Winter is fast approaching Westeros, and if you can see through the downpour of snow, you'll notice a few new, not-so-friendly faces in the mix. Yes, several of your favorite characters will be back in action when "Game of Thrones" season two premieres April 1, but Jon, Tyrion, Dany and the rest will have their work cut out for them when new friends and foes join the battle for the Iron Throne.
To get you acquainted with some of these newcomers, HBO has released a slew of photos from the upcoming second season of the epic fantasy series, based on the "Song of Ice and Fire" novels from visionary writer George R.R. Martin. From men who would be kings to their trusted and true servants, here are five new "Thrones" characters about to enter the game:
Stephen Dillane as Stannis Baratheon
"The Iron Throne is mine by rights." Get ready to hear that refrain early and often in season two as Stannis Baratheon enters the scene. Currently lording over the remote island of Dragonstone, Stannis believes himself the one true ruler of Westeros following the death of his brother Robert and the revelation that his nephew Joffrey is the product of Cersei and Jaime Lannister's incest. Stannis will stop at nothing to claim what he feels he's rightfully owed, including resorting to the use of forbidden magic. Speaking of which ...
Carice van Houten as Melisandre
The red priestess from the foreign lands of Asshai comes to serve Stannis in his time of need, believing him to be Azhor Azhai Reborn, an old hero of ancient prophecy destined for great and powerful things. Her beliefs are questioned by many, but her power can be denied by none. Melisandre's magic is a deadly spectacle that must be seen to be believed, and season two will convince some skeptics just how serious her sorcery is — often at a lethal price.
Liam Cunningham as Davos Seaworth
The Onion Knight is another of Stannis' most trusted advisers. Davos is a smuggler-turned-knight after proving his loyalty to the bold Baratheon warrior; the fingers of his left hand were long ago shortened by a joint on Stannis' command, a final punishment for his smuggling past. The severed remains are held in a pouch around Davos' neck he describes as his "luck," though his luck may well be running out. Davos does not take kindly to Melisandre's newfound influence over Stannis — but like many others, he'll soon realize that the red priestess has more than enough bite to back up her bark.
Patrick Malahide as Balon Greyjoy
Stannis Baratheon is not the only one competing for the crown of Westeros: There's also Balon Greyjoy, lord of the Iron Islands, to consider. The seafaring warrior is no stranger to fighting for the Iron Throne, having been put down in a rebellion many years earlier. But Balon sees new possibilities in another attempt to claim rule over Westeros — possibilities that may be helped or hindered by the return of his estranged son Theon, best friend and closest confidant to King in the North Robb Stark.
Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth
Serving a different king entirely is Brienne of Tarth, a fierce warrior woman often ridiculed by men for her masculine features and seemingly futile attempt to become a knight. But she's respected by the man who matters most to her: Renly Baratheon, brother of Stannis and another of the men vying for supremacy in Westeros. As part of Renly's elite guard, Brienne will stop at nothing to protect her king and further his agenda. But fate might have other plans in store for her ...
What do you think of the new "Thrones" characters? Tell us in the comments!