Sigrid Sanders
The starcatcher
Page 8 of 8

They landed back on Emma's special hill. The solid grass-covered earth felt good beneath her feet.

"As you can see," said the Starcatcher, "I can't stay long. I must be on my way." He pointed to the eastern horizon, where a thin rosy streak of light was beginning to hint of day.

"I just have one question," Emma said. "How did you get the star into the Storm Cloud Castle?"

"Oh, stars can do things that even I can't imagine," said the Starcatcher, and he shrugged.

"Well, thank you for saving me," said Emma. "Here's your needle. And - will I ever see you again?"

"I doubt it," he said, as he dropped the needle into his sparkling sack. A pink curl of iridescent light seeped out like a wisp of smoke. The Starcatcher patiently wound it around his finger and pushed it back inside, and he fastened the sack.

"I don't usually come the same way twice."

"Oh," said Emma. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"But you never know for sure." He turned to go.

"Wait," said Emma. "I almost forgot. Your star." She put her hand into her pocket and pulled it out - but instead of a star, a small, smooth, pearl-gray stone lay in the palm of her hand.

"I don't give away stars very often," said the Starcatcher, "but when I do, I don't take them back."

"It doesn't exactly look like a star anymore," Emma said. The stone was rather plain, though when she turned it a certain way, it caught the light and shimmered with an almost invisible sprinkle of colors.

"Well, things aren't always what they seem, you know," said the Starcatcher.

"It's my star?"

"It's your star. To keep."

Before Emma could say another word, the Starcatcher turned, took one step into the sky, and was gone. Just as quickly as he had come. For a few seconds Emma could still see the ghost of his silvery figure against the black star-pricked sky, then it faded away. She turned and looked toward the eastern horizon, where the rosy streak of dawn was beginning to spread, and just above it, in the retreating shadow of night, she saw one last star fall, and go out. Like magic.

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