Just as he was starting to feel much more positive, the rock beneath him gave a sickening lurch. Both he and Mahad slipped on the sandy ground, breaking his fall with his arm. "What's happening?" he asked, more to himself than to the native, who was already calling his Camerupt over. With a practised movement, the desert-dweller swung himself astride the Fire-type, before holding his hand out. Shaken both literally and in confidence, Dave almost took it, before looking back. "Wait, the Crustle! We can't just leave them here!" he argued, only to stumble again as another shockwave reverberated across the outcrop. Despite his will to help the crustaceans, the logical part of his brain realised that there was nothing he could do.
Taking Mahad's hand, he swung up behind him, his back resting against the Camerupt's rear hump. He adjusted his jacket, allowing Suzi more room to move, her water having spilled out in the commotion. As he tried to relax, he felt pinches around his head. The Dwebble was still perched there, gripped with as much fear as he had been, no doubt. The tips of its legs hurt as they dug into the side of Dave's head, but he'd left too many of the critter's family behind - the least he could do was let this one hang on for dear life as the Camerupt surged forward.
As they rushed through the sand, the trainer was actually surprised. Camerupt were supposed to be slow, stupid beasts, but this one was reaching a fair clip, even while the tremors were still ongoing. Turning back to observe the rock he was just sat on, Dave listened to Mahad. Tyranitar must have been close to generate this kind of power. After a century in underground hibernation, he'd thought it would have been too weak and hungry to attack straight away... unless... "No."
The thought hit him just as the rock formation began to sink into the sand. The Tyranitar would have planned this. It would have gone to sleep somewhere it could have had immediate access to food upon awakening, so that it could restore its strength. "That must be it! The 'Grave of the Realm' isn't a grave at all, it's a larder! Tyranitar left it standing so it could eat it first this time!" he explained aloud, more to himself than to Mahad, watching the rocks vanish below ground. "We... we were right on top of it." he mumbled, almost going numb at the thought of the close call. His stomach twisted as he thought of the Crustle, dragged down to be either buried alive or worse, part of the Beast's breakfast snack. Glancing upward, the fisherman tried to get a good look at his passenger, but Dwebble's features were blank, probably even more stunned than he.
Reaching up, Dave attempted to give the Bug-type a consoling pat, but his attention was drawn back to the sick display of power. The sand between them seemed to be vanishing, almost as if the force below was trying to suck them back to the buried rock. Before he could even bring this to Mahad's attention, the native had reacted. His Camerupt moving even faster, the trainer watched as its Rock Polish technique greatly increased its mobility, the craggy rock-like humps becoming smooth as it lightened itself. Soon the fissure gave up the chase, and Dave relaxed into the mount's fur. That had been a tense few minutes. Reaching up to pat the Dwebble again, he leaned back and tried to make himself comfortable, looking into the featureless expanse of sand before them. After a few minutes, tents became visible. He hadn't expected them to be quite this close to the danger-zone. They truly were living on a knife-edge.
After what felt like half an hour, but was probably more like five minutes, the Camerupt trotted through a gate set in a rickety wooden fence, soon coming to a stop in a clear area of the village. Following Mahad's cue, Dave dismounted their steed, looking around as people began to crowd curiously around them. His muscles still burning from his previous trek across the desert, the fisherman leaned against Camerupt's sturdy body, trying to stretch new life into his legs. He couldn't understand what any of the locals were saying, but he wasn't really focused on him. He was more worried about the Dwebble atop his head, and what seeing its entire family wiped out before its eyes had done to the little crustacean.
Once Mahad had dispersed the crowd, he motioned for Dave to follow him. Leaving the Camerupt behind, the trainer approached his guide and answered, "Oh! Yeah, there wasn't much time for pleasantries back there. The name's Dave." After shaking Mahad's hand, he began to follow the native to the large tent he had pointed out, listening as he explained how their society was governed. He felt somewhat surprised to learn that he had already met one of the four leaders of this community, and to know that Mahad felt so strongly about his own abilities gave him a huge self-confidence boost. Maybe he'd be able to hack this Pokémon training malarkey after all? But with Mahad explaining that the other three governors would not be as easy to impress as himself, Dave knew that he'd have to prove his abilities. Not just to them, but to himself as well.
As they reached the tent, he realised just how much larger it was than all the others in the area. Its ornate look and great size made it clear that this was deemed the most important structure in the village, and he felt honoured to be here when not half an hour ago he'd been lost, trudging through the sand. Following his guide inside, he coughed slightly as the incense-heavy air irritated his lungs, but he soon got used to it. At least it was much cooler inside the tent than out in the baking sun. He felt Suzi shift appreciatively in his pocket as she relaxed in the cooler temperature. If he'd thought it was well-decorated on the outside, the inside was even more extravagant, almost out of place for a tribal society living in the middle of a desert. His attention was particularly drawn to the bookcase, rack of swords, and scales with both coins and candies. Clearly, these items were linked to the three men sat at the central table.
