For the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I'm posting alphabetically on things related to Shayla's world from my (unpublished) novel, Ghosts of Innocence...
The worlds in Ghosts of Innocence are either fiefdoms, owned by one of the Grand Families, or outlaw worlds eking out a precarious existence on the perimeters of civilization, or Freeworlds.
The Freeworlds enjoy independence by statute, granted by the Emperor, and honored by the other Families by treaty.
Freeworlds usually have a dedicated purpose, or charter, and establish themselves as highly specialized centers of excellence for academics, artists, or artisans. The Families honor the Freeworlds' independent status in return for the strictly impartial value that these worlds bring to all of humanity.
It is no coincidence that Freeworlds typically lack natural resources worth fighting over.
It would also be a mistake to imagine the Freeworlds as being idyllic beacons of freedom in a wilderness of feudal rule. Being a Freeworld simply means that the local rulers manage their affairs unencumbered by central control. That independence rarely extends to the general populace.
Shayla's brother, Brandt, lived on the University Freeworld of Chevinta, which is ruled by an intellectual meritocracy. Brandt lived as a recluse, taking no part in the backstabbing world of University politics, and he would have rejected any suggestion of being a member of a ruling elite, but he hardly noticed the subservient underclass that kept him and his intellectual peers fed and clothed.
At the end of Ghosts, the ravaged world Eloon is granted Freeworld status, and Shayla is exiled there to establish a refuge for people dispossessed by conflict.