"Your father was a berserker, and your mother a healer," she said.

"No, it was the other way around."

"Doesn't matter. The point is that no one in your clan was a speaker, right?"

"Nobody in my immediate family anyway, but that doesn't mean nobody was."

"The issue is how much contact you had with speakers growing up."

"Some," I said. "Enough to know what they did. Enough to ask them questions about what they did, if joining their path would be right for me."

"How about on a day-to-day basis?"

"I suppose that didn't happen too much. Sometimes during clan gatherings, sometimes when we had visits."

"So your primary influences were your parents then."

"I wouldn't say that, but they were the ones I was around the most."

"Maybe you didn't see just how much they affected you then."

"What should I be seeing?"

"How about I ask you. What do you remember most about what they did?"

"Mom would usually be off to the front or on the way back. She didn't like to talk much. I think she was haunted by some of the things she saw, or had done herself."

"Was she an angry person?"

"She tried hard not to be, but it didn't always work. I don't think she could help herself. Out there, they teach you to act first and ask questions later. It was the only way to survive."

"She had a lot of reflexive behavior then."

"Yeah, you could call it that. If you didn't have fast reflexes out there, you died."

"I see," she said. "What about your other parent?"

"My dad?"

"Sure, your dad."

"He was also out there and saw some harrowing things, but his role was different."

"In what ways would you say?"

"It was more thoughtful. Saving people's lives still required a lot of quick thinking and action, but it was a different mindset I think."

"Is that how they met? Out on the front?"

"No, they knew one another before that."

"Would you say he was less reactive of a person?"

"I think he had a greater sense of where he wanted things to go. His own life didn't depend on his actions, so he could afford to slow down."

"It was the lives of others that he held in his hands."

"I suppose that's how he saw it. He had a different purpose."

"Would you say they were both doers then?"

"That was their job. To do things. What else could they do but do things?"

"I mean would you say they were more doers than talkers?"

"Oh right, of course they weren't speakers. That was somebody else's role."

"So neither of them did much talking while you were growing up."

"I guess. How could I know what normal was anyway. As far as I knew then, every clan was like that."

"Some had speakers in the household though."

"You're right, I didn't think about it at the time. Talking things over wasn't something any of us did. Problems were fixed or attacked. Wasting words over them wasn't important, kind of an afterthought I guess."

"Nobody is purely a berserker or healer though."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Do you know what your grandparents did?"

"I didn't know them very well unfortunately."

"If any were speakers, they would affect that side of your clan."

"So it wasn't totally a silent household, aren't they all like that?"

"You'd be surprised," she said.

"So we didn't have a speaker at home, what difference do you expect now?"

"If you're missing one of the types of role models growing up, it tends to limit how you're able to react to things around you."

"So you're saying I needed three different parents, is that it?"

"No, most people are like you, just the two. But some lucky ones grew up with role models from all three branches."

"And what are they like?" I asked.

"For one, they don't come to see me much."

"So normal families are the ones with all the problems?"

"Most have a healer to keep it all together, but the ones without one, well, sometimes it's the ones who can't admit they have a problem who are the most concerning."

"What do you mean by that?"

"What do you think happens to a child who sees almost no examples of healing while growing up?"

"I suppose they learn to toughen themselves up. You know what they say about whatever doesn't kill you."

"Tough is good if it means resilience," she said.

"What else does it mean?"

"Tough is less good if they see helping others as a sign of weakness."

"You're blaming them for all the problems of the world?"

"That's not how I would describe it. I don't imagine they enjoy their lives either, but they would never come here as you've done."

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