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Clutch turtle images on various different book covers for Agent of Change

Excerpt Agent of Change, images clutch turtles

  • The Clutch first appear in the novel Agent of Change (see book cover).
    • Two turtles -- The Edger and The Sheather -- play roles in several more books.
    • The short story To Cut an Edge tells how Scout cadet Val Con yos'Phelium first met The Edger.


  • Clutch people, Miri learned with surprise, were persons of consequence.[1]
  • Clutch are huge and heavy, about 400 pounds. [2][1]
  • Tallest species: on average, Liadens are 5' (1.52 m) tall, Terrans 7' (2.13 m) tall, Clutch 9' (2.74 m) tall [2] (Taller than Yxtrang, too)
    • Ambassadorial Clan members are shorter and lighter, by a third. Edger thinks them speedy and svelte.[1]
  • Sentient, gregarious, and long-lived. Elders live more than a millennium.[2]
  • "No one has ever heard of a Clutch turtle lying. Certainly no one has ever heard of a Clutch turtle or clan breaking a promise.” Breath's Duty
  • Normally slow and thoughtful, not hasty
    • But they can be very hasty indeed, as Sheather proved to Grom Trogar:
It is true that the members of the Clutch are often slow. But not always slow. Grom Trogar screamed once before his body understood that it was dead and slumped to the floor beside the evil, humming thing, his blood already pooling about it.
Edger turned to look long at his brother Sheather, then turned again to study the pitiful, soft man impaled upon the glowing crystal blade and the gun humming to itself in the growing pool of red. Not a sound came from the humans all around.[3]
  • Some are insular, even xenophobic[2]
  • Some go space-faring via electron substitution drive asteroid ships [4]
  • Their lengthy multi-phrased names describe the hallmarks of their long lives.
  • Sleep patterns: “"It is not yet time for us to sleep," Edger said. "Though it must be near, for I grow a bit yawnsome. Perhaps next month we will sleep for a space."[5]
  • Socially organized in clans, governed by a council of elders, the T’car[2]
  • Strong sense of smell: “the odor of something vaguely spicy and somewhat— furry?”[2]
  • Large glowing eyes, to see in dark caverns, etc.[2], [6]
  • They somehow use their voice /sound waves to build, destroy, heal, etc.[7]
  • They named the Yxtrang their "fair and just prey"[8]
  • Invisible to healer sight [7]
  • When Shan opens up his healer senses completely, the Clutch are '"as systems of all but intolerable complexity, informed by a method entirely outside of his understanding, stretching far beyond his ability to read, yet tantalizingly familiar, as if ..." [7]
    • reminding him of when he opened healer sight to The Tree -- "entranced" by "the long, slow, greenness that spiraled on -- forever, or so it seemed" [7]
  • "My people -- on our homeworld, we live, some of us, on the planet surface. Others of us do not. But all of us have access to the deep places -- caverns, tunnels and the like -- where we may renew ourselves, and sleep safe."[9]

Reputation as Pilots[]

In general, among the educated, the Clutch are respected if mysterious, and sometimes feared — especially by Yxtrang soldiers

“In the matter of the Clutch, the Pilots Guild, TerraTrade, the Liaden Port Standards, and the Scouts all agree that they will do as they will and, as they rarely do harm, or even mischief, no penalties accrue to any port or property where they may arrive.” [10]


  • A Clutch discipline, a type of exercise, dance and/or martial art: "a way of reaffirming oneself. Of celebrating proper thought."[11]
  • Turtles practice the L’apeleka from childhood: “a small, swift figure left the safety of the dwelling-places and crossed the L’apeleka field” [2]
  • Slow and minutely paced workout that brings mind and body in accord
  • The exercises “Awaiting” and “Accepting the Lance” helped Val Con gain mental freedom from The Department of the Interior[12]
  • “Edger taught Val Con the L'apeleka exercise [11]
    • “Val Con...perceived the thing he had constructed within himself on Edger's ship, using the L'apeleka exercises Edger had taught him.”[13]
  • At the Winterfair on Vandar, Val Con executed three different L'apeleka exercises: Awaiting, Accepting the Lance, and The Spirit Demands[14]
    • Val Con followed, fumbling among his store of L'apeleka dances. "The Spirit Demands" presented itself and he danced two steps as he walked, his mind encompassing the whole.

