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The light, forgotten. The plague, the infection, the madness that haunts the corpses of Hallownest... the light that screams out from the eyes of this dead Kingdom. What is the source? I suppose mere mortals like myself will never understand.
~ Hunter's Journal on the Radiance.
The Radiance is the main antagonist and true final boss of the 2017 indie videogame Hollow Knight.
A powerful and destructive entity, the Radiance is the being that is responsible for ruling the previous hive mind before the creation of Hallownest, while also the one responsible for causing the Infection as punishment for the bugs abandoning her laws. Using the Infection as a weapon of mass destruction, she seeks to destroy all wisdom of Hallownest until there is no competition in her rule.
At one point in the past, a supreme being created a race of highly intelligent moths to create a union composed of all of the bugs living in the area, at the cost of keeping them connected as a hive mind. The moths came to worship the being, referring to her as "The Radiance". But over time, a rival higher being known as the Pale Wyrm became sentient enough to discover the Radiance's hive mind and wanted to free the bugs in it from her influence. This Wyrm used his power to persuade the moth tribe into betraying their creator in favor of following him, and in return he granted any bug that followed him freedom from the hive mind so they could have their own will as well as a greater mind with more intelligence. He granted all of his followers to live in peace, turning them away from the guidance they originally pledged to follow. Once the kingdom of Hallownest was formed, the Wyrm reincarnated into the being now known as the Pale King. During his reign, the Pale King discovered the Void which resided deep in the Abyss. He used the Void to create many different constructs, initially creating mindless but loyal drone-like beings to act as guards in his palace.
The Radiance, upon realizing that all of her followers had turned against her by obtaining free will and evolving at their own pace, grew to extreme wraith and punished the "traitors" by entering their dreams and drained all of their memories away until their minds were nothing but a burning, raging light. While most are killed by this process, the rest are turned into zombie-like entities, starting a disease known as "The Infection". When infected, the bugs' memories are reverted back to their original primal hive mind instincts, but due to the Radiance's malevolent influences, grew hostile and slaughtered everything in their path.
To save his endangered kingdom, the Pale King attempted to find a solution and eventually had the idea of Vessels, living beings made of Void that intended to be so empty that they could completely contain the Radiance's power, though almost all resulted in failures as they were not completely hollow. One vessel ultimately succeeded in sealing the Radiance inside its body and took shelter in a giant cocoon referred to as the Black Egg, earning the title "The Hollow Knight". Once the Hollow Knight was sealed inside the egg, three intelligent bugs volunteered to become Dreamers by sealing the entrance to the egg to prevent the egg from being opened prematurely, maintained by the Dreamers' eternal sleep. The presumed last surviving Vessel, the Knight (the playable main character), left Hollownest as their primary purpose was already fulfilled. The Pale King and his White Palace mysteriously vanished while Hollownest recovers from the Infection, seemingly gone for good.
However, as time went on, the Radiance's presence returned through the Black Egg as the Hollow Knight eventually failed at being completely hollow of thought and the Radiance was able to take advantage. Despite being trapped within the Hollow Knight, she managed to crack through its shell and spread influences within the bugs' minds, causing the Infection to return. The Knight, sensing the return of the Infection and the weakening of the Hollow Knight, returns to the kingdom and sets off to confront the Hollow Knight and stop the Radiance from destroying the rest of the Hallownest.
Depending on the Knight's progress through the game, three different endings can occur. The Radiance herself only appears at the end of the true ending, but due to the Hollow Knight being the Vessel imprisoning her, she plays a major unseen role in all three. In the other two endings, the Knight absorbs the Dreamers into themself to gain access to the Black Egg, where inside they battle and defeat the Hollow Knight, becoming the new Vessel to seal the Infection. In one of the two other endings, Hornet is incidentally sealed in the Black Egg as well, inadvertently becoming a Dreamer to her own imprisonment; with her unreachable, the Infection can never be stopped if it ever comes back.
