Ras Alula strode between rows of painted warriors as they cheered and thumped their spears against their shields, many of these bedecked with grisly trophies of the battle.Hands, mostly, though some of the younger men had adopted the American tradition of cutting scalps from the fallen enemy.
Ras Alula did not care what they did afterward. It was the fighting that counted. And they had fought well, despite the hail of bullets and cannon fire.
These Italians were pallid invaders, cowards who scurried behind walls. They were not men.
And now he, Ras Alula Engida, would chase these vermin to the sea, slaughtering all they captured.
A fast runner now arrived with a message from Emperor Yohannes. Ras broke the seal and read, heart eager.
Who gave you permission to wage a war there? Those soldiers are not yours but mine; I shall cut off your hand.
The runner, head bowed, awaited the reply.
Following annexations of coastal territories by the Italians which cut off the growing Ethiopian Empire from the sea to East, Emperor Yohannes IV and one of his most trusted lords, Ras Alula, raised enormous armies to combat further Italian incursion.
Ras and around 10,000 of his men attacked a column of 500 Italian regulars who had set out to relieve forces attacked the previous at Fort Saati. Despite inflicting heavy casualties on the attacking Ethiopians the Italians were routed, losing 23 officers and 407 enlisted men in the process.
But the emperor was displeased, as this battle had taken place without his supervision. Ras was ordered not to finish the job.
It didn’t matter, because by the end of year 18,000 Italian troops were in Eritrea. Native victories against modern imperialist armies were always pyrric.