Note: As a mini Easter-egg type of thing, I shall say this: the Troidian language (farewell phrase only) can actually be turned into English pretty simply. As a clue, remember wizards and mirrors that don't show an accurate reflection. Good luck!
"Fascinating." The Troidian's voice is so much like his first officer's that Kirk burst out laughing. Uhura sent him a reprimanding glance, and the action has said first officer glancing at him with barely hidden exasperation. The Troidian wasn't offended however, and his lips curled into a smile as he sank back onto his haunches.
The Troidians were an interesting race of beings, Kirk had thought ever since he'd first met them. From the waist up, they looked surprisingly human, though their features were slightly more . . . feline in nature. From the waist down, they were a four legged, dark furred beast. Their lower halves were rather similar to what a wolf-cat hybrid might look like.
Despite how advanced they were, the Troidians lived simply. They preferred to live with their surroundings, not simply in them. They hunted their food without the aid of weapons, and lived in the carved out centers of tree trunks hundreds of feet wide. Their main form of weaponry – used only against rival paqthai, the other clans of their people – were elegant bows made from a rare native plant. Their arrows were made from the glass of a nearby volcano. Despite that, the arrows themselves were nearly as hard as diamonds, and almost impossible to break.
"Sorry," Kirk said as he recovered, hoping that despite the Troidian's lack of irritation, he hadn't offended him. "You sounded a lot like Spock right then, and I couldn't help it. I'm sorry if that was offensive to you, I didn't mean to potentially insult you by laughing." The Troidian, Kurnag, he remembered, smiled wider in response.
"Nonsense. Life's trials are frequent and often difficult. It is good to find joy where one can. Causing laughter amongst one another is one of the things that the paqthai most value. It brings me joy in return to have unintentionally caused it in you." Kirk blinked at the unexpected response.
"Er, well, glad to help." He began to shake off his slight awkwardness as he continued to speak. "Now, I hear that there is a test of trust involved before a treaty can be made?" Kurnag gave a lazy blink of acknowledgment as he dipped his head into a nod. His lower half stood fully, bringing the Troidian to his full height of about eight and a half feet.
"Indeed. I assume you are unaware of the Verrashkan?" At their blank expressions, he nodded, and explained. "The Verrashkan is a test of someone's trustworthiness. It involves one of the paqthai making a mental connection with another. In this case, that is one of you. During the test, your consciousness will offer up a piece of information that it deems worthy of evaluation. It is impossible to hide from the test, as it affects the subconscious." Here, Kurnag turned to Spock.
"I am well aware of your species and their mental control. However, even Vulcans can not control their subconscious to the level that would be required to manipulate the test. For your test, I have been selected by the other leaders to represent the whole of the paqthai for the examination. Which of you shall offer yourself up to the test?"
None of the away party was thrilled to have their subconscious offering up information on them, but they knew that one of them had to. Kirk knew that it was his job as captain to take the fall for the others, and so he stepped forward. Kurnag's obsidian eyes seemed to stare into him as he did so, and the Troidian's head tilted to the side.
"Fascinating," he repeated from earlier. "Very well. Are you ready to begin?" Kirk took a steadying breath, then nodded. The Troidian moved forward with a fluid grace that seemed to strangely fit his large size, despite what one would think. Kurnag stopped only a couple of feet from the captain. Kirk had to look up to meet his eyes. Then he couldn't any longer as the Troidian closed his own in concentration and reached out to rest a hand on Kirk's shoulder.
All was silent for several moments as Kurnag waited for Kirk's mind to show him what it deemed worthy. Kirk had no idea what would be shown; he just hoped that it wasn't one of his exploits, but knowing his luck, it would probably be something in the same realm of usefulness. Meaning, something completely unhelpful to their current goal. Sometimes he really hated the 'Kirk luck' that seemed to be inherited. Kirk was brought out of his thoughts as Kurnag opened his eyes, though they still appeared glazed.
"There are two men featured in what your subconscious has decided to show me." Kirk briefly wondered if they were Spock and Bones. He hoped that's who they were; he isn't really too fond of some of the other prominent male figures in his life. "They are surrounded by hate, and anger, and loss." So, not Spock and Bones. Suddenly it clicked, and Kirk felt dread pool within him. He knew who they were.
"You hate them, however you see something of yourself within them. You recognize them as kin, despite wishing to eradicate any ties to them you have. The first . . . Nero, I believe . . . he lost everything he ever knew and cared about. His grief turned to rage, and he turned on the ones he believed played a part in that loss.
