Hotel Wahid International (835,590)
Shani, Nassir, Zhara, Abdel Daoud
Love him or hate him, Saïd is one-of-a-kind. He's crass, arrogant, outrageous, and decidedly snarky, yet still manages to be quite the delight. He’s Egyptian royalty and leader of the Kingdom. His actual age is unknown, even by him. He’s managed to stay “alive” for long, long time, although by what means is not exactly clear, even by him. He hardly even remembers who he was before his mummification.
It's rude to stare, is it not? Oh, the expression on your face. I know, I know. You see this desiccated flesh, like old tea-leaves, and cannot comprehend how it's dressed in Milanese silk. Here's the skinny: we of the Kingdom were merchant princes once, are now, and always will be. A prince is accustomed to little luxuries. And big ones. Over the rise and fall of civilisations, I've become quite desensitised to tasteful restraint. This afterlife has proved very different to the one I was expecting. One of the few shortcomings of the dynastic private schooling system. But for a business man, a deal-broker, it is glorious. Infinite potential for profit, and so many pleasurable distractions. Mmm-mm. Legal, illegal, divine or debauched - it takes all sorts. What I pride myself on is a wealth of experience.
Venice has some nerve, bringing in an army without going through us first. What are we, dried leather? Everything goes through the Kingdom. Everything has its price. That's Cairo rules. This is an antique land and we are its curators, no one else. The cabals all had their chance, and if they liked it so much, they should have put a reign on it. Look at what happens when too many outside interests get involved. The Kingdom's free black market kept Egypt removed from the secret wars. It's almost charitable if you think about it. Yes, this fracas is going to cost. Not us, of course. We'll find a way to turn the country's devastation into a loss leader. Too soon? Don't think of me as heartless. It's shriveled to the size of a walnut, but I still have it rattling around in here somewhere.
I'm like a jackal shut in a hot car out here. If it's not the sun, it's the beetles. Those voracious little shits are everywhere. I would have greatly preferred to stay in Cairo. We're a hands-off facilitator. For moral reasons, or lack thereof, and because there's a je ne sais quoi about us that spooks the locals. If you ask me, we've aged better than some of the Fortune 500 CEOs I've met. And I've met them all. The age of online business has been good for the Kingdom. Very good. Now everyone is faceless, not just us, and personal responsibility is an idle dream. Where it belongs. Here I am, running accounting on a situation intended to have no accountability. I hope you understand, I have the confidentiality of my idiot clients to consider when dealing with you. However, I wouldn't dream of stopping you making their lives difficult. Break a leg!
My capacity to inspire competence never ceases to amaze.
I assume you've escorted royalty before?
Oh and read the manual. I don't want you crawling back as a temporal anomaly.
Nassir, the notion of our relationship blossoming beyond today fills me with a special kind of...dread.