[See Update Below]

With only two weeks to go until the premiere of season 3 of Game of Thrones, anticipation for the return of the HBO fantasy-drama series has reached a fever pitch. This comes as no surprise, given that the previous season ended on a massive showstopper of a cliffhanger and that the upcoming episodes adapt from the fan-favorite novel A Storm of Swords.

The vast ensemble cast of Game of Thrones has seen celebrated performances from Peter Dinklage (X-Men: Days of Future Past), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Mama), Emilia Clarke (Spike Island), and Kit Harington (Silent Hill: Revelation 3D), among many others. This season, showrunners David Benioff and and D.B. Weiss have recruited several new fresh faces – perhaps most notably Ciaran Hinds (John Carter) as Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall.

This short preview focuses on the deepening bitterness and violence of the War of the Five Kings. As Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) wishes death upon the other major contenders for the Iron Throne, queen-in-exile Daenerys Targaryen (Clarke) is looking to recruit an army of mercenaries for an invasion of her homeland. Meanwhile, Jon Snow (Harington) tries to secure his position among the Wildlings and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) deals with a certain unruly prisoner.

Though not exactly brimming over with new material, this trailer emphasizes that the stakes only continue to grow for everyone playing the Game of Thrones. The triumphs and failures of season 2 are giving way to bloody-minded feuds. This will be the season to watch closely – after all, your favorite characters may well not be making it out of it alive.

Update: Proving that HBO is not letting off the throttle of Game of Thrones‘ hype machine any time soon, the network released another season 3 trailer late yesterday. This one expands on the interpersonal dramas (and swordplay) of the upcoming season. You can check out “The Beast” preview below.

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Game of Thrones marches back onto HBO on March 31st, 2013.