Spy Briefing (Poison)
While most herbalists of repute in the Strand profess knowledge of the Terrible Oil of Wasting Death, few will admit to the ability or willingness to manufacture and sell such a concoction, at least to a stranger. However, the poison master known only as the Ancient is said to sell to anyone who can afford the price - if he can be found.
While the current residence of the Ancient is unknown, it is easier to discover where he has been, as the vegetation is blackened and sere for seasons afterward. The location of the Ancient during the winter and the previous fall was in the far western Strand, near a town called Hwangchung. Some time was spent arranging a cover as locals from further east, and with that impersonation, the inhabitants had much to say.
While the villagers of course profess no knowledge of what goes on nearby, they also make a tidy profit in taking in lodgers who wish to visit the Ancient, once his presence has entered the local Circuit of Whispers. Of the many dozens of visitors, most had their secrets divined by their hosts (in most cases without the visitor ever knowing), and are described variously as "Chin warlord feud, side one", "Chin warlord feud, side two", "Side four", "The mad kraken hunter", "Eunuch insurance", and "Would-be widower." One well-off patron, who arrived on the Day of the Late Tortoise, Month of the Bear, managed to evade the investigatory attentions of his hosts, much to their surprise, and left after three days with two different parcels, both carefully wrapped and kept away from each other in his saddlebags.
This patron called himself Chen Fu, and is described as a native of the Hon'eth Arcade, of middling height and athletic build, in his twenty-fifth summer or so, with a pleasant voice and slightly wavy hair, styled expensively. His horse was a large ebon mare with a white fetlock, and his tack was described as good quality but long-used.
Probably due to local discontent at not having discerned his goal, the Circuit of Whispers followed Chen Fu until he crossed into the Savanna of Tears a week later, in the direction of the capital or the Tanzhe Plain. The only significant stop he made along the rest of his journey was the odd installation called the Coil, though he did not appear to pass off his packages there.