They started to descend again and finally arrived at a spacious hall with a low-arched ceiling. Bronson was right. The walls, the ceiling, everything was wet, damp, and covered in mold. Metal girders supported the arches and columns, preventing the ceiling from total collapse.
“When the water had gone, I realized that the crypts are much bigger than we thought.” Bronson gestured to the archaeologists to follow him.
They passed the central hall and turned to the right. The corridor was much narrower than the central hall, and it seemed like it had a slight gradient.
“It looks like this corridor is descending,” Bella said.
They had been walking for another ten minutes, when the corridor made a turn again.
“Strange…There are not any corridors on the building plan,” Julian murmured more to himself than to his colleagues.
“Look at this bad boy!” Bronson, who walked in front of them, stopped and raised his flashlight.
The wall looked higher than the walls of the crypts, and much older as well. The dark beams divided its entire surface into polygonal cells, which created an intricate pattern.
“There shouldn’t be any wall.” Julian took off his backpack, taking out the building plan.
“There shouldn’t be any other corridors either,” Bronson said and nodded.
Meanwhile, Bella was completely swallowed by the wall’s pattern. She walked along it, peering into its surface. “This wall is much older than the church,” she said finally.
“It might belong to the old basilica.” Julian took a laser scan and a camera out of his backpack.
“I’ve never seen such stonework before,” Bronson shared his concerns. “Look at this.”
He touched the wall and showed Bella his finger;
“What is this shit, guys?”
His rubber glove was covered in some sort of grayish mucus.
“Maybe some sort of mold,” Julian shrugged, continuing to examine the wall with his scan. “I’m not surprised to see so much of it here.”
“I’ve been working with flooded buildings for thirty years. It’s anything but mold.”
“What does the scan show?” Bella turned to her colleague.
“Strange. It seems like it doesn’t want to work.” Julian looked confused.
“It identified that the wall is constructed from metal, not stone.” He pointed to the scan’s screen. His colleagues gathered around him.
“What kind of metal?” Bella gripped his sleeve, trying to see the screen under the flashlight.
“Suddenly, it’s unable to identify it. Weird, the scan worked okay this morning.”
“Doctor, I’ve found something else.” Bronson said. “Actually, this mucus preserves the wall against moisture.” He wiped one of the cells with his hand, and the images, slightly faded but just visible, appeared.
“God! This is it. The exact copy of The Imp’s Chronicles,” Bella sighed, not believing in the reality of this moment.
Julian frowned, but Bella started to wipe the wall with such determination that he could do nothing but help her and Bronson.
Five minutes later, the entire picture became visible. Each cell consisted of a complete scene. The top bit presented evil angels with shining halos, who came down from the sky, throwing lighting and fire at the basilica. In the next one, the angels were meeting the clergy with the dean in front. Two of the angels caught Bella’s attention. One of them held a red and white rose symbol in his hands; another one, a richly decorated casket with some kind of crystals in it.
“Look at this symbol here,” she pointed Julian to the rose. “It’s the same symbol repeated in The Chronicles many times.”
“It looks like the Tudor’s rose, but…I mean, the white rose in early Christianity was traditionally associated with the Virgin Mary. The red rose was a symbol of Christ, and its five petals are supposed to…”
“I didn’t know we came here to listen to a lecture about early Christian symbology, Doctor,” Bronson interrupted him.
“It’s not a rose.” Bella continued to examine the wall’s painting, ignoring Julian.
“What is this, then?”
“I don’t know. Not yet.”
“I don’t like it, guys.” Bronson frowned. “We’d better come back here on Monday with the others, and bring all the necessary equipment, take proper photos…”
“My scanner is going crazy,” Julian said. “It’s showing that there is a void behind the wall.”
“How big is it?” Bella asked.
“Well, according to the scan, very big…bigger than…than the church’s nave.”
“Guys, maybe I’d better go home,” Bronson made an attempt again. “You can stay here the whole night if you want, but I…”
“We need to cut through this wall,” Julian interrupted him impatiently. “Could you, please, go back to the crypts and bring us a laser saw. I’ll try to cut this metal or whatever it is.”
“I just wanted to show you this corridor and the wall. I didn’t plan to spend the whole evening here.”
“You’ll be paid double overtime,” Bella added. “Please, Bronson?”
The engineer rubbed his gray moustach and scowled. This damp, dark place wasn’t his idea of a perfect night. The guys, probably, had already finished their pints and left the pub, but…double overtime.
“Okay,” Bronson nodded finally. “I’ll be back with the saw and anything else we might need.” Bronson disappeared in the darkness of the corridor.
“Look, Julian!” Bella pointed to the wall. “This picture here shows the angels and the imps. The imps attacked the citizens, and it looks like…the same pictures of imps that are in The Chronicles. The same symbol of the rose repeats there many times.”
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