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In Sheep's Clothing: The Healer is the second entry in the Nexus Nebula Saga. It concerns a young sheep's adventure in a world populated by dogs and birds and ruled by a corporation of pigs.

The Healer was published in July 2018. The arc is continued with its direct sequel, The Way of the Ram.

Plot Summary

The Old-Timer

The mail carrier Wender delivers a letter to Professor Caper, the horned owl, in his office on Ptera Peak. The card is from Boxer, with an invitation to the 242nd HoundBlood Tournament. Before Caper can do anything, he is interrupted by Mrs. Flaxer, shouting about a strange occurrence in the shrine to the Goddess Optera at the top of the mountain. Caper accompanies her and helps her pull a wooden figure out of the water.

Old-Timer the ram drags his son, Snapper, out of bed for school. They leave their house and cross the field to Fleece City, with Old-Timer scanning for threats the whole way. At the city square, they witness Slog the pig being assaulted by a burly sheep at the entrance to the Chugg National Bank & Trust. A robotic pig named Durdge and his two warthog bodyguards interrupt the attack. Durdge puts the sheep under arrest and allows the city’s guard dogs to take him to the pig city for punishment. Snapper tries to intervene, but Old-Timer stops him.

Caper and Mrs. Flaxer are interrogated about the wooden bird by Reverend Specter, the leader of the Church of the Goddess. The puppet begins to speak on her own, revealing that she knows about a feud between religious and secular birds. Specter declares the wooden puppet to be a prophet from Optera and claims her as Church property.

Snapper attends class at This Little Piggy Primary School, where he is expected to memorize a version of history that venerates the military conquest of pigs during the Canine-Avian War. The Chugg Corporation mascot, Charlie Chugg, is a constant presence throughout the school. Snapper annoys his classmate, Swifter, and catches Durdge spying on his classroom.

Charlie Chugg issues a news bulletin announcing that Chugg Cybernetics will soon be rolling out cloned dogs to replace the guard dogs at Fleece City.

Old-Timer travels to the quarry, intending to speak before the workers, but Fowler the head of security tries to warn him off. Old-Timer aggravates the people with his insistence that they should assemble to change their rough work conditions. Dreamer speaks up in his defense, to the fury of her father, Shiver. Shiver explains to Old-Timer that he is keeping the girl hidden because of her mind-reading abilities. Old-Timer likewise confesses to Shiver that his own son, Snapper, has the ability to heal any wound in seconds.

From the top of Ptera Peak, Caper notices black smoke coming from the Tooth & Claw martial arts facility near his University.

Specter, angered at the puppet’s flippant noncompliance with his demands, has her pierced with hooks and hung from a dead tree on the side of the mountain. The puppet comforts herself with the view of the land.

On his way home from school, Snapper is confronted by Durdge, who hopes the boy has not gotten any ideas from the assault he witnessed that morning. Old-Timer appears and warns Durdge off. At their home, Old-Timer tries to convince Snapper to just ignore Durdge before noticing a plume of black smoke in the distant fields.

That evening, Shiver discovers Dreamer has been taken from their home and brought to the house of Scurvert, the pig in charge of the quarry, as punishment for speaking up for Old-Timer. Scurvert returns Dreamer, who is unconscious and covered with cuts on her face. Despite being mauled by guard dogs, Shiver manages to attack Scurvert.

Late that night, Caper arrives at Tooth & Claw, followed closely by Old-Timer. Boxer lets them in and brings them to a secret tunnel hidden beneath the facility. Caper tells his two companions about the wooden puppet’s appearance. Boxer likewise tells a tale of his own.

In the volcanic shrine to Karkus in a hotspot under Fleece City, Boxer and his commanding officer Pincher prepared for the Houndblood Tournament. A strange beast appeared from the fire below, but it was quickly captured by Boxer. Pincher declared that the creature would fight exhibition matches in the tournament. He also gave the beast a name—Mauler.

Returning to the present, Boxer expresses guilt for his treatment of Mauler. Old-Timer then tells his friends of his encounter with Dreamer. Boxer reports that he received word of Dreamer’s injury at the hands of Scurvert. The three old men resolve to rescue Mauler and the puppet from captivity.

The next morning, during the walk to school, Snapper and Old-Timer have an argument in which the boy accuses his father of being a hypocrite. Old-Timer silences his son and sends him to school. Old-Timer travels to the quarry to learn of Dreamer’s condition. Instead, he discovers Shiver badly injured and missing a horn. Shiver tries to intimidate Old-Timer into staying away from the quarry. Old-Timer then joins Caper and the Flaxer family at the top of Ptera Peak. Caper introduces himself to the puppet, who reveals her name is Ponder.

Snapper returns home from school, having aced his final exam, and lies down for a nap upon finding he is alone. He awakens several hours later when Old-Timer bursts in and demands that they leave the house immediately. The house is attacked by cloned ospreys, hounds, and warthogs. Old-Timer defeats them all with the help of Snapper using his healing power. Fowler arrives to inspect the scene and, finding the two sheep still alive, attempts to run away to inform his superiors. Old-Timer kills him instead.

