'Game of Thrones': Three burning questions and six characters we'd like to see play a big role in Season 7

With the world-conquering “Game of Thrones” ending its longest hiatus yet when its seventh season premieres Sunday, the show’s fans are already familiar with the key players heading into what is planned as a 13-episode climax (seven now, six more at a date to be determined by HBO.).

But even with the web of Targaryens, Starks, Lannisters and Greyjoys all pursuing power and the all-important throne, the world imagined by George R.R. Martin and his HBO co-conspirators D.B. Weiss and David Benioff encompasses many smaller sideline characters who may also play a key role.

Here are a few “GoT” figures whose path has led them well outside the Iron Throne’s orbit, but whether they have a role in the coming endgame or not, frankly, they really should.

Lyanna Mormont

Armed with a steely glare, unwavering resolve and a whole 62 soldiers who fought for Jon Snow in the Battle of the Bastards, this teenage leader of tiny Bear Island was a favorite from Season 6. She’s confirmed for the new season, and given she was the first to declare Snow “king in the North” — and her home is shared by Daenerys’ trusted knight Ser Jorah Mormont, who could return before greyscale disease turns him into an angry cobblestone street — Lyanna could have a key role to play. She surely won’t be far from the front once the war begins – and anyone still thinking thinks she’s too young either needs to remember the Stark children’s age when this mess started or rewatch Bella Ramsay’s performance last season.

Salladhor Saan

“Game of Thrones” has few characters who shrug off the tangled pursuit of the Iron Throne to follow their own, self-serving bliss. Unbound to any religious or political affiliation, this proud pirate (played by Lucian Msamati) briefly joined his friend Ser Davos in support of Stannis in the Battle of Blackwater, which did not end well. Last seen in Season 4 soaking and joking with prostitutes before agreeing to sail Davos to Castle Black (for a price), Saan isn’t likely to risk his neck for anyone’s house again – although the war would be a lot more fun if he did.

Thoros of Myr

Another character driven by earthly pleasures, this priest with the Brotherhood Without Banners is a vaguely mischievous, usually drunk counterpoint to the religious fanaticism typical of “Game of Thrones.” Known for lighting his sword on fire and humbly asking the Lord of Light to resurrect his friend Beric (seen in a Season 7 trailer using similar pyrotechnics), Thoros — played by U.K. comic Paul Kaye — landed on Arya’s revenge list in Season 4 after giving Gendry to Melisandre. But raising the dead seems like a handy skill of late, so maybe his brotherhood will find a banner after all.

Hot Pie

This orphan was last seen at the Inn at the Crossroads living as a baker’s apprentice — just as he was before he getting mixed up with Arya Stark and her troubles at Harrenhal. Though his dire wolf-shaped gift to Arya seemed to tidily finish Hot Pie’s story, he reappeared in Season 4 to serve Brienne and Podrick as they passed through the inn. Will Hot Pie bake again in future episodes, maybe for the Hound or a Winterfell-bound Arya? If not, maybe he can head up one of those rumored “Game of Thrones” spinoffs, like a Westerosi version of “Cheers.”

The last wolves standing

The litter of dire wolves from the series premiere were each tied to the fate of their corresponding Stark child, which means they haven’t fared so well. The only survivors are Jon Snow’s Ghost and Arya’s Nymeria, who hasn’t been seen since being set free after defending Arya from Joffrey in Season 1. While the books allude to a large wolf pack in the Riverlands led by a massive female, the series has been mum. A reunion seems inevitable, but every CGI moment with a dire wolf probably counts against a dragon’s screen time on a spreadsheet somewhere, so adjust expectations accordingly.

Ed Sheeran

“Game of Thrones” has two onscreen addictions (that are appropriate for general audiences, anyway). Musical cameos — which have included members of Coldplay, Sigur Rós and Snow Patrol — and redheads, given the demographics of roughly half of the north. So it was inevitable this hobbity ginger chart-topper would show up this season, a walk-on that was confirmed earlier this year as a surprise “gift” for big Sheeran fan Maisie Williams.

Where will he pop up? Sheeran has said he will sing a song for Arya, probably some swoony Westerosi folk ballad (both Sigur Rós and Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody sang in their cameos too), but where he’ll show up is anyone’s guess. That said, given the improbability of Sheeran’s standing as one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, would anyone be surprised if he somehow landed on the Iron Throne once all this is over?

THREE BURNING QUESTIONS

Is there more Valyrian Steel?

Said to be forged by magic and dragon fire, swords made with this metal can — as we saw when Jon Snow fought at Hardhome — kill white walkers. As far as we know, there aren’t many left, and many of them have been passed around like heirlooms. In addition to the one used by Snow, Ned Stark’s was melted into two swords (now carried by Sansa’s protector Brienne and Jaime Lannister), Sam stole his father’s, and though a few others are scattered about, the humans are going to need a lot more

Where is all the Dragonglass?

Known as obsidian in the real world, dragonglass kills white walkers and also creates them if stabbed into a human heart by the Children of the Forest. A cache of spearheads carved of dragonglass was found buried in the snow by some of the Night’s Watch but appeared to be lost in the battle of Hardhome. However, Stannis told Sam the substance is abundant on the volcanic island around his former castle Dragonstone — the ancestral home of House Targaryen — back in Season 5.

What is Bran’s purpose?

We know Bran is the new three-eyed raven, can warg into animals (and Hodor — RIP) and is able to skip back in time with the help of a Heart tree. These are handy tricks, especially when it comes to finding out Jon Snow’s parentage, but it’s still mystifying as to how useful Bran can be in the coming war with the Night King’s ice zombies. If needed, can Bran turn back the clock and fix a mistake, like Superman? Stay tuned.

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chris.barton@latimes.com

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