Emerald Green 6

Her stalker was taken by surprise.  Judging just from his clothes, he could be her twin.  Like Dido, he was wrapped from head to foot with only his eyes visible.  That was where the similarities ended.  He was about half a foot taller than her and where Dido was wiry, he was muscular.

His eyes were a shockingly bright hazel.  They sucked up the moonlight and shot it back out even brighter.  Dido was still staring into them when he recovered from his surprise.  Before she could react, one hand shot past her small knife and latched onto her wrist, twisting until her weapon clattered on the roof.

Forgetting about the knife, Dido kicked up into the air and wrapped her legs around her attacker’s arm, wrenching him to the ground.  He didn’t make a sound as she twisted his shoulder, even though Dido knew it must hurt.

The man calmly grabbed one of her legs with his other arm and then brought his knees up underneath him.  His legs straining, he managed to stand up, lifting Dido into the air in the process.  She didn’t have any leverage now, and when she tried to free herself, she found she couldn’t break his grip.  She hung there in the air, the blood rushing to her head.

When she was good and dizzy, he dropped her.  Dido connected with the roof in a crunch of roof tiles.  Shaking her head, Dido tried to roll to her feet.  What she actually managed was wobbling around for a bit and then pushing herself into a crouch.  A glint of metal flashed through the air and her dagger embedded in the wall right next to her head.  Her vision instantly cleared and she sat against the wall, frozen.

“You didn’t have to attack me, you know.”

There was a hint of a laugh in his voice.  Dido couldn’t appreciate the humor.  Her own pulse was racing.

“It was hard to keep up with you,” he said.  “I had to see if the Ghost lived up to his reputation.  Little did I know, it’s actually her reputation.”

Dido grumbled to herself under her breath.  He’d been able to figure out she was a girl.  She yanked the dagger out of the wall and stuffed it back in its sheathe.

“No need to get angry,” he said.  “Your secret is safe with me.”

“Who are you?” Dido asked.  She figured it was safe to talk since he’d already figured out her gender.

“I can’t tell you my real name, what would be the fun in that?  I will tell you what others have taken to calling me.  The Collector.”

Dido took an involuntary step back and hit her head on the wall.  The Collector was a legend throughout the city of Thage.  For the past few years he’d been stealing for anyone who could afford his fee.  There was one catch though.  Sometimes he decided to keep what he’d been sent to steal for himself.  He’d always return the fee, plus a little extra to smooth over hot tempers.

No one could figure out why he kept certain things and not others.  Often he delivered the most valuable loot and kept something next to worthless for himself.  Of course sometimes it was the other way around.

Anyone who made a stink about his collecting found their own valuables stolen or their most secret business suddenly in the hands of the City Watch.  The criminal underworld had a little bit of a love hate relationship with the Collector, with a healthy dollop of fear on top.

In short, the Collector was one of Dido’s personal role models.  She didn’t buy that this was the genuine article.

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