The house is surrounded by pigs who set it on fire. Old-Timer leads Snapper out of the house, but the old ram is caught and killed by a gigantic, shadowy pig with green eyes. Snapper is caught by more of the warthogs, but Boxer arrives on the scene and begins to massacre them. Caper carries Snapper away from the house, bringing him to the safety of University before making him promise not to seek revenge. Caper reveals that Old-Timer had asked him to care for Snapper in the case of Old-Timer’s demise.

University

A time-skip of three months sees Snapper beginning classes at University. Caper brings him to the front of the class to explain the state of society. At first, Snapper parrots back the approved version he had been instructed to say. At Caper’s prompting, Snapper gives his own opinion of the pigs’ exploitative system, frightening and upsetting his classmates. Swifter ridicules Snapper. After class, Caper invites Snapper back to his office at the end of the day in order to give him answers about his father’s death.

Snapper confronts Swifter in the hall, but Dreamer interrupts the fight and makes arrangements to speak in private with Snapper later. In the office, Caper gives Snapper more detail about the control the pigs use on birds, dogs, and the two sheep societies. He tells Snapper that the Chugg Corporation pigs engage in blood sacrifices to their god, Toxid. He then tells Snapper about his secret meetings with Old-Timer and Boxer. He then leads Snapper to an unused maintenance closet that connects to the same tunnel that runs under Tooth & Claw. Boxer joins them and they show Snapper a hidden side room in which Ponder and Mauler are housed.

After a round of introductions, Ponder, Caper, and Boxer tell Snapper of Old-Timer’s role in rescuing the two mysterious creatures from captivity. Flashback scenes describe Old-Timer causing an avalanche to help Caper get Ponder away from Ptera Peak, as well as participating in a HoundBlood exhibition match in order to cause an “accident” and break Mauler free. Ponder is teaching Mauler to read and speak, and she promises Snapper that they will find their purpose and validate Old-Timer’s sacrifice.

Dreamer apologizes to Snapper for her role in Old-Timer’s death, prompting him to ask Caper for more information about her. He learns Swifter is in the school clinic with a sports injury. Snapper visits Ponder and Mauler, who share memories about Old-Timer and encourage Snapper to “heal.” He visits Swifter and heals his ankle before setting up a date with Dreamer.

During Dreamer’s theology class, Caper provides information about the gods Arghast, Optera, Karkus, and Toxid. Snapper, meanwhile, begins to entertain the notion that he could find happiness in this society. During his date with Dreamer, they walk in the direction of Fleece City. Snapper shares his secret power, healing her scars. In return, she uses her powers of the mind to show him a memory of Old-Timer, but she accidentally flashes back to Scurvert attacking her in his basement. Snapper notes that Scurvert has similar eyes to the pig who killed Old-Timer, making him believe Scurvert was the killer.

Snapper and Dreamer go on to have an enjoyable date in town, where Snapper jokes about starting a clinic. Durdge interrupts their date and baits Snapper into attacking him. Snapper is arrested and dragged to a jail cell in the Megatropolis. At dawn, he is lectured by the jail warden, Guz. Snapper is put on trial, but Caper arrives and stages an elaborate defense hinging on Snapper having psychiatric issues. The court puts Snapper on medication rather than executing him. Caper bans Snapper from entering Fleece City or visiting Ponder and Mauler.

Pig-Drugs

A commercial for prescription Vexylam is aired, endorsed by Charlie Chugg and paid for by Chugg Pharmaceuticals.

Dreamer comes upon the medicated Snapper. She accepts his apology for his behavior, and she agrees to continue seeing him on the condition that she gets to learn his secrets. She reveals that she knows “Snapper” is not his given name, much like Old-Timer’s original name was Trampler.

Snapper tries to play ball with Swifter’s friends, with disastrous results. A fight breaks out in the field over Snapper’s incompetence, giving Boxer the idea to give Snapper martial arts lessons as an outlet instead. Snapper meets Ledger, Berger, and Tuxer. After the lesson, Snapper talks with Boxer about Scurvert. Boxer mentions the juggernaut pig of dog legend. He then suggests the two of them visit Ponder and Mauler.

Mauler smells the drugs in Snapper’s system. Snapper finds out that Ponder wishes to see the world outside the little room. Dreamer converses with Mrs. Flaxer and discovers she, too, has a secret. When Mauler begins to show discontent with being cooped up, Snapper resolves to try and help his friends. He brings Dreamer down to the small room and introduces her to the two. Dreamer uses her power to show Ponder her memories of the outside world. She visits a second time, this time looking in Ponder’s mind and encountering Optera.

Durdge is revived by the Chugg Cybernetics employees Swill and Tuck. He has a phone conversation with his boss, who he calls “Pa.” The boss pig assigns Durdge to investigate University, as Caper’s defense of Snapper has raised suspicions regarding the owl’s connection with Old-Timer. Durdge raids the school, but is unable to find Snapper because he is in the underground tunnel with Ponder and Mauler. In Snapper’s place, Durdge takes Dreamer to Caper’s office. After questioning the owl, Durdge injects Dreamer with truth serum and interrogates her. He learns of the existence of the hidden tunnel and takes several cloned dogs underground with him.

