Like so many things dealing with faith and things of the spirit as well as things of the heart . . . it’s complicated. The literal translation of Arthur’s phrase is “child-female of the spirit/soul.” So adopted daughter would fit, but there are so many connotations within the clans that poor Lelia would probably toss her hands into the air and go, oh, sort books or try to get all the Familiar fur off of her wardrobe or something less complicated than trying to understand it all.
As series readers know, Arthur started out hiring Lelia because he needed a clerk and “shop girl,” or guy, who was part of the goth/ neo-Romantic scene and who didn’t ask too many questions. Did he see something else in her at the time? No, although after meeting Mrs. Smith-Rogers, he sympathized more with Lelia’s choice of the streets over “proper society.” Tay’s arrival complicated matters, but not excessively, and in some ways made things easier for Arthur in terms of mentally categorizing his employee. Then she proved to be a Hunter. That . . . took a bit of sorting out, and that’s when Arthur started looking at her in a different light. She moved from “employee” to “dependent/vassal” and then to “potential near-equal.” When he passed the information to the other clan Elders, they strongly encouraged him to keep a closer eye on her, something he was inclined to do anyway. After working together for that long, he’d become fond of her. He could trust her.
He recognized André as a Hunter the first time they met, which explains his somewhat hostile reaction, then acceptance as he came to understand that André was Lelia’s Hunting partner. That was good – it is not safe to Hunt alone. So when André disappeared, and Lelia decided to go looking for him, Arthur approved. He’d “read” in her that she was about to move up into being a full Hunter, and thus he had acquired the St. Michael medallion and approached Fr. Patel about blessing it appropriately. She had become more, far more, than just an employee. She was Arthur’s protegé, perhaps even the heir that had been denied him.
What Lelia didn’t know, and doesn’t know, is that when she went on the Great Hunt, Arthur spent the night worrying and praying. The brief call that she was back, successful, meant more to him than she wants to know. And then to offer her first-born son as a name-child, something Arthur knew with every fiber of his being that he could never, ever have? When she offered him that privilege, he suspected that a different relationship existed between them, one that went beyond any legal adoption. Thus his asking his oldest sister as well as Dumitra to be present when he met his nume fiiu, in order to confirm his suspicions. After André, Lelia, and Thomas Arthur left, the women agreed. Arthur’s intuition was correct. He and Lelia shared a soul-deep connection that extended far past just being Hunters.
The clans do not believe in reincarnation, exactly, or in preexistance of souls in the same way that the Latter-day Saints and others do. What they do believe is that certain individuals are related in their hearts and spirits, even though they might not be born to the same parents, or be genetic father and daughter (in this case.) This tie can be stronger than blood alone, and such souls will search across generations to find each other, if need be. The Great God and His Lady have reasons for this, reasons far beyond the ken of mortals, but it is so. So Lelia is Arthur’s daughter in every way as far as the clan is concerned, even though she is not literal blood of his blood. His soul found hers, and the reverse, and they are family. Once Arthur made his claim, and his two witnesses confirmed it, the matter was closed. No one dared challenge him, even the younger Hunters, because they knew very well what the price would be. The Elders also let it be know that the clan needed shadow-mage allies, although Arthur’s older brother balked for a long time.*
Because souls call to souls, and spiritual gifts can pass down a family line in a similar fashion, “the little one” being a very, very strong Healer as well as land-connected makes perfect sense to Arthur and his sisters. His mother’s spirit passed through him and Lelia to Deborah. The same thing transpired on her paternal side, giving her the rare double gift. That she also got a full dose of her bunicot’s stubbornness and determination, well, that won’t surprise anyone either, since Lelia shares that with her suflit talshu. (Do NOT get Dumitra’s mother or Arthur’s older sister started on “just how much of a pain is Arthur, anyway?” unless you have a few years to listen to stories. They love him dearly, worry about him, and are firmly convinced that their parents conceived him under the moonlight on St. Elias Eve or on some other equally uncanny occasion.)
Lelia needed a father’s love and guidance, something Uncle Leopard sort-of modeled before she met Arthur. Arthur needed someone to love, to fill a place in his heart and spirit that he believed would be empty forever, destroyed by his past. She gave him hope for the future in a way that he’d lost for, let us just say a very, very long time. Lelia wasn’t entirely joking when she wondered why her role in life seemed to be “keeping predators from falling apart.” The priestess and guardian in the Old Land would have said, “because the Great God and Lady wish it to be, so that the Defender’s Hands may fulfill their duty and find souls’ ease.” She doesn’t understand exactly what causes the men such pain, but she understands all too well that they hurt sometimes, and need a quiet, strong woman to accept them for what they are and to love them without prying. Not that either André or Arthur would use those words.
That Lelia is also a Defender of the Lady, like her spirit-and-heart’s father, well . . .
*Arthur’s older brother . . . is a little bit set in his ways, and one of those was included assuming that no one from outside his blood family could be fully trusted, especially not true outsiders. He came around. Eventually. Draku played a role in that. Something about Skender and André sharing, ahem, a common enemy. 😉