As Mahad started to converse with the other governors, Dave decided it would be best to keep his mouth shut. As pointed out, he was an outsider here, and he didn't want to risk offending any of these powerful men by speaking out of turn. Jabal's stare unnerved him slightly, giving him the feeling that the older man was searching for something within his gaze. His was a position of power, perhaps he was looking for inner strength? He shook off his nerves as he listened to the other old man, more wizened than his counterpart. 'Users'? 'Man-Gods'? This was the first he'd heard of such things. Perhaps Rasheed was right, maybe he was just a normal trainer who was getting in over his head. But this was no excuse for what the fourth leader came out with. Dave had to bite his tongue, feeling a surge of red-hot anger flash through him as Seth proposed uprooting their community and leaving until the Tyranitar had passed them by, leaving the rest of the Arcane Realm to be demolished and devoured by the Beast. How could he be so selfish, to abandon so many people and Pokémon to such a fate? Fortunately, Jabal was quick to deal with him.
The fisherman felt his anger abate as Rasheed spoke again. For an old man, his voice certainly commanded respect in a different way to his fellow leader. While Jabal had a tone backed up by strength, Rasheed's was calm, like a teacher. Dave couldn't help but feel nervous again as the old man determined that he was to be tested. He'd already gone through so much to prove to his parents that he was capable of going out on his own, and now he was being judged again. The knot forming in his stomach tightened further as Jabal rose to provide his first challenge. Despite his age, he was clearly still strong, with a bigger build than even that of his hometown's Gym Leader, Crasher Wake. The governor laid down his challenge and left the tent, leaving Dave almost panicking. With Mahad gesturing for him to follow, the trainer urged his burning legs forward, his feet feeling like lead as he forced himself back out into the burning sun.
Jabal had already cleared an area outside, people milling about like before, but not crowding him this time. The fisherman felt even worse - from the PokéBall in his hand, it was clear that Jabal intended to challenge him to battle, and losing would have been bad enough without being embarrassed in front of all these strangers. As soon as he was opposite the leader, Jabal released his chosen combatant, the white energy swirling before forming a massive shape. Dave was stunned at the sight of the Hippowdon, even though the Sand Stream Ability was fresh in his mind. Being a native of Sinnoh, he knew the species. Once, Bertha of the Elite Four had come to Pastoria for an exhibition match with Crasher Wake. Despite the Gym Leader's formidable strength and the type advantage, it had been a total mismatch. The Ground-specialist's Golem had blown his Gyarados away without flinching, and had worn his Quagsire down to the point that her Gliscor had finished both it and another of his Pokémon off. The third Pokémon she'd used had been her signature female Hippowdon, boasting the black colouration of the species unlike the yellow behemoth before him now. He'd seen that specimen defeat another two of Wake's Pokémon and his most powerful fighter, his Floatzel, despite the arena being a pool. It had been utter carnage, and it had made clear why she was on the Elite Four in the first place.
He'd not seen the species aside from that display, but remembering how strong that one had been sent shivers down his spine. How was he supposed to defeat this one with a land-bound Remoraid? As the sandstorm started to billow forth, Jabal seemed to have read his mind, allowing him to use multiple Pokémon against him. Dave kicked himself. He only had one other Pokémon, but he'd left Axelia in the Daycare Centre while he was away, hoping that the Relicanth would have grown a bit in power by the time he had returned. He hadn't thought that he'd need the Rock-type like he did right now, so Suzi was all he had. As he cursed himself, he noticed that his head felt a lot lighter, an orange blur hitting the sand in front of him. The Dwebble that had been sat atop him since the rocky outcrop was facing down the larger desert-dweller, claws snapping in defiance.
"Huh? Dwebble... you want to fight?" the trainer asked, somewhat stunned by this. Clearly the death of its entire swarm had sparked something inside the arthropod. If it wanted vengeance upon the Tyranitar menace that had killed its family, maybe it knew it would have to fight eventually. Dwebble nodded, causing a smile to creep across Dave's features. Maybe he wouldn't look like a total idiot. "Alright then, let's see what you can do..." he muttered, sliding out his PokéDex to scan the critter. It couldn't tell him if the Bug-type knew any advanced techniques compatible with its species, but it could tell him the ones it would definitely know. Two certain options lit up the screen - Hippowdon resisted one, but Dwebble could be a close-up distraction...
Reaching into his pocket, Dave's fingers closed around Suzi, gently lifting her out of her wet home. His hand slid back along her body to close firmly around her bottomside caudal fin, which she tensed, leaving the overall look as if he was holding her like a gun. "You're fine with this, right?" he asked, the Remoraid responding with a chirp, eyes narrowing at the huge hippo bearing down on them. "OK Dwebble, thanks for the help! Get in close and distract Hippowdon with a Fury Cutter onslaught while Suzi hoses him with a Water Gun. After that, Dwebble, you back off while firing a Rock Blast. Suzi, you create a Whirlpool to suck up the sandstorm and hit Hippowdon!"
This would be his first proper Pokémon battle, and he was using a Pokémon that wasn't even his. All he could do now was hope nothing went too badly wrong...