Mauler escapes from the room and fights back against Durdge and his troops. Snapper, Caper, and Boxer join in while Ponder and the drugged Dreamer watch. Durdge is badly damaged by Mauler, but manages to inject him with enough Vexylam to slow him down. The cloned dogs escape with Caper and Boxer as prisoners.

Direction

The Chugg Report puts out an article with a heavily edited version of the day’s events and names Snapper, Dreamer, Ponder, and Mauler as fugitives. The four flee across the plains and take shelter in Old-Timer’s burned house, where they are found by the Flaxers. The four canaries carry Ponder, who uses her power to implant suggestions into their heads and thus gains an ability to nearly move on her own. The group travels to the quarry to seek advice from Shiver. Snapper enlists the aid of Berger, the train station guard, to smuggle them into the quarry.

Shiver turns the group away, telling Ponder and Mauler to “go back where they came from.” The group are then found by quarry dogs. Shiver tries to hold them off, but the group barely manage to get away from them and Scurvert before running into dog territory. Mauler helps the two sheep evade their pursuers by hiding in a tree.

Dreamer tells Snapper that they had come up with a plan to “go back where they came from” by taking the two mysterious creatures to the shrines where they had first appeared. The Tooth & Claw dogs arrive, led by the Flaxers, and help Mauler break into the shrine to Karkus. Mauler does battle with Pincher at the shrine, but he is defeated. Snapper intervenes, allowing Mauler to get the upper hand and break Pincher’s back.

Karkus himself speaks to the two through his shrine, augmenting Mauler’s strength and durability as well as increasing Snapper’s healing power. Snapper uses his new ability to repair Pincher’s spine, to the vigorous approval of the witnessing dogs. At Dreamer’s encouragement, Snapper publicly sheds his alias and retakes the original name his father had given him as a child—Healer.

Traveling away from the dog forest, the group arrive next at Ptera Peak. Wender and many other birds escort Ponder to the mountain, where they are confronted by Specter. Dreamer blackmails the old condor into letting the group access the shrine, where Optera speaks to Ponder. She likewise grants Ponder abilities to trick the senses as well as increases Dreamer’s power when she is inside someone’s mind. Optera publicly berates Specter and banishes him from the mountain.

The group rest and celebrate with the birds. Healer prepares for a confrontation with the Megatropolis, but Dreamer makes him promise to opt for a peaceful solution if the pigs offer him one. The next morning, Healer and Mauler approach the Megatropolis gate, backed by Dreamer, Ponder, the Flaxers, the Tooth & Claw dogs, Wender, and several other birds.

Guz comes out and orders the pig guards to fire electrified nets, but Mauler’s durability and Healer’s powers defeat this tactic. The guards then shoot the two with Vexylam darts, which incapacitates Healer but not Mauler. Before Mauler can kill Guz, Ponder offers to surrender herself and Mauler before requesting to speak to someone with authority.

A giant TV screen emerges, displaying Charlie Chugg. Ponder names several conditions, including the release of Caper and Boxer, the dropping of any charges against Snapper and Dreamer, and the end of blood sacrifices. The pig negotiating with her under the guise of Charlie Chugg accepts these proposals and a prisoner exchange is enacted. Caper and Boxer are freed, and Ponder and Mauler allow themselves to be taken into the Megatropolis. Snapper is infuriated, but he is unable to do anything about it.

The Chugg Report prints a retraction of its previous articles. Dreamer arrives to the quarry on a short trip to be with her newly released father, who gives her the gift of an orchid and tells her of a rumor that Arghast may speak to her through it. Snapper recovers at the clinic before calling a meeting between himself, Dreamer, Boxer, and Caper.

He wants to plan his next move, but Dreamer wants to honor Ponder’s request to live their lives. The resulting argument ends with Healer and Dreamer breaking up. Healer then has an argument with Caper, in which he storms off and leaves University altogether. Healer walks through the fields, alone and homeless but sure of himself.

The final chapter sees Specter, Pincher, and Scurvert in the office of Charles Chugg. Durdge’s inert body lies on Chugg’s desk. Chugg sacrifices a sheep to summon Toxid into the room, where they all decide what to do with Ponder and Mauler. Arghast arrives, speaking through an orchid on Chugg’s desk, telling them to modify their “project” and honor Ponder’s terms.

Trivia

  • This book is the second in the official order of the Nexus Nebula Saga, but the first to be written and published.
  • The Healer and The Way of the Ram were originally written as a single work, an eight-part series intended to be adapted into a series of graphic novel issues.
  • The original concept for this story has been around since 2007. It has gone through several iterations including video games, comic strips, and even a failed attempt at a rock opera album.
The Nexus Nebula Saga
Momma GrizzlyIn Sheep's Clothing: The HealerIn Sheep's Clothing: The Way of the RamIn Sheep's Clothing: Seeds of ChaosIn Sheep's Clothing: The Child SeerThe God Complex: Brothers in ArmsThe God Complex: Will Be DoneThread CradleCandles RedInterludeCrossRoad
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