The Emperor is dead and a child sits upon the throne. The family of the Empress Dowager has secured the Regency and looks to expand their influence over the court. The Great Houses of the realm look to their fellows for opportunities for political gains, while the central authority struggles to assert itself. Unrest in the provinces is on the rise, and after the de facto exile of three Imperial Princes (by order of the Regent) has made every far-flung city a potential stronghold for rebellion. Barbarians and pirates, emboldened by internal strife, raid the borders with increasing frequency.
The child Emperor, in a time of need, turns to the Knights of the Rose. An order recruited from the later children of the minor nobility, people who stand to inherit little, they abandon their family names and titles and serve directly at the will of the Emperor. Trained in a school located in a secluded location near the capital, they are an elite force that is, as much as possible, free of the morass of divided loyalties and conflicted agendas that makes the rest of the Emperor's supposed servants so untrustworthy. Only the Knights of the Rose can be relied upon, politically and militarily, to defend the throne's interests against the Great Houses.
But, like any other people, the Rose Knights are not infallible. They rely for military strength on their theoretical ability to command any force nominally loyal to the Emperor. But can those forces really be trusted to defer to an upstart Knight over their leige lord? And even though the Knights have forsworn their families, are those bonds and loyalties so easily broken? And if they are, what of their oaths to the Empire?
And even if one remains loyal to the Emperor, what does that actually mean in these times? The person of the child Emperor and the capital city are controlled by their mother, Empress Regnant, and her family. Two of the exiled Imperial Princes (the late Emperor's brothers and cousins, mostly) have been speaking increasingly openly that they believe their claims may not be so easily brushed aside, and the Lord Commander of the Knights of the Rose has, in private, questioned the child Emperor's ability to rule, even should they come of age.
Amidst this increasing tension, the upcoming class of Knight Cadets are officially inducted into the order in preparation for their last year of training at the Academy. But will they be able to complete their training, or will they be pressed into service early, rushed out to suppress some crisis or to strengthen the Imperial Authority in the lands of a Duke or Prince?