In just over a week, "Game of Thrones" will return to HBO for its second season while riding a wave of growing fan interest. The adaptation of George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels has picked up a lot of new fans since the first season ended and anticipation for season two is reaching a fevered pitch.
In response to fan demand for more previews from the new season, HBO has released 20 new pictures that give viewers an introduction to some of the new faces to the series and a few returning favorites as well.
First up is Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), who is traveling in disguise with the Night's Watchman, Yoren (Francis Magee) and his recruits from King's Landing as she tries to avoid the Lannister minions who would bring her back in their custody as leverage against the Starks.
Next we have Gendry (Joe Dempsie), the former apprentice of a blacksmith in King's Landing who happens to be one of the late King Robert's oldest bastards, a fact which he is not aware of. But Gendry has a good heart and he may be one of Arya's few friends on her dangerous journey.
Joining Arya and Gendry is Jaqen H'Ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), a man who is more than he seems despite being plucked from the dungeons of King's Landing to join the Night's Watch. Keep your eyes on this one, he's got some surprising secrets of his own…
Back in King's Landing, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) makes his triumphant return as the new Hand of King. Unfortunately for Tyrion, his nephew, King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) may lead the seven kingdoms to ruin with his rash and vindictive actions…
At least Tyrion has Shae (Sibel Kekilli) by his side in King's Landing. But this is a dangerous place for both of them and Tyrion has already warned Shae that he may have to kill for her. In Westros, that's not an exaggeration.
Also in King's Landing is Tyrion's defacto protector, Bronn (Jerome Flynn) a fairly talented sellsword whose loyalties seem to lie with himself and whomever is paying him. It's a good thing that Tyrion pays well, or else their relationship could be quite different.
If the action returns to King's Landing, can Varys (Conleth Hill) be far behind? The Spider claims to serve the realm, but last season he was seen by Arya speaking with someone from the east about their own secret agenda.
Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) is content to advise from behind-the-scenes and let others believe that he is a weak and nearly senile fool. But in the first season finale, we saw that much of Pycelle's persona may be a well-crafted act.
Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) believes that she has power over the seven kingdoms now that her son, Joffrey rules. But she may find that power is fleeting when facing a war on four fronts and internal division among the Lannisters themselves.
Cersei's young daughter, Myrcella Baratheon (Aimee Richardson) is not immune to the machinations of her mother or her uncle, Tyrion. She may actually be the best of the Lannisters in spirit, but that won't stop them from using her as a bargaining chip for future alliances in this time of war.
Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) is one of the most loyal followers of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and he truly believes in the righteousness of his cause. But Davos may soon have reason to question his faith…
…Thanks to Melisandre (Carice van Houten), a mysterious priestess from a far off land who has converted Stannis to a foreign religion… in which he is the savior that will unite the land.
Meanwhile, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) has pledged to marry Stannis's brother, Renly (Gethin Anthony) and support his bid for the Iron Throne. But her relationship with Renly may be complicated by Renly's romantic love for her brother, Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones) aka The Knight of Flowers.
Elsewhere, Cersei's bother and lover, Ser Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster Waldau) remains a captive of Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and his forces; who have determined that Jaime has more value as live hostage than simply killing him to avenge Ned Stark's death… for now.
Serving the Starks is Ser Rodrik Cassel (Ron Donachie), the Master-At-Arms of Winterfell.
Beyond the Wall in the North, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) will soon encounter Ygritte (Rose Leslie), a beautiful Wilding woman who may steal his heart.
Leading the Night's Watch is Commander Mormont (James Cosmo), who is openly grooming Jon Snow for a possible command position as well. Which isn't to say that they will always see eye-to-eye while on their dangerous mission.
Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) has joined Jon and the rest of the Night's Watch expedition into the North. Sam may not be able to fight well, but his heart and his loyalty to Jon are clear.
In the East, we will soon come to meet Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie), a merchant prince of Qarth with an interest in "the mother of dragons."
Namely, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who is still physically and emotionally vulnerable after the death of her husband and child. Daenerys may have the last living dragons, but they are still defenseless babies and she has many enemies who would love to take them from her.
"Game of Thrones" season 2 kicks off on Sunday, April 1 on HBO!