T’car & T’carais[]

  • T’car: The Council of Elders that governs all Clutch, all clans[2]
    • Provides dispute resolution between clans if the clan leaders (T’carais) cannot solve their own problems[2]
    • Eldest Speaker is a female[2]
    • Even the youngest of the current table of Elders has been alive (slightly) longer than Clan Korval has been in existence[15]
    • “There was a large quiet while the Elders conferred silently, after the manner of the very old. In time, Eldest Speaker’s voice was heard...It is the decision and will of the T’car that the T’carais of the Knife Clan go to the...”[2]
    • Edger, for example, leads Knife Clan [2]
    • “The duties of a T’carais are myriad; the duties of the senior-most Edger many”
  • T’caraisiana’ab — Deputy to the T'carais: “This is Handler, my brother. He speaks with my voice in all things while I am gone.”

Knife Clan of Middle River[]

  • This clan is known across the universe for making indestructible crystal knives.
  • “Most of the Clan was home, growing knives in the cold, beautiful caverns of Middle River." [1]
  • It takes twenty years to grow and refine a crystal knife.[16]
  • “Middle River knives are crystal, delicately crafted, superbly handled, exquisitely sheathed — things of beauty, without doubt. Also useful, since a knife is, after all, a tool. Edger and his Clan encourage as many blades as there are uses for blades, from screwdrivers to grace knives."[17]

The Edger[]

  • Leading the "Market Research" team: "His group of five had been sent by the Elders out into the wide universe to discover what knives were required." [1]
  • A male turtle, he puts the edge on the crystal knifes his clan makes[2]
  • Shorter Name: "I am called, in the short form used by the Clans of Men on those things called visas: Eleventh Shell Fifth Hatched Knife Clan of Middle River's Spring Spawn of Farmer Greentrees of the Spearmakers Den: The Edger."[2]
    • By the time of Agent of Change his twelfth shell is "barely set" and his name is updated to "Twelfth Shell”
  • T'carais: somewhere between father, captain, priest and mayor[11]
  • Of the working class (one third bigger than those of the Ambassadorial Clan)[1]
  • “Edger, he said to call him. Big somebody. Voice like to crack your eardrums." Cheever McFarland said. "Real character, ain't he?"[18]
  • "Being relatively young, Edger did not regard himself as large"[1]
  • "Eight-foot high and bottle green, the room's soft light waking gleams of malachite and cobalt among the tiles of his magnificent shell. Eyes yellow and slitted, like a cat's, four hundred pounds, if he weighed an ounce."[19] His eyes are the size of saucers [1]
  • more than nine hundred standard years old (which is relatively young for a Clutch Turtle)[1]
    • Discrepancy: "Edger had seen seven standard centuries, start to finish."[20]
  • Has made a study of human music, which he finds pleasing[2]

Befriends 17-year-old Scout cadet Val Con yos'Phelium on the Clutch homeworld.[2] (see To Cut an Edge)

  • "I met him when I was training as First-In Scout. I had my 'chora with me...He enjoyed my playing. After -- I got to know him, he offered me a place in his household, as Clan musician."[1]
  • Edger taught Val Con several L'apeleka exercises, including “Accepting the Lance”[21]
  • Loans his Clutch Ship to Val Con and Miri[22]
  • Contacts the Juntavas
  • Sends a pinbeam to First Speaker Nova yos'Galan and hires Cheever McFarland -- "hastiest courier available" -- to deliver a package to her when Val Con and Miri abruptly abandon his ship and fall into enemy hands (the Juntavas)[23]
  • With Shan yos'Galan, he heals Val Con of grievous injury[7]

The Sheather[]

  • male, Edger's brother
  • one head shorter than Edger[1]
  • shy: “She [Miri] became aware that shy, little — in a relative way, of course — Sheather was staring at her out of eyes the size of her salad plate, and smiled at him. He ducked his head and was suddenly very busy with his meal.”[1]
  • felt drawn to study his adopted sister Miri Robertson:: "Indeed I have thought much upon our sister, and studied what I might of her history."[20]
    • his name has been lengthened to include his study of Miri and humans in general: "my name now includes a phrase roughly equivalent to 'student of men'"[24]
  • although typically slow and nearly timid, he rapidly threw his crystal knife at an attacking enemy, to protect Edger[25]
  • used his voice to heal Miri[7]
  • accompanied Val Con into the dark tunnels beneath Liad: "Sheather, with his dark-seeing eyes, led the way."[26]

Also with Edger[]

  • The Handler
    • male; Edger's brother[2]
    • T'caraisiana'ab[2] — deputy T’carais
    • one head smaller than Edger[1]
    • Miri thinks he’s sweet[1]
  • The Selector
    • male; Edger's brother[2]
    • one head smaller than Edger[1]
    • has an acid tongue[1]
      • reminds Miri fondly of a sergeant[1]
  • The Watcher
    • Youngest of the "market research" team, least used to non-turtles.
      • Quite xenophobic, it turns out.
    • one head smaller than Edger[1]

