Spoiler warning! Both the books and previous seasons are discussed here, watch out!

Winter has come. Season 7 marks the beginning of the end for Game of Thrones.

As we await the first of only 13 remaining episodes before we say goodbye to the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros for the last time — or at least until one of the many planned spinoffs — what better way to pass the time than to make predictions about what will happen next and how it’s all going to end?

The South

Now that Sam has arrived at The Citadel in Old Town, it’s a safe bet he won’t be seeing his good friend Jon Snow for some time, possibly not until the series finale. But Maesters at the Citadel are not lacking in messenger ravens, and a huge part of Sam’s job in the Night’s Watch was sending messages via raven. So, should any important information about how to defeat the White Walkers and their army of wights present itself, Sam’s the right man to get the word out.

Jim Broadbent at a more magical time in his life

There’s also been much speculation surrounding which “significant” character Jim Broadbent has been cast to play this season. According to Broadbent, “I’m a maester, an archmaester. I’m an old professor character.” This has led many book readers to conclude he may be playing Archmaester Marwyn, a mysterious character briefly introduced in Sam’s final chapter in A Feast for Crows. Marwyn warns of a possible conspiracy by the other maesters and intends to seek out Daenerys.

But perhaps Sam will rejoin Jon in The North sooner rather than later, since he now possesses his family’s ancestral sword Heartsbane. With Valyrian steel swords being deadly to White Walkers, this one will be incredibly valuable in the final fight. Along with Heartsbane, other Valyrian swords are: Longclaw, House Mormont’s heirloom gifted to Jon, Brienne’s (formerly Jamie’s) Oathkeeper, Joffrey’s Widow’s Wail, which presumably passed to Tommen and is now unclaimed, and the MIA dagger used in the would-be plot to assassinate Bran.

Finally, at the very southern most tip of Westeros lies Dorne. It seems clear Dorne’s role is intrinsically tied to Daenerys now that they’ve combined forces.

The West

Both trailers for Season 7 featured Lannister armies, one even showing Jaime leading them with Bronn at his side. Combined with one shot of a castle with Lannister banners, it seems reasonable to assume we’ll visit the previous unseen set of House Lannister, Casterly Rock. And Watchers on the Wall confirms we’ll also likely visit Highgarden, home of House Tyrell, this season.

All the important players from the Iron Islands have left. Siblings Theon and Yara Greyjoy have joined up with Daenerys, while their Uncle Euron will likely oppose them in that ship battle glimpsed in the trailers. And with Cersei surrounded on all sides by enemies, Euron seems a likely ally. But one of the biggest questions book readers have is whether or not Euron will be revealed to have a dragon horn, an object in his possession in the books but not referenced in the show. If he does, that could spell big trouble for Team Daenerys.

The East

All the trailers confirm Daenerys is returning to Dragonstone, her birthplace and seat of House Targaryen, making it her base of operations as Stannis had. And speaking of Stannis, his former red priestess Melisandre is also spotted in Dragonstone. The released titles to the season’s first three episodes all but confirm at least someone will arrive in Dragonstone in the season premiere.

The trailers also show a fleet from the Iron Islands approaching King’s Landing. But is it a fleet led by the children of Balon Greyjoy or is it Euron’s fleet?

My prediction is that King’s Landing will fall by the end of Episode 7. Before that happens, however, it’s hard to imagine we won’t get some important face-to-face meetings, like Cersei-Daenerys and Cersei-Tyrion.

Queenslayer

But how will Cersei be ultimately taken down? At this point, the obvious, almost foregone conclusion is the man who’s spent the better part of two decades condemned as “The Kingslayer” will have to add “Queenslayer” to his list of titles.

We’ve watched Jaime transform from the villain who pushed a kid out a window (“The things I do for love”) to the one-handed man who heroically leapt into a bear pit to help Brienne without any escape plan. With Cersei blowing up the Sept of Balor with wildfire, she is now a Kingslayer as well, a king whom Jamie vowed to protect. Not only has Jaime’s disillusionment with Cersei grown over time but it’d also  be quite fitting for her twin, whom she came into this world with, to be the one to take her out.

