Disclaimer – I do not own anything related to the Lord of the Rings world as seen in the movies or what is read in the books. But I do own Aleera, her family and the race known as the Kozari.

Summary – Legolas discovers an elf maid held against her will in a land of unknown customs. Finding himself unable to resist her, he faces feelings he can't explain and the serious consequences of his actions.

Author's Note – Just a few facts:
1) Aleera is marysue-ish in a way, but I don't intend for her to steal Legolas's spotlight. She's just going to add to it.
2) This starts out with minimal action, which escalates as the story progresses.
3) The story
occurs in TA 3008, which is about teny ears before the Fellowship.
4) I tried to capture Legolas as an innocent, nature-loving, a little bit egotistic, somewhat cheeky, happy to pick a fight, make-my-day, a bit of a violent streak kind of elf.
5) I'm not an ace in Elvish, so for those of you who are experts at it, please let me know if you find any errors so I can make corrections.
6) The songs I used in this fanfic are modern with maybe a couple of alterations to fit the times.
7) One last thing, don't forget to leave me a review. But please be kind enough not to point out that the characters in my story are out of character. This is afterall just fanfiction done for fun and not meant to be 100 percent canon perfect. If you're looking to read exact book or movie canon, then this is not your story.

By Marisa

Chapter 1 – The Kozari

From astride his grey stallion, Legolas stared at the empty wasteland before him, his sharp elven eyes picking out certain irregular features in the otherwise flat desert landscape. The sun baked the ground mercilessly causing heat vapors to rise and hinting of the barely intolerable temperatures. Even though Legolas did not feel the extreme heat as did his traveling companion, the brightness of the sun's reflection on the white sand blinded him if he stared too long at one spot. He curiously noticed a patch of green in the horizon, approximately ten miles to the northwest. Nothing else caught his eye.

"What do you see?" asked Aragorn, seated on a chestnut horse. At the moment the man only saw white sand and did not trust his eyes, for at times they revealed images that were not truly there. Mirages, to be exact.

"I see the start of a forest to the northwest." Legolas focused his eyes once again and picked out multiple wisps of smoke wafting from above the line of trees. It was not the kind caused by volcanic activity, but more like the burning of wood and oil. "And civilization," he added matter-of-factly.

Aragorn squinted, trying to see what the elf saw, but he quickly gave up and reached for his canteen. After gulping some water, he offered it to Legolas who shook his head. He took one final gulp and put the canteen away.

Legolas looked to Aragorn for direction. This fact-finding mission belonged to Aragorn, as assigned by Lord Elrond. Legolas was just along for the ride…anything to get away from returning to Mirkwood and his responsibilities there, or lack of. The idea of sitting idle in the caverns of his home while waiting for something to happen in the woods made his patience wear thin. He longed to be out searching for the enemy rather than waiting for them to come to him. Legolas had been visiting Aragorn in Rivendell two weeks ago. He quickly volunteered to accompany the ranger to the Northern Wastelands, which held little appeal to most of the races of Middle-Earth. But Elrond was determined to map out every region north of the Grey Mountains and west of Forodwaith. Aragorn was to be an emissary for any civilization they came across along the way and to open negotiations for trading and alliances.

Finally Aragorn kicked his horse forward into a leisurely jog and Legolas fell in beside him. With the heat, they didn't want to tax the horses too much. It took them nearly two hours to cross the distance, which was relatively short, compared to the eight days it took them since they had left Rivendell. They had gone in a northwesterly direction, through the Realm of Angmar and Carn Dûmo and finally into the uncharted regions of the Northern Wastelands. It was a known fact that Orcs traveled through these regions, but none knew what business they dealt and with whom. So far Aragorn and Legolas had been lucky in not running into any Orcs along the way. If they had, they would have been forced to engage in battle with the Orcs and drawn attention to themselves.

The moment they entered the forest, the temperature dropped nearly forty degrees. The canopy of trees blocked out much of the sun and left the ground damp and covered with moss. Legolas perked his ears to listen to the sounds around him. Birds chirped and sang. Numerous sounds came from the insects that flitted around in the air. There was the sound of a small predator off in the distance, not close enough to be a threat. Oddly enough he also picked up the sound of rumbling thunder, quite a ways off. He recalled seeing not a single cloud in the sky before they entered the forest. Blocking out the sounds he had already identified, he heard the distinct bubbling sounds of water not far away.

"A river runs through this forest. I can hear it." Legolas motioned further on with a tilt of his head.

Aragorn nodded and maneuvered his sure-footed horse over the branches and twigs that littered the ground. "What do you make of this forest, my friend?"

Legolas understood Aragorn's question. He glanced around, opening his senses and his mind to the surrounding trees. After awhile, he briefly closed his eyes before turning back to the surroundings. "The trees do not speak to me. There is no elven influence in these parts so the trees have not been awakened. Judging by their size, I venture to guess this forest to be no more than five hundred years old."

