature made him to grow in your body without your will. Even against your will...sometimes you forget that you didn't intend to have the baby at all. Joffrey was originally an accident."

Cersei visibly flinched. "Who told you that? It's a lie...it's not true. And it's no business of yours!" Filled with rage and grief no amount of talk could ever assuage, she averted her gaze and refused to look up at Joanna again. Through gritted teeth, Cersei's voice was tight and venemous. "I've heard enough from you. Leave me alone."

Joanna saw that her daughter was clearly beyond help or any form of persuasion. With sadness in her eyes, she gave in to Cersei's command with a small bow. "As you wish, Your Grace."

Cersei left with a sharp turn of her heel, giving in to the darkness and despair in her heart that she could never see Joffrey again. Joanna was left to herself, detached from the world of dreams and now suspended in the void of the afterlife.

"I did my best," she murmured to herself. "But she's just as stubborn as her father." Time and time again, since her death many years ago, Joanna tried to reach her husband in efforts to comfort him. Much to her dismay and sorrow, she had seen over the years how Tywin hardened himself to become a ruthless man who cared for little else after her death. Not even Jaime and Cersei, their children, could bring him back to the man he once was. The lack of love in his heart made him unable to see the ghostly form of his own wife, leading him to believe that his dreams were haunted by a voice, one that dared to imitate her and mock him. As for Joffrey, Cersei's wrongful excess of love for him was made all the more tragic when he didn't even reciprocate that love. All the boy cared about was power, and it was his love for that power that blinded him in the afterlife, just as it did when he was alive.

Joanna felt nothing but sadness for her family, a grief a thousand times deeper and stronger than Cersei's for Joffrey as all she could do, despite her efforts, was watch her family fall apart.