He tried the first door - locked. Same with the second and third. His broken arm throbbed but he scarcely felt it. It hung limp at his side.
By the time he came to a door he could open, the shadow of Ganon's corpse was just a smudge on the faintly glowing floor below. Looking down he felt a wave of vertigo, stumbled back, waving his good arm. Instead of coming to rest against the wall he fell through the door - Number 17 in the sequence. He landed with an oof! in a pile of papers, some of which scattered around him like leaves.
"Lucky you didn't fall out a window," said a voice behind him. "We're high up, you know."
Link slowly got to his feet and looked around. He wasn't worried about the voice. He was done dealing death - from the Triforce to his heart, he knew it was true.
The room looked like an office of some sort, although in a very sorry state; the writing desk by the window was stained with ink and watermarks; towering piles of paper leaned against the walls, and the floor was covered with them - a few were caught by a draught and came dangerously close to the open fireplace, where a log burned brightly.
Behind the desk stood a man. A short, happy-looking fellow with dark hair and mysterious, slanted eyes. He regarded Link with something like contempt, and Link didn't like that much at all.
"Who are you?"
The man shook his head and stayed behind the desk. "You're not the curious boy you once were. It's a shame. It was never meant to come this far."
Link took a step forward. The man did not move. Paper rustled dangerously close to the fire.
"Do you know me?"
"I do. Or I did, very well, once." He narrowed his eyes and made a sour face. "You are not who I'd hoped you'd be, sorry to say."
Another step, and Link could see the pain in the man's eyes.
"What do you have to say about it? Who are you to judge?"
"My friends call me Shiggy."
"That means nothing to me."
Shiggy picked up a piece of paper, crumpled it, and tossed it over his shoulder into the fireplace. It landed on the log, began to uncurl like a blooming flower, and did not burn.
"I didn't think it would," said Shiggy. "None of it makes any difference now. Go to it. The Triforce calls, just as it always has. You're close. You're so close."
This sounded too much like teasing to ignore. "Do you mean to stop me?"
Shiggy shook his head sadly. "No." He shuffled out from behind the desk to the tune of chains - Link looked down and saw his ankles were shackled to the desk. "Your success means my freedom, too."
"Then why aren't you happy?" Fool, thought Link. So used to the cage you see only the safety, not the bars.
"Because it got out of my hands so fast. I couldn't control what people dreamed of you. Your legend lived long after I'd stopped telling it. This is not the conclusion I'd have had you come to."
Link shook his head. "How proud," he whispered. "How sad."
He turned and left to the sound of another piece of paper refusing to fall to the fire.
Up and up. Nearly half-way there.
Number 45 was ajar. Link could see more flickering firelight. He peered in, expecting another mysterious mad-man or some other oddity that would stall but not stop him. But he knew he couldn't just pass these open doors by - they were things he was meant to see, and if he couldn't understand there importance - there would be time to mull it over.
Zelda sat on the floor by the fireplace. If Link had not lost his wits at the sight of her, he'd have noticed this room was identical to the previous one; instead of a desk and a thousand loose pages, there was a bed and a lush red rug, tapestries on the walls boasting the Royal Crest and a small vanity with a candle on it. But the room was exactly the same, and some part of him recognized that each one would be.
"Zelda," he whispered. Her crown was in her lap; she stroked it sadly and gently. A cascade of golden hair hid her face from him save the curl of her nose, her strong jaw and the fullness of her lips. It was not Zelda as she had been when he'd last seen her - then she had been the warrior, the proud princess-queen, and her eyes had been fierce. Now she was just a girl. She wore her nightdress - he smelled lilacs.
Link stumbled into the room and fell to his knees before her. She did not look up - her eyes were fixed on the crown.
"Do you see me?" he asked, heart breaking all over again. He knew the answer but he had to try. "Can you hear me?"
She said nothing. She stroked the crown; the firelight made her fair skin glow.
"I loved you, Zelda. You above all things." He thought about it, and closed his eyes in shame. "Save one. Forgive me. Please." He reached out to touch her, and was surprised that he could.
Her eyes flew to his and she gave a startled gasp; she pulled back and let out a terrified scream.
"You were in my dream! It was you! Murderer! Murderer!" Each word came at Link like a spear, pinning his heart to his chest. He took it without complaint. It was his to carry.
"I'm sorry," he said as he got to his feet. She did not hear. Her screams chased him up the next flight of stairs but he didn't run.
Up. And Up.
There was only one more door spilling a sliver of light - not firelight this time, but a golden glow that made his heart skip. The Triforce, he thought, but there were still more stairs to go.
The same room again (was this truly a Tower? Was he really climbing?), except this had no fire, no furniture - just a misshapen creature holding a glowing, angular object tightly to his chest.
"It's mine," growled the man-beast when he saw Link enter. Link said not a word. He wouldn't, here. He'd said all he'd had to say to both faces this creature had worn. The Tower's Ganon looked like a haphazard amalgamation of the two - part monster-pig, part thief-king, entirely hideous and somewhat pitiful. There was drool on his chin, and madness in his eyes.
"Mine," Ganon whispered again, gazing longingly into it's light. "Mine. Mine."
Link took this as a warning, and moved on.
Up and up. And finally there was just one door left - the walls had slowly circled in on each other to make the space at the top of the Tower as small as its haunted rooms.
His heart skipped again, and kept skipping.
The door was open. The light was true.
He had done it. Once he crossed the threshold, his quest was over.
He did not linger long.
There it was - somehow smaller than the one Ganon coveted, and a deeper, darker light came from it's heart, but every fibre of his being sang out: There it is! The Triforce! There it is!
He stood uncertainly before the pedestal.
"I am afraid."
Do not be. Your troubles are over. Touch me, and make your wish.
"I only came to save you. I have no wish."
The Triforce chuckled - the light emanating from it throbbed.
You have many. What you lack is the courage to pick one.
Link bowed his head. "Have I failed you?"
Not yet. Touch me.
The hero stepped forward, took a deep breath, and placed his hands upon the Triforce. Words cannot adequately describe the sensation that ran through his body - it felt like falling, winning, losing, flying, despairing, hoping, birth and death at once. It felt like the voices of the goddesses whispering sweetly and sadly to every nerve inside him. It felt like peace. It felt like thunderstorms and butterflies.
Link closed his eyes, and made a wish.
The Triforce chuckled again - it was the kindest sound he'd ever heard.
So be it, hero. A good wish. It is granted with my thanks.
In the moment before the whole world changed, Link asked, "What will happen now?"
The Triforce said, Life. As it always has and always will. But maybe a little less hard for the living.
Link smiled. The darkness behind his eyes began to sparkle. "I'm ready," he said.
He could hear the tremble in the Triforce's voice as it gathered the power of gods behind it.