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hard stone floor in a pile of arms and legs and garishly colored cloth. The thud of impact was enough to wake him even from a snake-drugged sleep. He sat up with a grunt, blinking his blue eyes and shaking his head.

Jacen continued to calm the invisible snake hidden in his hand. He sent tingling thoughts into its mind until the serpent fizzed with pleasure. Content, it wrapped itself around Jacen's wrist, resting its flat, transparent head on his clenched fist. Even in the best of light it barely shimmered. Its scales were like a thin film of diamonds, its black eyes like two bits of charcoal.

Groggy, Raynar looked at the dark-haired twins standing next to him. He scratched his head in confusion. "Jacen? Jaina? Well, well, well, what are you-hey!" He sat up straighter and shook his left arm as if it had gone numb. Then he glared at Jacen.

"I thought I saw one of your... your creatures in here, just for a minute. And that's the last thing I remember. Is one of your pets loose?"

Embarrassed, Jacen slid his snake-covered hand behind his back. "No," he said, "I can honestly say that all of my pets are com pletely accounted for."

Jaina bent down to help the other Jedi boy to his feet. "You must have just fallen asleep, Raynar. You really should have gone to your sleeping pallet if you were so tired." She brushed his clothes off. "Now look, you've got dust all over your pretty robes."

Raynar looked in alarm at the smudges of dust and dirt on his gaudy garments. "Now I'll have to put on a whole new outfit. I can't be seen in public like this!" He brushed his fingers over the cloth in dismay.

"We'll let you get changed then," Jacen said, backing toward the door. "See you at the lecture."

Jacen and Jaina ducked out of Raynar's room. Feeling suddenly bold enough
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