SPOILER ALERT: If you aren’t caught up with GAME OF THRONES – I know HBO subscriptions are pricey – STOP reading this article immediately. For the article is bleak and full of spoilers.

As the season seven premiere of GAME OF THRONES approaches, a sense of delight and doom is circulating throughout the hearts of fans. The delight comes from watching Tyrion drink and know things. From seeing the handsome Jon Snow know nothing, and hearing the roar of dragons cross the Narrow Sea. However, where there is delight in Westeros, doom is quick to follow. In season seven’s case, none of us know what in the Seven Hells is going to happen during the thrilling yet traumatic show’s upcoming episodes. Who will die? Who will sit atop the Iron Throne? Will more of the Stark children reunite? Will Gendry ever row his way back into an episode?

Seeing as George R.R. Martin – the author of the book series that inspired the HBO hit – hasn’t finished writing the novels, there aren’t many clues to work with when trying to predict the outcomes of this unpredictable show.

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However, one clue has been given to us since the beginning: “Winter is coming.”

Those words have acted as a warning throughout the show, though very few have heeded the message. In season seven, though, the people of Westeros won’t be able to ignore the Stark family words – or the Starks themselves – any longer.

Winter has finally come, but the people of Westeros have something more they should fear; the call of the direwolves.

THE DIREWOLVES

During the show’s first episode, a litter of six direwolf pups was found and given to each of the Stark children and Jon Snow. Each child named their wolf: Rickon’s Shaggydog, Bran’s ironic Summer, Arya alongside the fierce Nymeria, Sansa with Lady, Robb and Grey Wind, and Jon Snow with the aptly named Ghost.

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Since the show’s inception, these wolves have acted as symbols, both for the fates of their masters and plot points for the show overall. Shaggydog died at the hands of the Boltons, as did Rickon from Ramsay Bolton’s arrow. Theon Greyjoy’s betrayal led to Robb and Grey Wind’s murders at the hands of Walder Frey during the Red Wedding. Summer was killed protecting Bran from the White Walkers at the beginning of the winter. And Lady was murdered as a result of Cersei’s and Joffrey’s cruelty.

Only two of the six original direwolves still live: Arya’s Nymeria – though we haven’t seen her since season one – and Jon’s Ghost. With Nymeria, who was named after a former warrior queen of Rhoyne, traipsing across Westeros, she reflects Arya’s journey that began at Winterfell. She saw King’s Landing, stopped by Bravos, and is now heading home. Since Jon Snow was killed by men of the Night’s Watch then brought back to life by Melisandre, Ghost was appropriately named, too.

As the show progresses in its next-to-last season, I would wager there is still one character whose symbolized fate has yet to come to fruition: Sansa. Both the fate of Sansa’s direwolf in season one and the alliances she has fostered throughout the resulting five seasons indicate a not-so-happy ending for the red headed beauty.

SANSA STARK

On the King’s Road to King’s Landing during the first season, Sansa’s direwolf, Lady, is sentenced to death by Cersei. Cersei’s son Joffrey was bitten by Nymeria and, afterward, Cersei insisted all the direwolves within the traveling company should die. Nymeria’s escape accompanied Lady’s ruin. Like her direwolf, I believe Sansa will die by the proclamation of the latest in Westeros’s leaders, Queen Cersei.

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While there are several plot developments that have led me to think this, it is mainly Sansa’s continued alliance with Littlefinger that cements the belief. First encountering him at King’s Landing, Littlefinger has not left the eldest Stark girl alone since season one. Later in the show, when Littlefinger saves Sansa from the Lannisters and takes the lady to her aunt in the Vale, he becomes her hero. The title continues to hold true to Sansa even when he kills her aunt Lysa in order to inherit her lands. Since Lysa was bullying Sansa because she thought Littlefinger was in love with her — which he is — Sansa spoke against the claims of murder tainting her new uncle’s name. Convoluted, right?

By season five, Littlefinger arranges a marriage between Sansa and the Boltons, a family whose betrayal was one of the factors that led to Robb Stark’s death. Sansa’s fantasized notions of Littlefinger being her savior are shortly extinguished once she is married, raped, and tormented by Ramsay Bolton.

Once she escapes from the Boltons in season six, Sansa aligns with Jon Snow at the Wall and the two begin to make plans to take back Winterfell. Littlefinger and Sansa are reunited during this time, where Sansa accuses him of knowing who Ramsay was and what he did to girls like her. While she says she doesn’t trust him during their meeting, Sansa later calls on him and the banners of the Vale to assist in the Battle of the Bastards.

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After the battle, Littlefinger begins whispering in her ear about how she, a true Stark, should rule over Winterfell rather than the bastard Jon Snow. Initially, Sansa doesn’t fall prey to Littlefinger’s plans. Though, the shared look between the two during season six’s finale, when Jon was proclaimed King of the North, was as confusing as it was foreboding.

Her reliance and unfounded trust in Lord Petyr Baelish will be Sansa’s undoing. First, she’ll probably use Littlefinger’s army from the Vale to overtake Winterfell. Once Cersei, a woman who has always detested Sansa and the Starks, hears of this, it will be war between North and South. And while I love the Starks, I don’t believe Sansa is a formidable opponent against the Mad Queen Cersei.

As Cersei herself said in season one, “When you play the game of thrones, you either win or you die.”

ARYA STARK

Speaking of Starks Cersei doesn’t like (which is really all of them), at the top of the list is Arya. The feeling is mutual, though. Ever since her father’s death at the end of season one, Arya’s death list has been headed by Cersei. The list has grown shorter and shorter throughout the seasons, though not necessarily because of Arya’s direct doing. However, the last two seasons have shown great promise for Arya’s skills at ruthlessness and assassination. Leaving Gregor “the Hound” Clegane to die (even though he didn’t) and killing Walder Frey prove Arya is finally taking the list into her own hands.

