Two figures stand in an expansive, largely-featureless chamber. Aside from an overhead lamp sitting above a metal rectangular table, no other features of this room can be discerned. Though the nature of the room itself is nebulous, its occupants are not. Professor Littleford and Professor Cain stand side by side on one side of the table, their attention directed to a heavy metal trunk sitting upon it. The trunk is exceptionally heavy, clad in steel along its exterior, with a complex clockwork locking mechanism keeping it shut. Several brass bands wrap around its outside, esoteric runic symbols engraved into the metal.
It had been delivered just a few hours ago. As with many things that sat enclosed within Anomalous Research’s walls, the contents of this container demanded absolute secrecy from all except those who had been charged with what is perhaps one of the most dangerous professions of the modern world.
The research of the theoretical. The exploration of the unknown. The pursuit of understanding phenomena long considered strange and alien.
This institution existed precisely for that reason. In a world as fascinating as Runeterra, rife with people, places and things whose behaviors defied conventional understanding, there soon became a need for an organization responsible for unraveling the mysteries behind these phenomena that threatened to jeopardize normalcy.
Ever since the collapse of the Institute of War, the many relics that had once found use in the hands of the Champions on the Fields of Justice had been scattered across the realm, finding their ways into the hands of those who would seek to gain benefit from their astounding properties – whether for virtuous or unscrupulous reasons.
Anomalous Research had run afoul of several of these items already. The Bloodthirster, kept under meticulous lock and key, lest anyone succumb to its mind-altering bloodlust. The Hextech Revolver, a curious Zaunite firearm that the Piltovians had the brief luxury of studying before being made to return it to its rightful owners. Many more mundane items sat within Anomalous Research, hardly of the same caliber, kept from the world simply to avoid any potential misuse people might find for them.
But today marked a very special delivery, indeed.
Another item, formerly from the Institute of War, had found its way into their hands. How it had been acquired, the two scientists neither knew nor cared; what mattered to them is that they had this treasure and no one else.
“Well?” Tangent asks a little impatiently, turning to his colleague. “Are we going to stand here gawking at a metal box, or are we going to open the damned thing?”
Trisha huffs bemusedly out her nostrils and reaches into her coat pocket, withdrawing some unusual contraption vaguely resembling a key. A long rod, studded with rectangular metal teeth of varying lengths extending out perpendicular to the key’s long axis. “Aye, aye, keep yer plates on, ymennydd metel,” she says, glancing aside at him expectantly.
Tangent reaches into his dark, electroluminescent coat, withdrawing a similar implement. Two apertures were present on the trunk’s front, where the lid met the rest of the body. Both keys would be needed to reveal the prize.
Glancing aside at one another, both keys are inserted simultaneously, and turned. A host of mechanical clicks, ratchets, and hisses spring from the box as impossibly-complex clockwork, concealed from prying eyes behind the walls of the trunk, are twisted aside and pulled back, allowing the locking mechanism on the outside to rotate 90 degrees and split into two. The two are unmoved by the display. This very procedure had been repeated many times before, for many other items.
Tangent reflexively draws his hand back as the locking mechanism parts, allowing the trunk to finally be opened. Trisha knows all too well of Tangent’s excitement and apprehension – this particular item is one Anomalous Research has sought to get ahold of for quite a long time.
Trisha offers him a sly, teasing smirk. “Oh, come now, boy. Don’t tell me that after all this yer afraid’a the damn thing. Stick yer hand in! It ain’t gonna bite ya.”
Tangent’s antennae bristle as he glares aside at his “mother.” As much as he respected… well, everything about her, there were times when he wished she would take things a bit more seriously. Drawing closer to the box, he gingerly pushes the lid open, peering inside.
Set into a rectangular foam cutout is an ornate mahogany box, roughly two feet in length, ten inches wide and four deep, adorned with all manner of decorative accenting and symbolism, carved into its surface. What exactly it means, or where it originates from, is not immediately clear, and no doubt something the researchers would investigate later. The box is kept locked by a simple, if similarly-ornate mechanism: a mere brass latch.
Trepidatiously, the robot sets both hands into the trunk, gently coiling his fingers around the wooden box and lifting it out. The box is unsurprisingly heavy, given its composition. Pushing the trunk aside, he sets the box down onto the table, and flips the latch back. Trisha draws closer, almost leaning on him, eyes glued to their prize.
As he flips the lid up, they first see the opulent purple fabric that lines the inside. Doubtless this item once belonged to royalty, who could afford such an indulgence of satin for a mere container.
Though the container’s contents were the true reason behind all this rigmarole.
Folded neatly end over end, resting atop the satin cushioning, was something exquisite. A long, narrow length of fabric, clearly designed as some sort of belt or waist garment. It shines under the light in a magnificent silver sheen, like a mirror, threatening to utterly put to shame the natural gloss of the robot handling it. Delicately, like mother carrying a newborn, he lifts the sash out of its container, letting gravity unfurl one of the folded-over lengths as he holds it vertically for his colleague to scrutinize. She sees his expression – one of awe, one of profound fascination. His eyes twitch subtly, perhaps trying to discern any imperfections in the sash’s weave that were painfully absent.
He was enraptured by what he held in his hands.
Trisha draws closer, staring quizzically at her muted reflection in the silver threads, whispering quietly as though her voice would disturb the garment’s perfection. “…Tangent. We have it.” She glances up at him, the slightest hints of a dumbstruck grin on her face. “…We fuckin’ have it, Tangent.”
“The Quicksilver Sash…” Tangent whispers back, still staring at his prize. “…Rumored to have once belonged to an ancient king.”
“He wore it every day of his reign,” Trisha responds, continuing his diatribe, “its protective magicks shielding him against what his guardsmen couldn’t.”
“…It must be millennia old,” he adds, pressing his thumb into the weave, only to have it be just as immaculate as before when he pulls it back. “…Yet it looks like it came off the loom yesterday.” He finally manages to peel his eyes away from the garment, glancing past it to her. “…Mother, imagine what we can do with this.” He spreads it out for her to see, perhaps to more fully appreciate its beauty. “This… this right here? This will change things, Mother.”
Trisha stands back upright, meeting his eyes with her own. “Aye, if we can work out its enchants and reproduce ‘em, yeah…” She folds her arms, habitually biting her lip as she mulls over the challenges they now face. “…They don’t make ‘em like they used to, Tangent. If this thing’s as old as we think it is, the details of the enchants may’ve been lost t’time.”
“We have many reference materials,” he assures her. Anomalous Research’s library was one of the most well-stocked in the world, containing one-of-a-kind tomes, scrolls and manuscripts that, like many other things within the institution’s walls, were kept from the outside world because of the inherent danger their teachings could carry if misused. “We can unravel this mystery, as we have every other,” he says, a resolute ring to his voice. “Especially this one,” he adds, clutching the sash in his hand. He gently places it back in its case, finding that the sash compliantly smooths out when pressed, precluding any wrinkles such garments should inevitably have. “…This magic has applications unlike any other. Medical, municipal, military…” He pauses, perhaps struck by another insight.
Trisha takes a deep breath, trying to keep herself from all but bounding around the room. Her mind raced alongside his, lost in a whirlwind of potential and possibility, entangled in countless fantasies about how this one item could introduce a host of revolutionary improvements to the lives of their countrymen.
But first, it had to be cracked.
Thankfully, at least in their minds, there were no individuals better-qualified.