Alianora is a swan may and love interest of protagonist Holger Carlsen in Three Hearts and Three Lions, a fantasy novel by Poul Anderson. Alianora resides in a parallel world that has the Matter of France as its historical past. Alianora helps Holger in his fight to prevent the evil of Faerie, led by Morgan le Fay, from encroaching on humanity. After succeeding in this fight, Holger is thrust back into our world, leaving Alianora behind. The novel ends with Holger's efforts to return to Alianora's world.
Alianora in "The Man who Came Late"Edit
After Holger successfully turned the tide against the forces of Faerie in a great war of Law vs. Chaos, he disappeared from the land. Alianora waited for his return but could find no trace of him. Her contacts in the Middle World, bitter at the defeat which he had inflicted on them, mocked Alianora at her waiting for him and suggested that he had abandoned her.
As the years passed, she lost hope and allowed Theodo, a village blacksmith, to woo her and eventually to marry her. They had four children altogether: two sons Einhard and Nithard (who apprenticed with their father at the forge), and; two daughters, Alianna and a second who died in infancy. When Alianna came of age, Alianora bequeathed her her Swan may garment. Alianna began to transform and explore the countryside around the village as a flying swan.
One morning, some thirty years after the end of the war, Alianora went to the village well to draw water and to hear the gossip of the other village womenfolk. As Ethelind, one of the women at the well, was about to describe the latest misadventure of Walacho, the village drunk, another, named Berthrada, called out that a stranger had just come out of the woods and was approaching. The group fell silent and watched him come closer. Alianora saw a tall middle aged man, dressed in knightly garb with a sword and dagger on his belt but without armor, draw near and then suddenly recognized him as Holger. She softly said his name and he, in turn, recognized her and replied with her's.
Holger immediately began to express his gratitude on finding Alianora and how he sought her across different universes. Alianora replied politely but evaded telling him of her marriage. Suddenly Holger stopped talking and dropped his hand onto his sword hilt. He demanded to know who those "clowns" were. Alianora turned and saw Theodo with a big hammer in his hand standing there with their sons on either side, one with an ax, the other with a cleaver. Alianora reluctantly told Holger that it was her husband and sons. Holger was surprised but took his hand away from his sword. Alianora then introduced Sir Holger to her family. Her sons exclaimed in glad surprise and rushed up to clasp his hand. They only knew of him through the stories and legends that sprang up over the years and that their mother had known him during the war. Theodo came up more reluctantly, having more knowledge of the relationship between the two but also clasped hands with Holger. Alianora then invited Holger to come to their home to break his fast to which he agreed.
Alianora had come to the well to get water to make pease porridge from dried peas she had left soaking overnight. She set a big pot cooking, spiced with fennel and then added cubed pork when it came to a boil. As the porridge cooked, she opened a cask of home-brew beer which she served Holger and her family. Holger entertained everyone with tales of his adventures both during the war, and in his home world and on various other worlds he had traveled to in search of Alianora. He broke off one tale when a swan landed and transformed into Alianna. Alianora reflected that he had been equally surprised the first time she had transformed, decades ago, showing he had not been returned to this world for long.