The man and elf continued on in relative silence until they came across the river Legolas had heard. The water moved slowly through the narrow river, approximately fifteen feet wide. It was hard to tell how deep the water was or what dangers might lurk beneath the surface.

Legolas slid off the bare back of his horse and let the reins drop to the ground as he stepped toward the river bank. He crouched, dipped his fingers into the water and raised them up to lick them. "The water contains no salt. It is freshwater." He squinted his eyes to peer into the water, making out several dark shapes that moved within. "I see fish of varying sizes."

"Fresh fish to dine on, when we have stale bread to eat? I choose the bread tonight," said Aragorn sarcastically.

Legolas smiled and stood up. His ears perked at the sound of approaching horses across the river and he quickly rushed back to his grey, motioning to Aragorn. They hastened to hide behind the cover of the trees. Aragorn heard nothing, but he knew better than to question his elf friend whose ears could distinguish the sound of a buzzing fly from two miles away.

Several minutes passed before eight men on horseback came out from the trees to walk along the bank of the river. They stopped and dismounted, allowing their horses to drink. The eight men were heavily armored and wore a range of weapons. Bows, swords, knives and scimitars.

Legolas frowned. "Corsairs?" He remembered running into a group of them many years back. They had only been traveling through the southern tip of Mirkwood and had posed no threat at the time. These men seemed the same in appearance, perhaps slightly larger in stature.

"Nay," said Aragorn. "They may look it, but they are not. Corsairs would not be traveling this far north unless they traveled along the northern route east of Mordor to avoid Gondor and Mirkwood. Plus they appear a lot cleaner than any Corsair I have ever seen."

Legolas gave Aragorn a teasing look. For as long as he had known the ranger, only twice had he ever seen him clean. Most of the time Aragorn walked with the smell of horses and sweat upon him. "Does that make you part Corsair, Aragorn?"

Aragorn pretended to ignore Legolas's comment. "Shall we see if they want to make friends?"

"I shall be at the ready," replied Legolas.

Aragorn stepped out first, followed by Legolas, who kept his elven bow in hand, but not armed with an arrow. "Greetings!"

The men across the river all jumped in unison, raising bows and swords. One man stepped forward, raising a hand. "Hold fire, men." He walked to the river's edge and looked across at Aragorn and Legolas. "Who are you?"

"I am Aragorn of Rivendell and this is Legolas of the woodland realm."

"What business does a man and an elf have in Kozar?"

"If Kozar is the name of these lands, then my business is with the one who rules here."

The man across the river nodded and turned to his men, motioning for them to lower their weapons. He turned back to Aragorn. "I am Hurrnäd. I rule Kozar."

When Aragorn raised an eyebrow and turned to Legolas, a silent understanding of Aragorn's request passed to the elf. Legolas regarded the man of Kozar across the river briefly, seeing every detail of him clearly. He was large and slightly overweight. His hair was dark and pulled tightly into a single tail that rested high on his head. His face was covered in dark hairs that hung down an inch beyond his chin. Legolas noted the differences in the clothing he wore to those worn by the others around him. Granted, he could simply be a captain in charge of the others, but Legolas studied the steady gaze in the man's eyes and sensed no deceit in his statement of being the ruler. After another moment of scrutiny, Legolas turned to Aragorn. "E peded i thenid," he said with a nod. (He speaks the truth)

Aragorn turned to Hurrnäd. "We come in peace, Lord Hurrnäd and seek an alliance with Kozar."

Hurrnäd regarded the newcomers curiously, especially the elf, who had scrutinized him rather thoroughly. An alliance they sought. He found it odd that Men and Elves still harbored an alliance with one another. According to what the historians told, Men and Elves had once fought side by side, but many betrayals should have led them to break ties. It was apparent that they were still allies. The Kozari themselves were descendents of Men, having migrated north many years after the beginning of the Third Age and the battles that sieged the lands. "We Kozari welcome you. Come and join us. We are headed back to our Keep. You will be my guests."

Aragorn and Legolas exchanged glances before they retrieved their horses and walked them across the river, which ended up being rather shallow in some spots. They mounted when the Kozari did and fell into step with them as they entered the woods.

During the long ride to Kozar Keep, Aragorn answered most of Hurrnäd's questions about Rivendell and some of the surrounding provinces. In turn Hurrnäd told Aragorn the history of Kozar. Legolas found it fascinating that these people were able to raise an expansive forest in the middle of a desert. The trees and other greenery thrived here, fed by the continuous flow of the river, which he was told was called River Kozarin and by the power of a wizard born within each generation of Kozari that could bring rains down from a cloudless sky.

The trees finally opened to a large clearing and up ahead was Kozar Keep. Built on a dark rocky hill, it was surrounded by high stone walls containing over a dozen battlement towers. At the highest peak was a palace surrounded by several more towers, some with balconies.