Others of Knife Clan[]

  • Lader[2]
  • Seeder[2]
  • Nurturer (female)[2]
  • The nurse (The Broodmother?) (female)[2]
  • The child
    • male[2]
    • T'carais'amp, heir to the T'carais (presumably Edger's son, but the closest the story comes to saying this specifically is that Edger's brother Handler is the T'carais'amp's uncle)[2]

Trader Clan of White Marsh[]

  • The T’carais of the Trader Clan brought forth a dispute against the T’carais of the Knife Clan[2]
  • The T’car listened, conferred, and Elder Speaker responded

Ambassadorial Clans[]

Edger comparing himself with persons of the amassadorial clans: "... few of the working class traveled, and his four-hundred-pound bottle-green frame was fully one-third larger than the svelte and speedy persons the Ambassadorial Clans sent to human worlds."[1]

One appears in Accepting the Lance. Her manners are hasty by Clutch standards, ie. similar to human or Liaden speed. For one thing, no long introductions, simply: "I am called, for the purposes of this mission, Emissary Twelve."[27]


"...the former chairman made the mistake of threatening a T'carais....The chairman was knifed in his own office by a Clutch turtle."[28] (See Breath's Duty)


"Perhaps better for all concerned: Most turtles would merely have bitten his head off, or crushed his spine..."[28]


"The turtles claim them to be a brother and sister of the Spearmaker's Den who must be returned unharmed or self-declared free and safe....If they don't turn up safe the Juntavas will be wiped out, starting from the top."[28]


Clutch turtles? Nelirikk managed to stifle the shiver, while fervently hoping never in his lifetime to see a Clutch turtle, enemy of the Troop, slayer of fleets."[29]

Words and phrases[]

  • a'jliata - dragon[2]
  • clemktos - a type of tree[2]
  • c'smerlaparek - a game played by children[2]
  • d'neschopita - pretty[2]
  • (egg-kin)[2]
  • (eggling)[2]
  • kanarak'ab - (meaning uncertain)[2]
  • k'mentopak - farewell[2]
  • l'apeleka - a dance/martial art discipline (very slow moves, a way of reaffirming oneself, of celebrating the power of thought [11])
  • p'elektekaba - (meaning uncertain)[2]
  • s'essellata - (meaning uncertain)[2]
  • T'car - Council of Clans[2]
  • t'carais - ranking member of a clan[2]
  • t'carais'amp - heir to the t'carais[2]
  • t'caraisiana'ab - person who acts for the t'carais in that one's absence (uncertain if this is the whole of the meaning)[2]
  • t'carais'amp b'lenarkanarak'ab - (meaning uncertain; perhaps a greeting or an introduction)[2]
  • t'caraisiana'ab e'amokenatek - "This means that you are to be heard and judged by the T'caraisiana'ab."[2]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 Agent of Change, ch 5
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 2.24 2.25 2.26 2.27 2.28 2.29 2.30 2.31 2.32 2.33 2.34 2.35 2.36 2.37 2.38 2.39 2.40 2.41 2.42 To Cut an Edge
  3. Carpe Diem, Shaltren, Cessilee
  4. Agent of Change and I Dare
  5. Agent of Change, ch 11
  6. I Dare, Solcintra, Liad
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 I Dare, Lytaxin, Erob's House / chapter 7
  8. I Dare, Lytaxin, Erob's ClanHouse
  9. Accepting the Lance, ch 23 "Jelaza Kazone"
  10. Accepting the Lance
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Agent of Change, ch 21
  12. Carpe Diem, Vandar: Winterfair
  13. Carpe Diem, Vandar: Hellin’s Surcease / chapter 37
  14. Carpe Diem, Vandar: Winterfair
  15. Accepting the Lance, ch 56 "Jelaza Kazone - The Tree Court"
  16. Agent of Change, ch 6
  17. Agent of Change, ch 8
  18. Carpe Diem, Liad, Solcintra Port
  19. I Dare, Day 50 (ch 5)
  20. 20.0 20.1 Plan B, Shaltren, Juntavas Headquarters
  21. Carpe Diem, Vandar: Hellin’s Surcease
  22. Agent of Change
  23. Carpe Diem, Liad, Trealla Fantrol / chapter 7
  24. I Dare
  25. Carpe Diem, Cessilee
  26. I Dare, Solcintra, Liad
  27. Accepting the Lance, ch 18 "Jelaza Kazone"
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Breath's Duty, in A Liaden Universe Constellation, volume I, and in Duty Bound; Adventures in the Liaden Universe
  29. I Dare, Day 50, SY1393, Lytaxin, Erob's House