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If Cersei were to kill Sansa, Arya would have even more reason to wish the woman dead. By the end of season six, Arya was seen heading North, most likely to Winterfell, where she would reunite with family there. In the impending wars in season seven, though, who’s to say who will be there to greet her upon her return? Maybe Sansa, maybe not.

Who knows if Arya herself will even make it to Winterfell?

BRAN STARK

While it is not apparent whether Arya will make it back to Winterfell or not, it is imperative that Bran does.

Bran’s journey to the Wall and beyond has been a rough one; full of adventure, separation, deaths, and the supernatural. Throughout the show, Sansa and Arya’s paralyzed younger brother has learned to harness his abilities as a warg, a person who can enter the minds of animals and use their bodies to control their actions.

When he meets the infamous three-eyed raven in season six, Bran is told he will be the next three-eyed raven — an all-knowing warg — and has to prepare to overtake the role when the time comes.

The training for the position consists of learning all of Westeros’s history. One history lesson, in particular, stands out to Bran because it is about his own father’s past. After Robert’s Rebellion and Robert Baratheon’s coronation that allotted him the Iron Throne, Eddard Stark set out on a quest to find his kidnapped sister, Lyanna. Taken by Rhaegar Targaryen before the war, it was rumored Lyanna was imprisoned and raped by the Mad King’s golden son.

However, when Ned finds Lyanna, not only is she being protected by two of Rhaegar’s best knights, but she also has a son. A son whose father is “unknown.” With the final words of, “Promise me, Ned,” Lyanna dies, leaving her brother in charge of her newborn son.

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Last seen traveling South to the Wall, it is vital that Bran survives long enough to make it to Winterfell. Not only does he need to take over as the new three-eyed raven there — the weirwood tree in the Stark’s backyard would make a wonderful headquarters – but Bran needs to reveal this history lesson to the person it impacts most: Jon.

Once all is revealed, the title of “bastard” may no longer apply to the new King in the North.

JON SNOW

Westeros has abused its fair share of characters in GAME OF THRONES and Jon Snow, Ned Stark’s supposed bastard, is no exception.

From joining the Night’s Watch to fighting White Walkers to losing his beloved Ygritte, to being murdered by his brothers in black to having Melisandre resurrect him, Jon’s character has been through the Seven Hells and back.

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And it looks like there is more Hell to come. Yes, Littlefinger’s whispers in Sansa’s ear are concerning, the White Walkers are coming, winter is finally here, etc. However, while these are pertinent worries, the biggest plot twist of the whole show is about to happen: Bran’s reveal of Jon as Lyanna Stark’s son, and his reveal of Rhaegar Targaryen, former heir to the Iron Throne and one of the last Targaryens, as the most likely candidate for Jon’s father.

The whole nation knows the rumors surrounding Lyanna Stark’s death at the hands of Rhaegar Targaryen. But do they know the truth?

Ned Stark, an honor-bound man, would keep any promise he made his sister on her deathbed. He would protect his family at all costs. He would besmirch his own good name by claiming he cheated on his wife during the war and fathered a bastard son. Ned Stark would lie to his best friend, King Robert, to protect his nephew, a true born Targaryen.

A wolf is always loyal to his pack.

DAENERYS TARGARYEN

With the impending reveal of Jon’s true lineage comes a slew of consequences. Daenerys Targaryen, the last known Targaryen, is crossing the Narrow Sea as I type, her three dragons casting foreboding shadows above her. Dany may not be coming across the sea for a family reunion, for the Iron Throne is the current apple of her eye, but she may find one.

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Set pictures taken during season seven’s filming reveal Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke acting alongside each other for the first time in the show’s history. It appears the Khaleesi has finally met the bastard. Or should I say, her nephew?

Emilia and Kit’s filming together gives me hope as a fan. While there will certainly be disagreements about Jon’s blood (confirmed Stark, questionable Targaryen), the alliance between Jon and Daenerys will be vital in seasons seven and eight. In season seven, the long-awaited showdown between the Mother of Dragons and the Lion Queen for the Iron Throne will occur.

Season eight, though, will see the “Great War” Jon Snow continues to talk about: the war between the living and the dead. Between humanity and the White Walkers.

Daenerys’s arrival in Westeros couldn’t have come at a better time because she has the potential to be the woman who destroys the White Walkers. Think about it: White Walkers can only be killed with fire and dragon glass. With three fire-breathing dragons under her command — and let’s not forget she still hasn’t found her dragon riders (cough, cough Jon Snow) — and a knowledge of Dragonstone, the birthplace of dragon glass, Dany’s role in the Great War is nearly inevitable.

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With the help of Daenerys’s army, dragons, and potential rule, the White Walkers could be defeated. That, or everyone in Westeros dies for naught. Which George R.R. Martin and the others at HBO are probably not above doing (I’m looking at you David Benioff and DB Weiss).

Whether these predictions come true or not — I didn’t bother to consult the Lord of Light before typing this article — I can say without a doubt the seventh and eighth seasons of GAME OF THRONES will be a thrill to watch.

To misquote the Night’s Watch oath, “Sunday night of July 16th gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until at least Cersei’s death. I shall take no life, hold no other interests, father no alliances with Netflix – I shall live and die by my HBO subscription. I pledge my life and honor to GAME OF THRONES, for this Sunday night and all the Sunday nights to come.”

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