The story that Henry told him was not the one Seymour had been expecting to hear, but he wasn’t particularly surprised.
“That’s certainly something Aita would do,” he mused. “Sorry. I probably should have warned you about him.”
“But...” Henry stammered. “But he seemed so…friendly…before.”
“Well, he is friendly,” Seymour remarked. “He’s the friendliest Ancient that I’ve ever met.”
Henry sniffed. “Well, pardon me! I’ve just never considered an attempt to burn me to a cinder to be a particularly amicable gesture.”
“Henry, you can’t judge an immortal being by the standards set by mortals. They don’t fit into neat categories of good and evil. In any other circumstance, it may have been Elnias trying to kill you and Aita saving your life.” He gestured to the raven on his shoulder. “For example, the creature currently perched placidly beside my ear is actually a sadistic, vampiric monster who was responsible for the slaughter of the entire population of this fair city some fourteen hundred years ago.” He patted the bird’s talons. “Isn’t that right, Moriba, m’dear?”
The raven croaked, pleased.
Henry edged away slightly, eying Seymour’s avian passenger warily. “But why? Why are they that way?”
“They’re amoral, Henry. They act purely out of self-interest. Like Elnias said, they all demand payment of one form or another.”
Henry frowned. “But he gave you information, and you didn’t…erm, pay him.”
“Elnias is a special case. He certainly isn’t the only Ancient to accept sex as compensation for his services, but he has a romantic streak that most of the others don’t, you see. He’s one of the few Ancients that can fall in love. And love,” Seymour noted, with a sidelong glance at Henry, “always changes the equation.”
They entered the bakery. Seymour selected an item from the display atop the counter, and Henry paid for it, muttering something about raising his interest rates.
The moment they were back on the street, the Aechyed shoved the entire pastry-thing into his mouth at once and swallowed it, scarcely bothering to chew.
“I was hungry,” he explained in reply to Henry’s look of amazed repulsion.