CHRONICLES OF A MERIDIAN WATERBEARER
By THL Isabelle de Foix
The first list I ever ran water at was Spring Crown List, 1991. It was also my first Kingdom event, and the first time I ever saw a Crown! They put Hadi the Aspiring on vigil Friday night; he was to be knighted right before the commencement of the List. I looked out of the door of the cabin late that night, and saw about ten men wearing interesting metallic objects on their heads. "Itís the King and a bunch of knights", said the gentle who stood at the door with me that night.
"The King?" I answered. "Knights?"
Yes, it was the King, now Duke Stephen. Yes, it was a bunch of knights, all of whom happened to be Dukes, Counts and/or barons. When youíre a newbie do you count those metallic objects? Not me. I froze, and it wasnít from the cold.
The day of the list dawned overcast and chilly. I went down to the field to help set up Chirurgeonís Point. The waterbearers set up in a pavilion across the field, and we were ready to go. Or so I thought.
Hadi was knighted right before the List started. Then he and the other fighters picked up their swords and the fight was on. That day I learned my most crucial rule as a waterbearer the hard way. Iíd only had a smattering of court etiquette; I had no idea how to behave in the Royal Presence, so I tried to avoid it as I made the round of pavilions again and again in search of thirsty fighters. I caught a glimpse of the King and Queen on their Thrones and froze. I made a beeline straight across the field to the waterbearersí pavilion. While I crossed the field, I saw the autocrat right outside of her pavilion, yelling, "Isabelle, get off of the field!" I saw the two fighters on the field. One was fighting Florentine and was wielding two huge sticks! I made haste to the pavilion. That was the last time I ever got on a field without the permission of the marshall. Let me tell you, they didnít make the rule about staying off of the field unless called for nothing. I also learned that Crowns donít bite.
After four hours of hard, intense fighting, the new Knight, Hadi the Aspiring, came out victorious. That was amazing! Heíd gone from being a squire to Crown Prince in a matter of hours.
Speaking of Crowns, the most important part of being a waterbearer is that itís service to your Crown and Kingdom. Can you imagine a Crown List without waterbearers? Thatís a recipe for disaster. Weíd get a whole slew of heat exhaustion cases, not an Heir. Even if youíre running water at Small Event X, youíre serving the Kingdom by supporting one of its smaller groups. Service is service. To me, having the chance to serve the Crown and my Kingdom is a very precious opportunity.
There are other ways in which Being a waterbearer is a rewarding job. At Gulf Wars in 1997, I was assigned to a rapier list that was sponsored by Ansteorra. The King of Ansteorra was present. Most of the fighters were from either Trimaris or Ansteorra. At the end of the list, the fighters from Ansteorra yelled "Vivat Ansteorra", and then the fighters from Trimaris yelled "Vivat Trimaris". Then they all looked at meóincluding the Kingóand yelled "Vivat the waterbearer". I felt so proud!
We even have jokes about getting marriage proposals from, uh, happy fighters we gave water to during the list or battle. Iíve got to believe that these are indeed jokes. If itís not a joke, I have yet to be invited to the wedding. Oh, well, getting your hand kissed is pretty cool. Yes, I have had fighters kissing my hand! And the, uh, ring, was not an engagement ringóit was largesse from a particular Crown Prince.
One year at Gulf Wars I was giving water to fighters during a hold. I held up a large bottle so everyone could see it and yelled Ďwater, anyone?" The day was quite warm, about 80 degrees. One of the fighters joked that I looked like the Statue of Liberty. Seriously, at a war, you need to let the fighters know that the waterbearers are in the neighborhood and if he or she wants any fluid, this is the time to get it. Who wants forty cases of heat exhaustion?
The waterbearers of the Barony of Iron Mountain had a heck of an accident at an event we called "Shaft Wars", aka "Return to Hastings" in October of 1991. For some reason, we hadnít been able to round up a table, so we set up our bottles on chairs. Ooh, that was a massive screw-up. During one of the battles we had to refill our bottles. Another waterbearer was filling jugs with Gatorade. The cooler it was in was quite big. Unfortunately, the cooler fell off of the chair and there went our entire Gatorade supply. Folks, I do not recommend setting up on chairs! They simply donít support the weight of the large coolers we use. Youíve got to have a good, steady table or youíre toast.
I had a wake-up call at Black Axe in May of 1994. This event is quite difficult to run water at as there are two lists and the weatherís getting hot. Unfortunately, I was the only waterbearer on site! I was drinking water, too, but not enough. During the second list I started to feel faint. I was burning up. The list dragged on and on. I was forcing myself to make the rounds. Finally I couldnít do it any more. I collapsed into my chair and felt sick from dehydration. There I was, trying to get others to drink enough and not drinking enough myself! I was actually ordered to leave the field and go rest. I put full bottles of water and Gatorade on the table and went back to the cabin. When I got to my place in the cabin, I must have drunk half the content of my cooler, which was packed with small bottles of apple juice. There was a nice breeze blowing through the cabin, and I must say that I enjoyed my rest! I went back to the field after about an hour and a half. Folks, please make sure youíre drinking enough, and donít push it. Youíre supposed to enjoy an event, not get sick at one! It can get a bit confusing at a really hot event like Border Raids or July Feast. During the last part of the fighting is when the fighters need water the most, and itís also the part of the list where youíre absolutely exhausted. To protect your own health, please drink, drink and drink! Start before the list so youíll go into the list hydrated. And you need to pace yourself. Donít start out a super-hot weather list by running water for twenty minutes without a break. You wonít last an hour. Also, you need assistance, big time! Make sure people have signed a sheet at troll offering to help with waterbearing.
Itís important to wear practical clothing when waterbearing. Generally, this means as lightly as possible, because, let me tell you, waterbearing is a hot job. Now, you donít particularly have to do what I did at Fall Coronation of 1992. Iíd taken off my overdress to help out in the kitchen and was running around in my chemise! I got called to the field to work at a list, and didnít have time to run back to the cabin to get my overdress. Thereís no telling what the fighters were saying about "the waterbearer in the chemise". At least it was period, so the Laurels shouldnít have been terribly upset.
At July Feast in 1993, the heat index hit 115. You could have cut the humidity with a sword. I couldnít believe that the fighters were actually putting on armor and fighting in that heat. After only fifteen minutes into the list, I started to feel faint. A friend of mine who was marshalling did, too. We both collapsed into our chairs. Then some goslings showed up. They picked up the water jugs and started to make rounds. I kept thinking that the marshals might pull the plug on the fighting because of the heat. Quite possibly the reason they never had to do this was because of these fine goslings. They made the rounds throughout the rest of the list, checking every fighter who came off of the field for dehydration. Sometimes goslings make the best waterbearers, especially in situations where endurance and energy are an issue. Of course theyíre not allowed on the field if theyíre under the age of eighteen, but neither are adults unless we are called by the marshal. So donít get too hung up on the age issue; gosling waterbearers have tons of energy and can save your life. They saved mine on that infernally hot July day.
Between December, 1996, and August, 1997, I had the flu about eight times. I lost count of how many times I got it. In July, Iíd just gotten over an attack of this annoying disease when I went to July Feast. I ran water at that list until I burned out. Iíd no sooner gotten home than I had a relapse of that darn flu! You get relapses of respiratory disease when you overheat your body, not just when you expose it to the winterís cold. You need to exercise caution in getting back into the action in extreme temperatures, be they cold or hot.