Further, there’s an irresistible tragedy in Jaime — the man who only joined the Kingsguard in the first place to stay close to Cersei and avoid being married off to someone else, the man who never loved anything or anyone else — to now be the one to kill her. After all, as Jeor Mormont once said in the book, A Game of Thrones, “The things we love destroy us every time.”

Season 5 began with a flashback to young Cersei receiving a prophecy from the witch, Maggie the Frog. Book readers know there was more to that prophecy. Cersei is fated to die at the hands of the “valonqar“, which means “little brother” in High Valyrian. Cersei came to believe this meant Tyrion would be her ultimate undoing, but Jaime is several minutes younger as well.

King Petyr, First of his Name

But the greatest mistake anyone could make in this series is to overlook Littlefinger, the ultimate wild card. On the surface, Petyr Baelish seems insignificant at this point. But he’s been gradually installing his own allies in key positions in King’s Landing and The Red Keep all this time, and he thrives on chaos.

It’s possible the moment the timing is right, such as Cersei’s assassination, a small group of well-placed people loyal to Littlefinger could initiate a coup at a moments notice. So my one giant long shot prediction is that Season 7 ends with Littlefinger achieving his life’s ambition of taking the Iron Throne. If that happens, I suspect his will be the shortest reign of all and his weakness for Sansa will be his undoing.

The North

Once the dust finally settles in King’s Landing, most of Season 8 will likely be devoted to fighting the army of the dead. And I suspect, in the final moments of Season 7, The Wall will fall.

I’d be shocked if the inevitable first meeting of Jon and Daenerys didn’t happen before the end of Season 7. When it does, the past will play a key role in cementing their alliance.

Tyrion wasn’t well-liked by many of the Stark family but, fortunately, the Starks he did get along with are the ones still alive. It was so long ago one could easily have forgotten, but Jon and Tyrion formed an early friendship at the start series. Tyrion also gifted Bran with the designs for a special saddle that allowed him to ride a horse in his crippled state. And, though Tyrion’s marriage to Sansa was hardly a happy one, deep down she knows he was decent to her. Especially when compared to her second husband…

Further, Daenerys has allied with Theon, who’s redeemed himself to Sansa. And Varys can personally vouch for the fact that, when King Robert ordered Dany’s assassination, it was Ned Stark alone who opposed it, going so far as to quit his position as Hand to the King over it. Finally, then there’s that little thing about Jon being Dany’s nephew.

Reunions on the Kingsroad

Expect a lot of long awaited reunions surrounding Arya. Not only is her long lost direwolf Nymeria still out there somewhere roaming the countryside near the Riverlands — not far from where we last saw Arya — but The Hound and the Brotherhood Without Banners seem to be in that vicinity as well, heading north along the Kingsroad.

Brienne and Podrick too were last seen leaving Riverrun and presumably are on their way north, meaning we may get a brief rematch between Brienne and The Hound, at least until Arya hopefully breaks up the fight.

Then there’s Gendry, not seen since Davos helped his escape from Dragonstone. In the books, Gendry never left the Brotherhood and it was Edric Storm, another of Robert’s bastards, who was nearly sacrificed to Stannis. So we may learn Gendry rejoined the Brotherhood since last we saw him. If so, he too may be traveling north. But whereas his potential claim to the throne was tenuous before, now that all three of Robert’s so-called legitimate children are dead, Gendry’s claim has never been stronger.

Before returning home to Winterfell, Arya may take a detour south to King’s Landing to cross off the final two names on her list: Cersei and executioner Ilyn Payne. Arya will almost certainly execute the executioner, even though Faceless Arya won’t be able to get close enough to Cersei.

Ultimately, I think this season will reveal that the titular “Game of Thrones” is nothing more than a shell game. It doesn’t matter who is sitting on the throne at the onset of The War of Ice and Fire, because winter is coming and all men must die. Season 7 is the beginning of the end, when everyone will come together to fight not merely for petty self-interest, but against that which threatens them all.