As the procession made their way through the open gateway of the high wall, Legolas glanced one last time at the trees they were leaving behind. He sensed no greenery within the walls of the Keep and he was disturbed by this revelation. How could they have raised the forest surrounding them, yet not plant a single bush within the walls?

All around them were stone dwellings where the Kozari people lived under the rule of Hurrnäd. The people stopped their chores to greet their ruler respectfully and to stare at the man and elf riding with him. Some cheered the return of Hurrnäd, knowing that a great feast would be imminent in the days to come.

As the procession continued through the inclining main road leading to the palace, Legolas observed the people they passed. They looked upon him curiously, yet he clearly sensed some held open hostility or fear of him. It was apparent they had never seen an elf before. Again he turned in the direction of the woods, which he could see over the top of the wall now that they had gone higher up the hill. The trees had been silent, but he felt their pull, urging him to return to their familiarity, instead of moving higher onto this lifeless chunk of rock beneath him. As they passed within the palace walls, Legolas scanned the surroundings, quickly assessing escape routes and the number of Kozari guards to deal with if the need arose. He saw an elderly woman quickly scrambling to herd four other women through a doorway. The women were covered from head to toe in different colored cloaks. He knew they were women just from the way they moved. Legolas tilted his face up to a pair of towers that stood side by side. Something moved in one of the balconies. He focused his eyes and saw a fair-haired woman looking down. When she reached up to tuck her hair behind her ear, he realized she was an elf. With a frown, Legolas turned to Aragorn, but saw that he was engaged in conversation with Hurrnäd. When he glanced back up at the balcony, the elf maid was gone.

Upon seeing the elf on horseback, riding into the courtyard of the palace, the elf maid had been curious about him. She saw him look up at her and the brilliance and intensity of his blue eyes unnerved her.

Her handmaiden, Roxana quickly pulled her away from the balcony. "Nay, my lady. Our monarch approaches and you may not see him just yet, but soon."

"Why am I not allowed to look upon him?" asked the elf maid defensively.

"It is our custom." Roxana sat the elf maid down and tended to her many healing wounds before they had been interrupted by her hearing the sound of hoof falls on the stone ground below.

"I saw a man and an elf among the guards. An elf like me."

"Perhaps our lord has brought back visitors."

The elf maid allowed the Kozari woman to tend to the wounds on her shoulder and thigh, wounds she did not remember receiving before she came to be in the tower which had been her home for many days. It never occurred to her until now to wonder how she came to be there. It simply happened and she knew nothing of her life before. Why didn't she recall who she was or how she got where she was? Even with these haunting and disturbing questions, she could not help but feel as if she was thankful to live.

Aleera…it was what they called her. And she was an elf, unlike Roxana and others that came to see her. She had studied her image in the mirror when she had first awoken there and could not find anything familiar about herself. Long light brown hair with streaks of blonde, pale green eyes that often almost turned to amber. Her ears ended in points and were very sensitive to touch as she quickly discovered on her own.

The village beyond the walls of the palace was beautiful at night. Light glowed from the windows of the small homes…like the many stars in the dark sky. She often watched from the tower balcony, admiring the lights. Then during the daylight hours, she gazed out at the forest beyond the outer walls of the Keep. She longed to be among the trees for some strange reason, to climb up to the highest branch and sleep there beneath the star-filled sky.

Those that whispered outside her door spoke of the monarch she was promised to. They spoke of his return from his travels and now he had arrived. And yet she was not allowed to look upon him. She did not know the customs of the Kozari and only learned what she could from Roxana. Since she knew no better because of her lack of memory, Aleera assumed she had willingly come to Kozar to wed its ruler.

But the arrival of the elf stirred something within her…a disturbing thought in the back of her mind. It was quickly pushed back over her excitement that she would soon get to meet the monarch she would marry.

Aragorn and Legolas sat across the table from Hurrnäd. They ate and drank in the company of the Kozar ruler and his high officials. The conversation was centered on the many threats that surrounded Kozar.

"Warg packs raid us from the east and we are constantly in danger of being picked up by a fell beast that happens to wander in from the south. They seem impervious to the rains."

Aragorn took a sip of wine from his goblet. "Fell beasts? It's hard to believe that they would wander so far into the desert from the Grey Mountains. Perhaps the Orcs attract them to this area."

"Orcs? We have seen no Orcs in Kozar."

Legolas looked up from his plate. He studied Hurrnäd's expression, immediately sensing that he lied. "You have had no dealings with Orcs?"

Hurrnäd turned to the elf across from him. His gaze and countenance were slightly threatening. He wondered if his she-elf had the same spirit. "Nay, my friend. We do not deal with scum. The rains keep them away."

Legolas continued to stare at Hurrnäd, even after the Kozari turned back to Aragorn. He knew the Kozari lied about his dealings with Orcs. Kozar was far from any other province, the nearest being Gundabad and there were no trade routes established that he knew of. Hurrnäd was hiding something. Anyone dealing with Orcs had treachery in mind. Legolas aimed to find out what this Kozari had up his sleeves.