The Radiance herself only appears during the true ending, "Dream No More". To obtain this ending, the Knight must not only absorb the three Dreamers, but also collect the two parts of the Kingsoul charm by awakening their Dream Nail with enough dream essence to collect one piece from the White Palace (which is now sealed away in the dream realm and can only be accessed by the awakened dream nail) and collect the Shade Cloak from the Abyss in order to bypass the Abyss Gate in the Queen's Gardens, defeat the Traitor Lord and find the White Lady, who has the other piece of the Kingsoul. The Knight must then bring the Kingsoul to the Abyss where it will become the Void Heart.
During the final moments with the Hollow Knight fight, Hornet joins in and temporarily stuns the Hollow Knight, allowing the Knight to use the Dream Nail on the Hollow Knight to enter its dream. This will bring the Knight to the Hollow Knight's dream, where they engage the Radiance in a fight to the death. As the Knight inflicts enough damage on the Radiance, the shades of the Knight's fallen Vessel siblings, including the Hollow Knight itself, flow into the Dream Realm and eventually corner the Radiance. The Knight sacrifices their physical body and reverts to a shade to deal the finishing blows before joining their siblings in dragging the Radiance down into the Void, finally killing her and ending the Infection once and for all. The remaining shades returned to the Void with their purposes fulfilled for good.
The Radiance serves as the final boss of the mode, in her true and primal form: Absolute Radiance. As Absolute Radiance, she appears as the final opponent of the Pantheon of Hallownest. Immediately after defeating the Pure Vessel, the Knight is suddenly warped to the top of the Godhome realm, where Absolute Radiance resides. The only difference to her appearance is a larger halo of light emitting from her. The battle against her is similar to the regular Radiance, although all of her attacks and spells are cast at a faster pace. Also, the final phase is altered, where she now warps across the room and summons orbs of light before the Knight can deal the final blow.
When defeated, none of the Vessels or the Hollow Knight aid the Knight in finishing off Absolute Radiance. Instead, the Knight transforms into a massive monster made of Void called "Void Given Focus", which grabs Absolute Radiance and effortlessly kills her by slashing at her repetitively with their claws, causing her to shatter into thousands of dream essence. Void then leaks out of the Godseeker in the Junk Pit and proceeds to swallow up Hallownest (unless the Delicate Flower was given to the Godseeker first, which seals the Void inside of its petals).
In the Hall of Gods, defeating Absolute Radiance causes her to simply burst into dream essence.
The Radiance resembles a white moth with multiple gray tentacles by her side that act as wings. She has yellow glowing eyes and three spear-like spikes atop her head resembling a crown. Her legs appear to be made up of two appendages. However, this is only the outer appearance of the Radiance, as her true form lies inside the hole that makes up her face. Her insides appears to be made of pure dream essence, as a number of said essence can be seen pouring out of her eyes when the Hollow Knight tears it open.
The Radiance releases the Infection from the Hollow Knight.
The Knight engages the light.
The Radiance reveals herself from the Dream Realm.
The Shades of the Hollow Knight and the Knight deal the finishing blows.
The Radiance is dragged into the Void, ending the Infection for good.
The statue of the Radiance found at Hallownest's Crown.
The statue of Absolute Radiance in the Hall of Gods.
The Radiance is not required to complete the Hunter's Journal, despite having an entry.
A statue of the Radiance can be found at Hallownest's Crown located at the top of the Crystal Mines, looking down at Dirtmouth. A piece of Pale Ore can be found at the base, and Dream Nailing the statue displays the words "...Remember... Light...".
The Radiance is one of the two bosses that must be challenged to battle, the other being the Mantis Lords. While the Mantis Lords will have to be challenged every time, the Radiance will attack the Knight directly upon entering the arena following the first attempt.
The Radiance is the only boss who can kill the Knight in the Dream Realm. All other bosses based in the Dream Realm that defeat the Knight will only cause them to be sent out of the fight and wake up in the physical world unharmed.
If struck with the Dream Nail, the Radiance lets out one of six pieces of dialogue:
"...I DO NOT FEAR YOU..."
"...LET ME BE FREE..."
"...I WILL NOT BE FORGOTTEN..."
"...DAWN WILL BREAK..."
"...THE LIGHT CANNOT BE CONSUMED..."
The Radiance was ranked by Watchmojo as #9 on their "Top 10 Evil Female Video Game Bosses".