|“||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. He was eventually destroyed but acted as the Argo II's masthead. Festus was later rebuilt by Leo Valdez in secret to play a major role in the defeat of Gaea and continues to serve Leo afterwards.
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.
The Bronze Dragon
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 Hephaestus's Cabin to protect Camp Half-Blood sometime after this.
Following Hephaestus's 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 briefly mentioned by Percy when he sees the Argo II, and says the masthead looks "oddly familiar," referring to the time that he caught Festus in The Bronze Dragon.
He is the masthead of the Argo II and acts as a control interface for the ship as well. 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. When Stymphalian Birds attack the Argo II, Festus torches them.
After locating the works of Archimedes, Leo hopes that if he can decipher them, he can build Festus a new control disk, one of the things that had been destroyed when Festus lost his body and which Leo had no way to replace as it was too complicated for Leo to figure out on his own.
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 reactivate Festus, who saves the Argo II from icy destruction. After this, the crew reports that Festus seems "more alive". When Jason Grace harnesses a team of venti to pull the damaged ship, Festus is stated to not be happy about it while Jason sits on the figurehead to control the venti as they pull the ship. However, Festus gives the exhausted Jason a chin hug after its over, something that the demigod is grateful for. Festus then manages to engage the ship's damaged engine and get the Argo II the last half mile to shore.
After having been sent to Ogygia, Leo swears to rescue Calypso from the island. Leo explains that once he figures out how to properly rebuild Festus, the dragon will be able to handle an improved guidance system. Leo then intends to use Festus and Odysseus' Astrolabe to return to the island for Calypso. However, although Leo had already told her about Festus, Calypso is certain that he can never return as the rules state that no man can find Ogygia twice.
When the Seven reunite, Piper explains how she was able to reactivate Festus using charmspeak. Leo is surprised, stating that it shouldn't be possible unless his upgrades allows the dragon to respond to voice commands. The fact that Festus is now permanently activated pleases Leo who starts talking about the navigation system and the crystal before trailing off.
After the Doors of Death are closed, Leo tinkers with Festus' mechanical brain, muttering something about the crystal and astrolabe as they sail for Athens.
Festus continues to act as the masthead of the Argo II as the crew travels to Greece and battles the giants alongside the gods. It's stated that ever since he was woken up permanently by Piper - something that Leo still can't figure out - Festus is more than capable of running the ship by himself. Festus can now navigate, check the radar, make a blueberry smoothie and spew white-hot jets of fire at intruders simultaneously without even blowing a circuit.
When Zeus slaps it to Camp Half-Blood, the ship falls apart, but a rebuilt Festus emerges from the wreckage with Leo. Jason realizes that Leo's hours of work within the Argo II's hull over the few weeks were him building Festus a new body within the framework of the ship. Although surprised, Jason is elated to see their old friend in action once more. Festus proceeds to grapple with Gaea, pulling her into the sky with his talons, thus disconnecting her from her area of power, greatly weakening her in the process. As Gaea keeps disintegrating and trying to trickle back to the earth, Festus sprays her with fire which seems to force the goddess into solid form and although he creaks and groans with the effort, the dragon continues to gain altitude as he carries Gaea into the sky. When Jason and Piper begin to fall, Festus catches them in his other huge claw. After Piper charmspeaks Gaea 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, defeating her for good. In the aftermath, there's no sign of Leo or Festus who are both assumed lost defeating Gaea.
Leo dies in the effort, but Festus survives and is blown far away and begins searching for Ogygia using Odysseus' Astrolabe which Leo had set with an activation timer the day before. Festus injects Leo with the Physician's Cure, resurrecting him before it becomes too late. Festus communicates to Leo in Morse code who expresses his love and appreciation for the bronze dragon before examining Festus' damage which includes partially fused neck plating that was melted from the explosion and Festus' left medius membrane being shot full of holes. However, the dragon doesn't seem to be in any danger of crashing immediately, but Leo knows that he will have to check Festus' underbelly where the most serious damage would likely be from Festus courageously grappling with Gaea. Checking the dragon's navigation readings, Leo is delighted to discover that they are completely messed up and has Festus descend, having realized that Festus has taken them to Ogygia. Festus lands on the island, but stumbles due to a broken leg, dumping Leo on the sand in front of Calypso. After getting Calypso's belongings, she, Leo and Festus take off into the unknown.