"You fear that darkness, because you can see it in yourself. You know that if you were put into the same circumstances, you would not do any differently. Even now you can see yourself avenging those you love, even to the extent of destroying a planet. The idea of doing something that destructive, and then feeling no remorse afterwards, terrifies you beyond anything you've ever known."
Kirk felt dizzy, his breathing labored as he took in what was being said. His eyes screwed shut, and his head lowered. His hands shook from their places in fists by his sides. Kurnag was troubled; Kirk could hear it in his voice. He could feel the burning stares of the away team at his back, but couldn't make himself return their gazes. Kurnag continued.
"There is a phrase surrounding the other . . . Khan, he is called. 'Is there anything you would not do to protect your family?' It is as deeply interwoven with him as fear and pain is. You recognize his darkness within yourself as well. He was willing to destroy innocent lives to avenge his crew, his family. You have learned to hold on tight to that which you love, for it is often taken from you. You love your crew, for they are your family.
"You know that you would tear worlds apart at their seams to avenge them should they be taken from you. You live in a constant fear of them dying, for you know that what would result would be a destruction beyond anything their killers would ever do, for you would destroy everything in your path, and you know you are capable of exactly that.
"You live in a constant fear of your internal darkness." Kurnag's eyes began to clear, and he looked at Kirk anew. The captain was shaking in a rare display of what he felt is weakness. Even when Kirk is injured, he doesn't allow himself to appear weak, still going down with a fight. However, with a short monologue from the Troidian in front of him, he was now reduced to his current state.
"I understand if you no longer wish to arrange a treaty with the Federation." Kirk's words were clipped, and he was studiously avoiding the gazes of everyone present. His eyes were locked on the spines of a nearby plant, tracing their shapes. "I know that I probably failed the test just now, and I also got the impression that we only had one chance to pass. I apologize for wasting your time."
"You believe that you have failed the Verrashkan?" For the first time, the Troidian's words were sharp, causing Kirk to look up with a start. "On the contrary. You have passed far beyond what was expected. A man who has looked his own darkness in the eye and managed to contain it again is one of the most trustworthy the paqthai know." At Kirk's shocked and confused expression, he elaborated.
"Few people ever look their own demons in the face, and even fewer are able to overcome them. For you to not only have overcome yours, but then fear them ever returning is a sign that you are to be trusted, because someone who knows and fears their own darkness is far more likely to make sure it never shows itself again.
"I also saw what I believe you yourself do not see. Yes, there was darkness in what I was shown, however there was also an overwhelming amount of light. You have shown that you contain boundless loyalty, deep-rooted love, and incredible courage despite your difficulties. These are traits to be admired in any individual."
Kirk was speechless as he stared at the Troidian. He was pretty sure his mouth had fallen open, but he was too shocked by the analysis of himself to care. He had never felt so laid open in front of someone in his life. He has never let people that close, despite knowing that he should from time to time. Even Bones was held at a slight distance, albeit a lot closer than most. There is something about having someone look at the essence of who you are, see your biggest fears and faults, and then have them still look at you with friendship – even admiration – that is rather unsettling for him.
"Thank you." he finally managed to croak out. He was aware that he had turned slightly red from the experience, and he still felt a little lightheaded. At the moment, he didn't care, he just wanted to rest. Kurnag seemed to pick up on that fact, and looked at him sympathetically.
"The Verrashkan is a trying experience. I will announce the result to the paqthai and allow you to rest. We will go over the treaty tomorrow when you have recovered. Farewell, my friend. Enih suoyn ihtiwt hgil ehtyam." Kirk returned the customary farewell, then watched as Kurnag turned and burst into a fluid lope into the surrounding trees, his body bending and weaving as if his bones were made of rubber.
For the first time since the test had begun, Kirk turned to look at the rest of the landing party. There are no judgmental looks, as he was sort of expecting. Instead, there is understanding and reassurance, and an overwhelming amount of sheer friendship. His gaze stayed on Bones the longest, his first and closest friend. The doctor paused, his eyes roaming over his friend's face, before he sighed, and rested his hand on the same shoulder Kurnag had. He met Kirk's eyes steadily as he spoke.
"C'mon kid, let's head home." The relief that spread throughout his body at that was startling, and Kirk nearly wavered. Bones's hand on his shoulder steadied him, though, and he kept it together, at least for now. He turned his gaze skyward, in the direction he knew the Enterprise is, and smiled slightly.
"Yeah, you're right." Casting one more glance at their surroundings, he tapped his communicator. "Kirk to Enterprise, six to beam up. Bring us home."