Horseshoe Temple Oasis
Hidden in the jumble of mountains and valleys of the Quoya Desert is this lush oasis and ancient temple. The Horseshoe Temple Oasis is a series of holy caves carved into the side of a sandstone cliff located at the end of a box canyon. A small pyramid of stone marks the entrance to the temple-canyon.
In this canyon, pure, fresh water bubbles up from underground. The water supply is ample and the springs never dry out. The bottom of the canyon is carpeted in grasses and flowers through which flow several small streams, spreading out from the spring. Along the back wall of the canyon, screening the cave entrances, is a thick stand of pine trees, planted here over 200 years ago by the priests who carved the caves.
Behind the grove are the temple caves. They are carved into the red rock wall. There are over 30 caves, carved at different heights, from ground level to over four stories above the canyon floor. A broad staircase, carved from the foot of the cliff, climbs to a terrace where the entrances to the lowest caves are. Other caves are reached by staircases carved through the rock or wooden galleries that hang on the cliff face. The caves are lit by small windows cut into the rock face. The entire complex faces south, so the chambers receive some light throughout the day. The largest chamber of the temple, three stories up, contains the relic which gives the temple its name. in the center of the room is a large chunk of polished sandstone. in its surface is the impression of a large horseshoe. According to legend, the Heavenly Sage, Hung Te Ping, stopped here to refresh himself on one of his journeys between the Celestial Bureaucracy and Shou Lung. The sage’s wonderful horse struck its hoof against the stone, leaving the print that is now in the shrine. This incident has made the ground holy in the eyes of the priests of the Way.
In addition to the main chamber, there are many other caves with interesting features. On the lowest level are the Grottos of the Nine Sages, one cave devoted to each of the nine great sages of Shou Lung. Above these are the Halls of Life and Death. Each hall houses the masks and costumes needed to perform the dances of the seasons. Further up are the Chambers of the Emperor Kao, built in honor of the great ruler. These chambers are filled with gifts from the emperors of many dynasties. Many are quite valuable. In the past year, disaster has befallen the temple. A band of evil oni have slain the priests and made the caves their permanent residence. A few priests escaped, fleeing back to Shou Lung. The oni are served by a band of goblins who settled at the far end of the oasis. This ragtag group arrived here after straying too far from their western homeland. After escaping enraged dwarves, they were chased across the steppe by nomadic horsemen. Many of their number died on that march. The little creatures, though evil and vile, were thoroughly pathetic and miserable by the time they reached the Horseshoe Temple Oasis. The priests, according to their beliefs, allowed the goblins to settle in the canyon, provided they behaved themselves. Every day the holy men instructed the goblins, hoping to show the creatures the wisdom of the Way. Amazingly, the priests’ efforts were meeting with success. When the oni arrived, they enslaved the goblins. Still, the little ones have not forgotten the kindness and teachings of the priests. They view their present servitude with a mixture of regret and fatalism. in their limited understanding of the Way, many see the oni as a punishment for the past sins of the goblins.