Our return to Westeros is almost upon us, so here's a preview of what's to come as Game of Thrones returns to our screens for its seventh, and penultimate, season.
Spoiler alert for anyone not up-to-date on the series (obviously)
As the show begins to wind down towards endgame, characters will be coming together, falling apart, and finding themselves in all sorts of crazy situations this season. With fewer episodes this time around - including a feature-length finale - there is a lot of ground to cover, and a lot to remember, so here are the most important things to keep in mind now that winter is finally here!
1. "Promise me, Ned."
One of the stand-out moments of Game of Thrones so far; when a favourite fan theory was confirmed to be true, that Jon Snow was the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Before she died in the Tower of Joy having just given birth to Jon, Lyanna asked her older brother Ned to keep him safe, which led Ned to raise him as his own.
With Bran learning that Jon is the literal Song of Ice and Fire, he was last seen leaving his uncle Benjen to travel south of The Wall with his new knowledge. Will Bran make it to Winterfell and tell Jon the truth?
In promo material from the new season we see Jon standing in the crypts below Winterfell where Lyanna's tomb and statue rest, hinting that he might find out that she is his mother.
2. "Jon Snow avenged the Red Wedding! He is the White Wolf! The King in the North!"
After defeating the Boltons in battle, Jon reclaimed Winterfell for the Starks and now sits at the head of the table as King in the North, with Sansa by his side. With Sansa and Jon having never been close, and with Littlefinger doing his best to drive a wedge between them, it will be interesting to see how their dynamic works this season.
Sansa displayed a new darkness to her in season 6, and she isn't afraid to go behind Jon's back to do what needs to be done, but for things to work they'll need to band together. Having been used as a pawn in so many games for the last few years and observing first-hand master manipulators in action, hopefully she will be wise to Littlefinger's game and not allow herself to be used again.
With the North now proclaiming themselves as independent of the realm again, with their own King to follow, they will need allies, especially with the White Walker issue looming. Through photographs released during filming of season 7 we know that Jon comes face to face with Daenerys so it can be assumed that they will join forces, but will it involve a marriage to cement the union?
3. "I was born to rule the Seven Kingdoms, and I will."
Having gathered an army and finally left Slaver's Bay, Daenerys returns to her ancestral home of Dragonstone this season where she will plot her takeover with Tyrion by her side as Hand of the Queen.
With the allegiance of Dorne, the Tyrells and the Greyjoys, partnered with the Dothraki and Unsullied, and of course, the dragons, Daenerys is a force to be reckoned with. Expect battles at sea and on land as she makes her way across Westeros.
It also looks as though she will come in contact with Melissandre, who was recently banished from the north by Davos when he found out the truth about Shireen's fate.
4. "For centuries our families fought together against their common enemy... We need to do the same if we're going to survive."
Jon says this, presumably to Daenerys, in the second trailer for season 7, referring to the Pact of Ice and Fire; and alliance once held between the Starks and Targaryens.
During the Targaryen rule over the seven kingdoms, the Starks were allowed to stay in control of the North while remaining loyal to the Iron Throne. Could this deal be struck again between Jon and Daenerys?
Being that Jon is actually a Targaryen, I wonder if this reveal will be made to him this season or next, and how this knowledge will impact his views, and Daenerys'.
With his father having been Rhaegar, Daenerys' older brother, Jon would have a strong stake on the throne, but he is fiercely loyal and might not want to turn his back on the north so could keep the news to himself. If the pair married – which wouldn't be unlike Targaryens – they could rule together, but I can't see Daenerys being willing to share the throne if she ends up winning the game.
5. "Enemies to the east, enemies to the west, enemies to the south, enemies to the north."
Cersei has taken the Iron Throne after her wildfire extravaganza last season which saw the Tyrells and Faith Militant wiped out in one fell swoop. Two enemies down, many more to go.
Of course the incident also led to the death of her son Tommen, which coupled with the death of Myrcella at the hands of Ellaria Sand, completes the part of Cersei's prophecy about all of her children dying before her.
Another part of her prophecy, one that was left out of the TV show but featured in the books, was that her younger brother would eventually kill her. When Jaime returned to King's Landing to see Cersei on the throne he looked fairly concerned, and rightfully so; power will enhance the madness she already possesses. Could it be that he will have to take matters into his own hands again and kill another reigning monarch for the good of the kingdom?
With Daenerys having rounded up quite an impressive band of allies, Cersei is running out of friends quickly. As (what appears to be) Casterly Rock is attacked by Targaryen forces, the Lannisters are on the back foot, but one thing is for sure, Cersei won't go down quietly.
6. "If we don't put aside our enmity and bound together, we will all die, and then it doesn't matter whose skeleton sits on the Iron Throne."
Winter is here and the Great War is coming. Cersei is currently on the throne, Daenerys is chasing it, and Jon, well Jon is King in the North and greatly aware of the dangers creeping closer. With the throne seen as the end point for many, only Ser Davos could put things into perspective; no matter who ends up being in charge, if they don't work together now then there could be nothing left to rule.
No doubt when Jon and Daenerys meet this will be a huge topic of conversation – the woman has dragons – but will Cersei bury her head in the sand until the problem grows closer to where she physically sits? Probably.
In a trailer we hear Sansa saying, "When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives" which further emphasises the need to join forces. Hopefully this means she won't try to dethrone Jon and will keep the Stark pack together.
7. "The past is already written, the ink is dry."
Through Bran's visions and time travelling escapades we have learned a lot, but it has also raised many questions. With the (heartbreaking) Hold The Door/Hodor incident panning out the way it did, we got an insight into Bran's power to interact with and influence the past and future.
Through his visions we caught a glimpse of Cersei's wildfire attack in advance, and we also saw the shadow of a dragon flying over the rooftops in King's Landing, which could be a throwback to the heyday of the Targaryen reign, but is more likely a flash forward to Daenerys making her entrance to the city.
Having been one of the less interesting storylines for a few seasons, Bran's quickly became one of the most exciting in season 6 and this is sure to continue until the show's end now. He possesses so much crucial knowledge and has the ability to answer so many questions, but will he be able to use it to make a difference, or will he continue to witness events unfold that have already been written, as the Three-Eyed Raven said.
8. "A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and I'm going home."
These were words we waited a long time to hear and since uttering them Arya has been out for vengeance, and it has been marvellous. Travelling towards Winterfell now after getting revenge for the Red Wedding by killing Walder Frey, she will no doubt cross a few more names off her kill list before she returns home.
Could a full Stark reunion be on the cards with Arya, Sansa, Bran and Jon? I really, really hope so.
While our main characters are set to keep us very busy for the duration of the season, we mustn't forget about Sam and Gilly who are busy in the library of The Citadel researching ways of defeating the White Walker army. Euron Greyjoy will cause problems if he gets his fleet. Then there's also The Hound and Beric Dondarrion who are sure to be involved in some action.
And Gendry - will he finally make his return? Will Jorah Mormont find a cure for his greyscale? Will Brienne and Tormund finally get together? So many questions... Let's just hope this season brings some answers.
Game of Thrones will be simulcast on Sky Atlantic at 2.00am on Monday, July 17 with a repeat shown later that day at 9.00pm.