The ones you've heard about are probably all corporations, bartering away proto-stars to tyrants or selling time-suspended gas clouds to as-yet-unborn empires. These are the most visible and mundane of star merchants. Journey, if you will, to the outposts of barely-civilization, and in the compressed by-lanes of a domed city you'll find men who are little more than cloaked whispers, selling stars in boxes that will power entire poor planets, with enough light to fuel each workday, but never enough for a single sunrise. Closer to home, look more carefully, at the old woman selling those oddly glinting trinkets, who will take no money, credits or barter, just a lock of hair or sometimes a skein of sweat, and very rarely perhaps a thimble of piss or blood. Wear what she gives you as ring or necklace, pocket it carefully and reach for it in the darkest of places when when you walk the sunless nightmares of your despair, and be renewed. If you use the services of a magician selling you a shadow dispeller, remember — the constant light that keeps your dark hunter at bay is tied to the magician's life, so always pick a magician younger than you. The strangest star merchants do not sell anything at all, they teach. They appear as all masters do, when their students are ready, in dreams or in waking flesh. If one appears to you, and you follow their orbit, you as a star child will live far fewer lifetimes than anyone else, a single billion-yeared incarnation instead of an eternity of brief appearances. And the reward for your discipline and the burning burning burning of your infinite soul in so short a space is simply this — to hold at once in your arms the million million delicate shells of creatures whose lives flicker, like motes in a sunbeam, ever so briefly in the warmth of your love.
Rohinton Daruwala lives and works in Pune, India. He writes code for a living, and speculative fiction and poetry in his spare time. He tweets as @wordbandar and blogs at https://wordbandar.wordpress.com/. His work has previously appeared in Strange Horizons, Liminality and Through the Gate.