Two noble houses, alike in dignity, in esteem equals, in fair renown surpassing all others, were met, in cordial enmity, across the length of a highly polished mahogany table. The head of the South group was an icy, patient woman, dressed conservatively and darkly; she blinked slowly and seldom. Across the table from her sat the head of the Low group, dressed identically darkly, conservatively; like her hereditary opponent she was calm and glacial. Between the two women were spread a number of cards, cream coloured and gilt-bordered, with small black letters and numbers printed on them.

South cleared her throat. “We are here.” The man standing behind her passed another slip of cardstock to her. She tapped it on the table ritualistically, once, twice, then laid it face down in front of her.

Low said nothing, but placed a similar card on the table. They breathed together, then flipped over the cards.

“Stone,” said Low.

“Shears,” said South.

Low stood, and collected the cards from the table, then walked from the room. South remained a few minutes behind, her assistant mute behind her. The sun came through the clouds, through the windows, and found highlights within the wood of the table.