- "Don't you complain to me about street kiddies begging for a penny or two from you. We can all spare something for those less fortunate than ourselves. Those children have nothing but what charity gives them and I reckon you could come up with something. If there's one thing I hate, it's a skinflint."
- —Beatrijs Koster, Landlady
Beatrijs is sometimes known as "Battleaxe Koester" but that refers more to her temperament - sometimes grouchy and rather reactionary - than to her appearance. The Widow Koester is in her mid-sixties and, despite being short (5'1") is built like a brick outhouse. Barrel-chested and thick-thighed, she has biceps that would put a man to shame and her generally tough appearance is emphasized by her large head. Her broken nose and furled brow render her appearance even more intimidating.[1a]
Widow Koester is actually rather a gentle woman, devoted to Shallya. While she's gruff and takes no nonsense from anyone, she can tell a deserving case from a shyster. But with deserving cases, she's a kind and caring woman. She regularly gives money to the orphanage and aggressively entreats others to do the same. She is also very friendly to young Haam Markvalt, preparing his food and taking care that his laundry is delivered to washerwomen. She hangs around the kitchen of the main boarding house and enjoys talking to any of her residents about almost anything. Koester has sufficient income from her boarding house that she doesn't need employment, although she has enough to do keeping the houses in good shape and maintaining order if one or more of her guests gets a little rowdy.[1a]
Koester has an unusual hobby, as the rickety wooden steps leading up from a balcony outside her own living room to the flat, slatted wooden roof suggest. On the roof of her house is a stout wooden aviary containing her pet racing pigeons. Koester is an ardent devotee of pigeon breeding and racing and has won prizes for her avian pets. Locals mutter about the mess they make in Cutler's Road, but there is also an element of civic pride in the fact that one of the area's regular inhabitants has a silver trophy or two stashed away in her cupboards.[1a][1b]
Recently, Widow Koester found a surprise in her coop — a pigeon she hadn't seen before, obviously exhausted from a long flight, and with a note tied around one if its legs. She read the note - something about children and cargoes, it didn't make much sense - tied it back around the bird's leg, fed it and sent it on. Afew days later, it was back, with a new note. She read it and sent it on, and again it came back. After a few months, she has come to realize that she had stumbled on a trade in kidnapped children - the Body Trade. And the notes clearly implicated someone senior in House van Haagen, one of the Ten! The implications frightened her, and she is terrified that an agent of the van Haagens will see the bird alighting in her coop.[1b]
Apart from her residents, Koester is well known to Brother Bert for her generous donations, and to several ship captains, whose sailors she often boards. Granny Hetta sometimes shares a drink or two with Koester. The two women have a melancholy element of their pasts in common. Granny's husband was drowned some years ago, while Koester's husband died of the dreaded Bloat twenty years ago. If Widow Koester ever has too much to drink, it's usually in the company of Granny after hours in the kitchens. Finally, Koester is generally well known around Kruiersmuur because she has enough free time to wander around chatting with the locals.[1b]