You probably didn't miss anything. Check your attacker's keep and troop levels - you should be able to get to their profile from the battle reports. If they're higher than you, chances are they will do a lot of damage. It can take days to heal your wounded troops, unfortunately. You'll want to level up your dragon since s/he can also defend your keep. If a lot of the people in your kingdom are stronger than you, I find the 24-hour peace shield worth the 1k of gold every day. If you're in an allegiance, they may also be able to help you retaliate if you're within certain limits. I'm still building up too and don't want to spend real money on the game as often anymore. Participating in events can help you earn gold for the shields.