The western edge of Oztotla marks the end of the southern jungle, as the trees thin and the ground rises into foothills. This rolling landscape, the Black Hills makes up the bulk of the region's land, and takes its name from the rich black soil that covers it. It is on these hills that the native people carved their terraced communities and grew the region's native staple, potatoes.
Further east, the land continues to rise, eventually transitioning from hills into the mountains of the Earth Spine, the range that continues north and south to the edges of the continent. The mountains are nigh-impassable, with only a few jagged passes providing a route further into the range.
The the majority of the mountains remain unexplored, a single region is well traveled by the native peoples. This collection of peaks stretches further west than the others, a finger of towering rock that is laced through with natural caverns and canyons. The sound of the wind passing through the various openings produces a ceaseless cry that carries for miles. The local people believed their gods to reside there, and called the holy site the Wailing Labyrinth.
The people of Oztotla, who called themselves the Azoca before their integration into the empire, are short for humans, with men averaging only five feet six inches and women two inches below that. They are a ruddy complexioned people, exposure to the elements having deeply weathered the faces of most adults. Absent any appreciable building material, they largely contented themselves with huts dug into their native hills, the better to preserve their scarce supplies of lumber for roofs only.
Their rich supply of stone ensured these recessed dwellings were well insulated, and turned their communities into collections of grass-covered mounds surrounded by stone fences. Needless to say, the Tzalteca had little difficulty in swaying them to join the empire.
Prior to their annexation, the Azoca worshiped the spirits of the air, and while the Cult of the Dragon grows in prominence there remain many holdouts.
The soil of Oztotla lends itself well to the cultivation of Potatoes, so much so that a bumper crop is the rule rather than the exception. In addition, the clearing of terraces for their crops and the nearby mountains ensure a ready supply of Stone, and indeed the regions largest settlements are built around quarries.
Sadly, the scrubland that covers the hills holds few trees, making Wood a luxury few can afford. Indeed, prior to their acceptance into the empire a pallet of wood for a roof was considered a generous dowry.