|“||You named him Festus? Do you know in Latin, Festus means 'happy'? You want us to save the world on Happy the Dragon?||”|
Festus (meaning "Happy" in Latin) is an automaton dragon created by the old Hephaestus cabin. With the blessing of their father, they made him many years before the series began to defend Camp Half-Blood, but Festus went haywire after Beckendorf's death as Beckendorf was Festus's caretaker. After acting as the Argo II's masthead, Festus returns fully to play a major role in the defeat of Gaea.
Sometime before the events of the books, Festus was created and activated inside Bunker 9 by the Hephaestus campers and a blessing from the fire and blacksmith god. A set of wings was revealed inside the bunker in The Lost Hero; it's unknown whether they were originally for the dragon and, if they were, why they were never put on him. Also, before his creation, a set of blueprints was made for a Greek trireme lit by flames, and Festus' head was planted in the bow of the ship.
Festus was created to defend the camp from monsters before Thalia Grace was turned into a tree by her father to save her life. However, about fifteen years before Percy Jackson's arrival at camp, he malfunctioned and ran off into the woods, where he eventually broke down. His body was somehow buried in the ground and he was lost for a long time.
It first appears as the unnamed Bronze Dragon. During a game of Capture the Flag, its head is found by the Myrmekes and the dragon is reactivated by Percy Jackson, Annabeth Chase, and Silena Beauregard to help them rescue Beckendorf from getting eaten by the Myrmekes. Beckendorf activates the dragon's "Attack mode", and it ends up running around trying to kill anything, including the demigods. He is deactivated by Beckendorf with Percy's help afterwards due to the fact that it is unstable and dangerous. It is fixed by the Hephaestus cabin to protect Camp Half-Blood sometime after this.
Following Hephaestus' cabin being supposedly cursed after Charles Beckendorf's death, the dragon goes haywire and hides in the forest. After Leo catches it in a trap, he manages to fix it, giving it wings, and names it "Festus." Festus then helps Leo, Piper McLean, and Jason Grace on their quest by taking them across the country. It takes them first to Quebec and then to Detroit, where it is knocked out of the sky by Khione, who had also damaged its control disk earlier. After Leo fixes it, it takes them to Chicago and saves them from Medea's sun dragons. It makes its final flight to Omaha, where it malfunctions once again due to Khione's damage. Leo is able to temporarily reboot him before attempting to crash land on a massive mansion's lawn. However, the mansion turns out to belong to King Midas, and a set of lasers cut Festus to shreds. It then uses Morse Code to give Leo his last wishes, stating that "everything can be reused", just as Hephaestus had told Leo earlier. It is unknown how Festus knew what the god had said. Leo then asks his father to transport Festus' head back to Bunker 9.
Later on, it is revealed that the head of Festus was in the drawing of a boat that Leo created when he was a child, and the boat would eventually be determined by Leo as the same as the blueprints of what he would call the Argo II. Leo announces to his cabin-mates and a few other campers that the Hephaestus cabin would build the boat, using the head of Festus as the figurehead, to travel to Greece and to stop the Giants from destroying the original Mount Olympus, thus destroying the "roots of the gods."
He is the masthead of the Argo II. Festus can also communicate with Leo, using a series of sounds similar to Morse code. Despite him being only a head, Festus has a number of useful abilities, such as tracking Celestial Bronze.
After Festus is temporarily shut down for maintenance and upgrades by Leo Valdez, Khione the snow-goddess attacks the Argo II. Piper McLean manages to permanently re-activate Festus, who saves the Argo II from icy destruction. After this, the crew reports that Festus seems "more alive".
Leo has built Festus a new body, inside the Argo II. When Zeus slaps it to Camp Half-Blood, the ship falls apart, and Festus flies out. Festus then proceeds to grapple with Gaea, pulling her into the sky with its talons, thus disconnecting her from her area of power, greatly weakening her in the process. After Piper charmspeaks her to sleep, Leo orders Festus to drop Jason and Piper to save them while he unleashes a mighty supernova blast of fire that, combined with an onager shot from Octavian, scatters Gaea. Leo dies in the effort, but Festus survives, slightly damaged and he is blown to Ogygia, where he injects Leo with the Physician's Cure, resurrecting him before it becomes too late. The two then get Calypso and fly off with her into the unknown.
Between the Series
Festus flies Leo and Calypso around the world trying to get back to Camp Half-Blood.
After months of traveling, Festus, Leo and Calypso finally make it to Camp Half-Blood. They agree to help Apollo reclaim his Oracles.
Festus flies the trio to Indianapolis, where he torches the state flag on the capital building.
Festus is later destroyed (again) by Commodus. Leo Valdez and Josephine are said to have been collecting the broken pieces and trying to rebuild him.
He pulls onto an airfield in Santa Monica.
Festus is described as having a perfect mix of bronze and gold scales, giant rubies for eyes that can light up like high-powered searchlights, bronze wings (which Leo later adds to him in The Lost Hero), and drill-like razor-sharp teeth. He is close to 50 tons in weight, but can still easily fly with passengers on his back.
- Festus eats motor oil and Tabasco Sauce.
- 'Festus' is Latin for 'Happy' in the books. Jason notices this, and jokingly calls him "Happy the Dragon" in The Lost Hero. Festus actually means 'Holiday' according to Google Translate. 'Happy' is 'Felix' in Latin
- The Brazilian translation has Jason calling him "Happy Dragon", thus neither using "Happy" as his name nor using "Dragon" as a title.
- While not mentioned, Festus might also be short for Hephaestus, the god who's cabin he serves, as before Leo Valdez named the dragon Festus, Will had told him he was the son of Hephaestus and Leo asked, "Festus?"
- Leo has a safety whistle, summoned from his tool belt, which Festus will come to when it is blown.
- It is mentioned in The Lost Hero that Charles Beckendorf was the only one able to reason with the dragon without being burnt to death.
- Leo would have been burnt to death when he first met Festus, if not for his immunity to fire.
- Festus, like Iapetus, is a character who is in Percy Jackson and the Olympians appears only in The Demigod Files but becomes important in The Heroes of Olympus.
- When asked if Rick Riordan would rather have Blackjack or Festus, he replied: "At the risk of hurting Blackjack's feelings, Festus for sure."
- As of The House of Hades, Festus is now permanently activated due to Piper's Charmspeak something that even Leo doesn't understand. He is also described as being "more alive" afterward. He is later rebuilt in The Blood of Olympus by Leo to play a major role in Gaea's defeat.
- In the film version of The Sea of Monsters, Clarisse is mentioned to have been involved in the capture of the Bronze Dragon.
- Even while the masthead of the Argo II, Festus was still able to do things, including breathing fire. After his permanent activation by Piper, Leo started to leave him on watch as he wouldn't shut down anymore.
- Festus is the only enemy Percy faces in the first series that is not a monster, god, Titan, Giant, or demigod, besides Talos.