Between the Series
Festus flies Leo and Calypso around the world trying to get back to Camp Half-Blood. The trio have several misadventures including a trip to Albania, getting lost in the Sea of Monsters and an encounter with Polyphemus.
While discussing the Grove of Dodona's prophecy, Percy realizes that part of it refers to Festus after Apollo explains that the Grove had also mentioned that '"happiness approaches" which Percy realizes is Festus because his name translated into English is Happy. Moments later, after months of traveling, Festus, Leo and Calypso finally make it to Camp Half-Blood. They agree to help Apollo reclaim his Oracles.
Leo and Percy discuss how Festus, Leo and Calypso had traveled into and had been trying to escape the Sea of Monsters, and had even encountered Polyphemus. The trio had finally managed to return to Camp Half-Blood after detecting Harley's Home-Beacon which had guided them out of the Sea of Monsters and back to camp.
Festus flies the trio to Indianapolis, where he torches the state flag on the capital building. Transformed into a suitcase while dormant, Festus is captured by the forces of Commodus and imprisoned alongside Georgina. He is later rescued by Leo, Apollo and Meg McCaffrey and subsequently returns alongside the Hunters of Artemis to rescue Apollo and Meg. Leo reluctantly has Festus rescue Lityerses as well, but orders the dragon to smash the swordsman against a skyscraper if he misbehaves.
Festus is later destroyed once again by Commodus who is stated to have torn the bronze dragon apart bare-handed. Leo and Josephine begin collecting the broken pieces following Commodus' defeat. Apollo expresses his condolences to Leo who finds the destruction of Festus to be more of an annoyance than a tragedy. Leo explains that "I can put him back together easy enough. I redesigned him so he's like a Lego kit, built for quick assembly!"
By dinnertime, Festus has mostly been rebuilt and is enjoying a tub of motor oil and Tabasco sauce on the rooftop. However, Leo is still looking for a few last missing parts, in particular Festus' spleen.
Having been once again rebuilt, Festus pulls onto an airfield in Santa Monica.
When Apollo visits the Waystation, he talks with Leo who has just returned from a day of community service helping to teach homeless kids shop skills at a local shelter. When Apollo questions if Leo wouldn't need tools or a shop, Leo explains that he has Festus who makes a great mobile shop. Due to the Mist, most of the kids just see the bronze dragon as a truck, but a few are able to see Festus in his true form.
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. In The Dark Prophecy, while dormant, he takes the form of a bronze suitcase for easy transport.
Due to the Mist, he appears as a truck to mortal kids while helping Leo to teach them shop skills.
- 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.
- 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?"
- One of the lines given by the Grove of Dodona in The Hidden Oracle is '"happiness approaches." This refers to Festus as realized by Percy Jackson as Happy is the English translation of Festus' name.
- 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.
- One of Festus' major problems is his control disk.
- In The Lost Hero, Leo discovers that Festus' malfunctions come from the disk being corroded. After Leo manages to clean it, he is able to fix many of Festus' issues.
- When Festus is destroyed for the first time, his control disk is broken beyond repair which is one of the reasons that Leo can't initially rebuild him as anything more than the Argo II's masthead. In The Mark of Athena, after locating the lost works of Archimedes, Leo becomes hopeful that he can use them to build Festus a new control disk, something that he eventually succeeds at.
- 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."
- In The House of Hades, Festus is permanently activated due to Piper's Charmspeak something that even Leo doesn't understand. He is also described as being "more alive" afterward. However, in The Dark Prophecy, he is shown to go dormant into the form of a suitcase and can't be easily awakened again.
- 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 destroyed twice in the series and rebuilt:
- He is destroyed by the defenses of King Midas' mansion in The Lost Hero and subsequently rebuilt into the masthead for the Argo II. Festus is eventually rebuilt completely in secret by the end of The Blood of Olympus to play a major role in the defeat of Gaea.
- Festus is destroyed once again in The Dark Prophecy by Commodus, but Leo tells Apollo that he took the precaution of making Festus much easier to rebuild in case of such an eventuality. He is rebuilt by the end of the book.
- In the film version of The Sea of Monsters, Clarisse is mentioned to have been involved in the capture of the Bronze Dragon.
- Festus is the only enemy Percy faces in the first series that is not a monster, God, Titan, Giant, or demigod, besides Talos.