'Game of Thrones' is coming: HBO releases teaser, stills of new season

Story highlights

  • HBO releases new teaser trailer; first stills from upcoming season
  • Grim trailer shows season 6 to be a dark one
  • Fan favorites Arya Stark, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister set to return

Warning! The following story contains spoilers from the previous seasons of "Game of Thrones."

(CNN)Winter has come, and spring -- and more specifically April 25 -- is just around the corner.

Which, for "Game of Thrones" fans, means only one thing -- a new season of HBO's hit dragons-and-daggers fantasy series is coming.
As a grisly Valentine's Day treat, HBO released a new, short teaser trailer for season 6, which, if the new content is any guide, will be a bleak affair.
    The short trailer opens with the disembodied faces of three of "Game of Thrones'" bygone characters and members of the Stark family: Eddard; Catelyn and Rob, in the crypt of the House of Black and White. They're followed by the reviled (and also murdered) King Joffrey, and Jon Snow, whose apparent betrayal and stabbing left him for dead at the end of last season.
    In season 5 another Stark, Arya, is apprenticed to the Faceless Men, a shadowy assassins' guild, which magically uses the faces of the dead in their disguises.
    The camera pans down to the faces of two other characters, last seen alive: Tyrion Lannister and Arya Stark.
    It's uncertain if the appearance of characters like Arya and Tyrion in the Faceless Men's head collection mean that this season will be extra-bloody, or if it's just another riff on the show's "all men must die" motto.

    Sneak peek

    Last week, HBO fed eager fans another morsel in the form of the first stills from the new season, with production photos showing some of the series' best-loved (and loathed) characters, including a white-eyed Arya Stark, blinded as punishment in the closing scenes of season 5.
    The eagerly-awaited sixth season of the multiple Emmy-winning show navigates uncharted waters -- for the first time its interweaving plots will move ahead of its source material --- the wildly successful series of novels by author George R.R. Martin.
    His sixth book, "The Winds of Winter," has been repeatedly delayed, putting fans through torture worthy of one of his more sadistic characters.

    Neck and neck

    The catching-up of show to books will put fans of both on an even footing for the first time, with book readers unable to count on their prior knowledge to anticipate some of the series' more shocking upcoming twists.
    Book readers had previously been able to mentally prepare for shocks like the Red Wedding, or the outcome of the epic duel between Oberyn Martell and the Mountain.
    While the stills confirm the return of many fan favorites, including Arya, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister, there is at least one notable absence -- Jon Snow, last seen apparently bleeding out in the snow, betrayed by his own men.
    The fanbase has since speculated wildly upon his fate, but his appearance in a short teaser trailer released December seems to suggest rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated.

    Plot developments

    The images show a glimpse of what might lie ahead for the show.
    Shots of Jaime with his twin sister -- and lover -- Cersei point to a reunion between the two. It's unlikely to be a happy one, however, as he is returning from Dorne with their dead daughter's corpse.
    The return of Yara Greyjoy and her father Balon gives book fans hope that a story arc previously spelled out in Martin's last two books, "A Feast for Crows" and "A Dance with Dragons," involving their seafaring family, may feature more prominently in season 6.
    Another intriguing development that might be gleaned from the stills is the sight of Bran Stark apparently standing unaided, a first since he became paralyzed early on in the show's first season.