The Gods of Mars HTML version

Chapter 17. The Death Sentence
A few moments before the appointed time on the following morning a strong guard of
Zat Arras' officers appeared at our quarters to conduct us to the great hall of the temple.
In twos we entered the chamber and marched down the broad Aisle of Hope, as it is
called, to the platform in the centre of the hall. Before and behind us marched armed
guards, while three solid ranks of Zodangan soldiery lined either side of the aisle from the
entrance to the rostrum.
As we reached the raised enclosure I saw our judges. As is the custom upon Barsoom
there were thirty-one, supposedly selected by lot from men of the noble class, for nobles
were on trial. But to my amazement I saw no single friendly face among them. Practically
all were Zodangans, and it was I to whom Zodanga owed her defeat at the hands of the
green hordes and her subsequent vassalage to Helium. There could be little justice here
for John Carter, or his son, or for the great Thark who had commanded the savage
tribesmen who overran Zodanga's broad avenues, looting, burning, and murdering.
About us the vast circular coliseum was packed to its full capacity. All classes were
represented--all ages, and both sexes. As we entered the hall the hum of subdued
conversation ceased until as we halted upon the platform, or Throne of Righteousness,
the silence of death enveloped the ten thousand spectators.
The judges were seated in a great circle about the periphery of the circular platform. We
were assigned seats with our backs toward a small platform in the exact centre of the
larger one. This placed us facing the judges and the audience. Upon the smaller platform
each would take his place while his case was being heard.
Zat Arras himself sat in the golden chair of the presiding magistrate. As we were seated
and our guards retired to the foot of the stairway leading to the platform, he arose and
called my name.
"John Carter," he cried, "take your place upon the Pedestal of Truth to be judged
impartially according to your acts and here to know the reward you have earned thereby."
Then turning to and fro toward the audience he narrated the acts upon the value of which
my reward was to be determined.
"Know you, O judges and people of Helium," he said, "that John Carter, one time Prince
of Helium, has returned by his own statement from the Valley Dor and even from the
Temple of Issus itself. That, in the presence of many men of Helium he has blasphemed
against the Sacred Iss, and against the Valley Dor, and the Lost Sea of Korus, and the
Holy Therns themselves, and even against Issus, Goddess of Death, and of Life Eternal.
And know you further by witness of thine own eyes that see him here now upon the
Pedestal of Truth that he has indeed returned from these sacred precincts in the face of
our ancient customs, and in violation of the sanctity of our ancient religion.