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their long, hollow fangs.

In another cage, the whisper birds had fallen silent, possibly hungry. Jacen would have to collect some fresh nectar funnels from the vines growing in the stones of the crumbling temple across the river.

It was almost time to go to morning lessons. Jacen tapped the sides of the containers, saying good-bye to his pets. Just before turning to leave, though, he hesitated. He peered into the bottommost container, where the transparent crystal snake usually sat coiled in a bed of dry leaves.

The crystal snake was nearly invisible, and Jacen could see it only by looking at the creature in a certain light. But now, no matter which way he looked, he saw no glitter of glassy scales, no rainbowish curve of light that bent around the transparent creature. Alarmed, he leaned down and discovered that the bottom corner of the cage had been bent upward . . . just enough for a thin serpent to slither out.

"I've got a bad feeling about this," Jacen said, unconsciously echoing the words his father so often used.

The crystal snake was not particularly dangerous-at least Jacen didn't think so. He did know from firsthand experience that the bite of the snake brought a moment of piercing pain, and then the victim fell into a deep sleep. Even though after an hour or so one would wake up and feel no ill effects, this was the sort of hazard someone like Raynar might use to cause trouble and perhaps force Jacen to move his pets to an outside storage module.

And now the crystal snake was loose.

His heart started racing with fear, but he remembered to use one of his uncle Luke's Jedi relaxation techniques to keep himself calm, to help him think more clearly. Jacen knew immediately what he had to do: he would have his sister Jaina help him find the snake
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