The deaths woke the old ones up.
It was a sacrifice the scope of which none of them had ever encountered. It was a bloodbath drowning the entire world. It was violence in extremes that not even War had ever dreamt of. But they were old, and they had been asleep for a long time, and by the time they opened their eyes, the worst was over and the world was destroyed.
Not destroyed, not entirely; if they looked at any one city, any one town, the devastation was not worse than a war or a famine or a plague they had overseen in their time.
There were still people alive. There were scattered survivors and rag-tag bands of fighters. There were those who had seen this coming, cassandras or pessimists or the wise, and there were those who had gotten lucky.
The Lady of the Hearth looked to The Man of the Plow and raised one eyebrow in question. They looked to the Mother of them All, who was looking, they thought, a little lost.
The Lady took charge on a nod and a head-shake. She held out her hands. Plow and Mother, Cup and Forge, Love and Hate and War and Knowledge, waking or lost or swimming in the sensations of so much sacrifice, Death and Birth and the blood-soaked Sea - they found themselves in the bombed-out remains of a diner.
“They need us,” the Hearth-Lady began. She cleared her throat, looked around, and nodded the Forge at the broken coffee machine.
A few moments later - Forge had been asleep for a long time - the machine was whirring away and the griddle was heating up. From her place by the machines, Hearth continued. “They not only need us, but they will recognize us, if we bring them what they so badly need.”
War looked around. “This is my domain,” he started, and then shook his head as he realized. “No. This is what happens after my domain. But I am sure there are still skirmishes.”
“There will be skirmishes until we give them another way.” Love frowned. “Perhaps that is what they need, too. They’ve had enough of War.”
“Oy!” War glared at her. “Easy enough for you to say.”
“One thing at a time,” the Cup cut in. He poured glass after glass - in this case, plastic cups, some slightly melted - of the best wine. “Here. Sip. Think. They will need us. They will need you, Death, so much. They will need you, Birth, and you Plow - and they will curse you, Disease -” even the gods quaked at that sibling “-and that is good, because they need to be fighting. They may need me in the quiet moments-”
When Cup was in his, well, cups, he could go on forever. The Mother put her hand over his. “They will need all of us. And they will pray to all of us, in our way. But War-” She eyed her eldest son worriedly.
Sulking - furious, he would say - War stalked out of the diner, out into the ruins, out into the nearest encampment. He punched the nearest man he found and was surprised to find the man just sighed.
Again and again, he went to one place and another, and found that the fight had gone out of them. Finally, while his family had begun the work of rebuilding the diner - as good a place to start as any - of planting the fields around it, of laying vines and creating a graveyard, War returned - no.
The god who had been war returned.
“Persistence,” he told them, “Determination. Fight. I am Fight now. Because they need that.”
His mother handed him a hoe. “Good. Go fight some rocks. There is much to do, and we can only hold off winter for so long.”
The old gods were awake, and they were working.