Dude, I totally killed you."
"There's no way that was your arm, you're dead."
"Point, that javelin killed you."
--Random, but common phrases uttered on the fields of Belegarth and Dagorhir.
First off, a reminder: heralds/marshals are the only people who can call someone "dead" or even bring someone back to life. Archers are the only fighters that can call their shots (as in that arrow hit you in the torso, not arm). Even calling "point" on a javelin is pushing the boundaries of acceptable practices, especially if you follow it with the expectation that they take the hit. Granted, I occasionally find myself questioning how someone took (or didn't take) a hit, but I usually try to ask them when the fight is over. Or keep swinging until one of us calls themself dead.
"But what if I know, 100%, that guy is cheating?"
Well, that is why we have heralds. Ideally, their presence alone will keep most people honest, to the best of their hit registering ability. Of course, people will miss shots or end up in a confusing situations. This is where heralds start making calls in order to clean up the situation.
Not every call they make will be 100% accurate, and that is ok. They are trying to fix a bad situation, and will do their best to call someone dead before things get too complicated or messy. They also won't hesitate to call people dead for safety reasons, because maintaining a safe field is far more important than one fighter's success.
"That herald made a bad call, I disagree, I'll give him a piece of my mind."
Adrenaline plus being told you are dead, when "clearly" you weren't, trips that moment when you want to argue with someone. Stop, breath, calm down. Remember, Bele and Dag specifically give heralds the right to kick you off of the field if you are being a problem. Arguing with one probably is a quick way to get them to send you to the sidelines. And if they don't, I know quite a few people that would be happy to escort you there.
After the fight, ask them, politely. Sometimes their vantage point gives them a better angle to judge some shots. Other times it is worse. Sometimes what you felt and what they saw are two very different things. They made the call that seemed the most appropriate from their perspective. Oh well, move along, the next fight is starting in about ten seconds.
"I've never seen that herald fight, they don't know enough to call hits."
Fighting and heralding are two very different things. There are good fighters that are terrible at it, and there are people that rarely or never fight that are incredible at it. Odds are, if a non-fighter is heralding, they've actually read and studied the rules far more than most fighters. I also know quite a few great heralds that rarely fight today, but have a long career before you even caught a glimpse of them.
Do we really think NFL, NBA, or NHL refs are amazing, former pro players? Probably not, but they have spent a good deal of time learning how to do the job.
"I want to herald!"
Great. First things first, read the rules, a few times. Make sure to ask vets how your realm (or event) are handling any grey areas (that probably should be another post, huh?). I don't recommend starting at an event, get some training by following a good herald at a local practice. Make sure to ask what they are seeing and hearing. And yes, the sound of a sword hitting a shield is different that it hitting a body.
Different heralds have different approaches. I air on the side of "looked like it was probably blocked enough to be light" and try to only make calls if truly necessary. Others take the "I saw it make contact and he didn't call light, so he's dead" approach, and make several calls. Neither are perfect; I miss a few shots that should be called, but their style makes a few more "bad" calls. Try to strike a balance and set a standard for when you want to step in and make a call. Just be sure you are close to the fight, move with the battle.
Oddly enough, I usually end up making far more calls about arrows than poor hit taking. Archers and targets can't always see deflection or where the arrow hit. Being perpendicular to the shot gives you a great angle to judge. Because arrow rules are less well know to newer fighters and smaller realms, this is when knowing the rulebook well comes in handy.
TL;DR: Listen to heralds, they are doing you a favor by running the field so everyone else can fight.
Take your hits!